BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Shaun Williams is hoping to win back his starting spot at Millwall soon – and if that happens tomorrow then he’ll be matching up against a former team-mate.
The Republic of Ireland international formed a formidable midfield partnership with George Saville last season.
And while Williams got his reward for his consistency with a long-overdue call-up for his country, Saville sealed a move to Middlesbrough in August which could eventually net the Lions £8million. The transfer is easily the biggest in the South London club’s history.
While Saville, 25, has not been a guaranteed starter from the word go since moving to the Teessiders, he has still made 21 appearances in the Championship.
And the ex-Chelsea youngster has started six of their last seven league fixtures.
“I had a really, really good relationship with him,” said Dublin-born Williams, 31. “He did fantastic for us. It has been a bit stop-start for him up there but he is a good player and worth £8m, so he must be doing something right.
“The money some clubs spend is ridiculous. Blackburn had one lad on the bench on Saturday who was £7m and the other was £3.5m. Clubs at this level have money, so they can afford to pay it.
“Sav brought goals and his all-round play was very good.
“I think it’s the end product that got him a move in the end. He got 10 goals last season, that’s what gets teams points and moves them up the table.”
Everyone is trying to pinpoint why Millwall have struggled this season and there seems a number of reasons. Saville was one of their standout performers in 2017-18 and the side have also conceded a lot of late goals – the 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers last weekend only adding to that.
And then there have been a number of injuries. Williams is only just back from damaged ankle ligaments – inflicted by Adam Webster’s late challenge just as he scored the leveller in the 1-1 draw at Bristol City in early December.
Tom Bradshaw is out for the season and Shaun Hutchinson, Lee Gregory and Tom Elliott have all had spells out.
“I ruptured ligaments and it was supposed to be a six-week injury but I got back a little earlier,” said Williams. “If you do the right things, you get the rewards.
“That is doing everything the physio and staff tell you to do. They helped me as much as I helped myself.
“The referee said at the time ‘you’re lucky that went in because otherwise I’d have had a decision to make’ [about punishing Webster].
“You see tackles like that when people are about to shoot – they rush in and catch the player. But if it’s a goal then it is a goal [and no further punishment].
“Last season the only long-term injury was Byron [Webster]. I was out for 10 weeks. Other than that, I don’t think we had many muscle injuries. We were lucky then, maybe it’s catching up this year.
“Tom’s one the other day is unlucky [dislocating his left shoulder as he jumped for the ball]. He was saying on Monday that he has done that movement hundreds of times before – but on that one occasion it popped out.
“Lee’s had the calf injury which is maybe fatigue or a build up of numerous things.
“It’s tough for the staff and manager. It’s a small squad, but that’s the way he has worked since he has come in.
“I’m delighted to be back. I’m absolutely over the moon for the lads over the Christmas period – four wins was a great turnaround. I’m just working hard to try and get my place back in the team.”
Lions boss Neil Harris went with an unchanged line-up for the televised game with Blackburn – and the reverse might open the door for changes. Ben Marshall, such a loan hit last season, is a quality addition.
A gritty encounter against Rovers saw chances at a premium in SE16.
“It was a tough watch,” said Williams. “There was no real quality from either team. They made a substitution [bringing on Adam Armstrong] and that clinched the game.
“It just seems to be late goals again. We conceded two late again which is kind of hindering our points tally. Earlier in the season we probably lost 13 points from winning or drawing positions. If we can change that, who knows what we can do?
“Maybe it is just shouting at people to keep them focused and switching on. We got hit on the counter for the second and Hutch ends up one v one with their striker, normally we’re not like that.
“Maybe it is communication from behind and everyone else really.
“If you can help someone’s game – either on or off the ball – then we should all do that.”
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