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Adam Barrett recalls Crystal Palace’s New Year’s Day mauling at the Lions’ Den

Adam Barrett has had previous experience of a Millwall-Palace derby and it did not prove to be a happy ending.

The 42-year-old’s allegiances are firmly with the Lions after joining their first-team coaching ranks in March 2017.

But Barrett was part of the Eagles side which lost 3-0 at The Den in a real horror show on New Year’s Day in 2011. It left the South London club second bottom in the Championship and manager George Burley did not even have time to leave SE16 before he had been sacked by Steve Parish.

Jason Puncheon, on loan from Southampton, scored a hat-trick for the Lions.

“The one thing that stands out for me was the atmosphere,” said Barrett, who had played 289 games for Southend United before moving to Palace in the summer of 2010. “It was the first time I’d seen the intensity between the two clubs – it was electric coming out on to the pitch.

“It was a difficult afternoon. We were going through a tough period. There was a lot of uncertainty. I remember going back to the hotel to  get my car after the match and I heard George had been sacked. The rumours had started filtering around the coach before that, I don’t know where they originated from.

“It wasn’t a very memorable day and it’s not nice for anyone to lose their job. We knew near enough after the game travelling back that it was done [Burley’s time in charge].

“Palace had come out of administration that summer but had only stayed up after drawing at Sheffield Wednesday on the final day [of the previous season]. There was a lot of optimism around [the CPFC 2010 consortium had acquired the football club and Selhurst Park freehold] but it took a little bit of time to rebuild. It was definitely moving forward and that was why I went there.”

Barrett only played one more match for Palace – starting a 1-1 draw at Watford a month after the Millwall mauling. He went on loan to Leyton Orient for the tail-end of the campaign and then signed for Bournemouth.

“It just didn’t really get going for me,” said Barrett, Lions assistant boss since 2020. “I was really excited because I had a fantastic pre-season. I was disappointed not to be starting the season but was prepared to bide my time.

“I broke my nose at Middlesbrough and was a bit concussed. I tried to get through the next game, Watford at home, but came off with concussion. It was just so stop-start and a really frustrating time. I hadn’t missed games for years and years before I went there.

“That’s football, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I had a year left on my contract when Bournemouth came in, I was probably a little bit hasty to say I needed to go somewhere else. Looking back I do regret not staying and giving it another crack.”

Palace are a very different proposition to when Barrett represented them.

Even if they are shorn of Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew and Cheikhou Kouyate this weekend – the trio all due to feature at the African Cup of Nations – they still have the likes of ex-Lion Eberechi Eze, working his way back to maximum fitness, Michael Olise and Christian Benteke to step in.

“It is going to be a very, very difficult game but they are one-off matches and I’m lucky enough to have been part of some good FA Cup games,” said Barrett. “These are the matches you look forward to – when the Den is packed out and rocking.

“Palace have got some exciting players and they are an athletic team with real ability. Patrick Vieira has come in and done a really, really good job.
“They have a lot of match-winners and play with energy and tempo. They have been a good Premier League side for a good few years.”

Millwall only named 14 senior first-teamers for Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Bristol City. Zak Lovelace, 15, and Nana Boateng, 19, were on the bench for a second match in succession.

“I don’t want to sit here and make excuses but unfortunately over the last three or four weeks the club has been hit hard from a staffing point of view,” said Barrett. “It has made preparation and training really difficult because you don’t know who is in from one day to the next. We’ve had a lot of Covid situations and you do see the effects of it.

“When people come back it is not like you have it and then seven or 10 days later you find you’re absolutely fine, especially when you’re expecting lads to perform to the best of their ability. It’s been challenging.

“It’s not ideal coming up against a Premier League side. You want to go full strength with everyone fit, healthy and raring to go.

“We’ve had to manage ourselves through it.

“This is a fantastic game for the club, the players and the supporters. We make sure we prepare properly.”

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