Mahlon Romeo: Nothing comes easy at Millwall, nothing is given to you

By Richard Cawley

Actions speak louder than words when it comes to Mahlon Romeo.

Ask the Millwall defender a question, and you normally don’t get a particularly long answer.

But the 22-year-old right-back has done his talking with his performances this season – and you can’t imagine Lions boss Neil Harris will have any complaints about that.

Romeo has had to be patient as he waited for his chance this season and up until the start of December he had played just three minutes of Championship football.

But Conor McLaughlin’s one-match suspension for collecting five bookings gave the Westminster-born man an opportunity – and he took it.

Romeo has started 13 of the next 17 league games – and six of those in a row after Tuesday night’s 2-1 win at Hull City.

Northern Ireland international McLaughlin – signed in the summer on a free transfer from Fleetwood Town – has been left waiting for his chance.

Harris has shown that seniority is not a factor in his selections as he has stuck with Romeo, signed in the summer of 2015 after being let go by Gillingham.

And he commended the former Arsenal and Wycombe Wanderers youngster for the way he recovered from a costly early mistake against Cardiff City – Junior Hoilett scoring after dispossessing him – to put in an assured display for the remainder of the Den tussle.

“Things like that [his error] happen in football – you have got to take it on the chin,” said Romeo. “I’ve only played 70 games for Millwall and certain things like that happening are new to me.

“It is something you have got to learn from. I feel like I have grown in terms of my performances since then and that is down to the gaffer keeping his faith in me – plus my team-mates and the fans supporting me.

“The manager was playing not too long ago and definitely is still in sync with all of it [backing a young player]. He was really helpful during that time. But Livs [David Livermore] and Ads [Adam Barrett] have been really good too.

“I’m just trying to pay them back. It feels good right now and I’m enjoying it. I’m taking every game as it comes. I don’t look too much at stats or how many minutes I have played.”

Romeo and Ben Thompson were the young guns in the Millwall side last season as the South Londoners won promotion to the Championship. But both their positions came under threat in the run-in as Harris opted for the more seasoned Shaun Cummings and Nadjim Abdou.

Once again Romeo got a chance when Cummings went off with an injury in the first leg of their play-off semi-final first leg against Scunthorpe United. He did not put a foot wrong at Glanford Park or Wembley.

Thompson has struggled to even make the matchday 18 in recent weeks – a sign of the extra depth in the Lions ranks.

Romeo’s challenge was to take the shirt off McLaughlin. He also failed to make the bench in the opening five Championship fixtures.

“At Millwall nothing is going to be easy – nothing is going to be given to you,” he said. “You have got to earn your place.

“I didn’t feel any pressure to go out and do anything [when he replaced McLaughlin]. I was just happy to get my chance.

“I’ve not really had to bide my time like that before, maybe a bit in my first season. But being out of the squad now means it is different – there’s not a chance you might come on.

“In that situation you have just got to keep at it.

“The squad we have got right now has a few more players in it. The standard of training has gone up again. That shows because we are doing quite well, we’re on a good run of form.

“Everyone in the squad is good enough to play in the starting team.”

Millwall are unbeaten in 10 Championship matches and made it five straight away league wins in midweek.

“It’s down to the manager and his staff,” said Romeo. “Whether that is what we do in training, how we assess the other team or just managing the players.

“We’re flying at the moment. I don’t see why we can’t get into the top 10 if we get a good number of points on the board in the matches we have left.”

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