Millwall midfielder won’t be changing playing style as he targets end to injury-disrupted campaigns


Ryan Leonard will do everything in his power to be available for more Millwall matches next season but that won’t be by compromising any of his competitive drive.

The 31-year-old signed a contract extension at the end of last week to stay with the Lions for a sixth consecutive campaign.

A torn hamstring and groin injury restricted the versatile Leonard to 17 Championship appearances last season – playing just more than 1,000 minutes in total.

“I’ve struggled the last couple of years injury-wise and I’m quite honest about admitting that,” the former Southend and Sheffield United player told the South London Press. “I wanted to stay at the football club. I enjoy my football here.

“Then it is the normal negotiation – going backwards and forwards about what is best for the club and best for me. Thankfully the club and my agent got everything sorted, it was a no-brainer once everything had been agreed.

“Picking up an injury is soul-destroying, especially the way the last couple of years have gone for me. You work so hard with the physios and fitness coaches to get back out there, so to then keep getting different things setting me back after that was horrendous – horrible.

“Whenever you get an injury there is a process, which can be long, to get back into the team. To add an extra layer of frustration, when I’m fit and available I do feel I offer a hell of a lot to the manager and the players.

“I’m not stupid – I understand it is frustrating for the fans but it is probably 10 times more frustrating for me than everyone else.”

Leonard has made 367 career appearances – 128 of those for the Lions.

“I’ve had stages where I have played 50 games a season,” he said. “In my first one at Millwall I played 41 games for them and 45 overall (including matches for Sheffield United). I know I can do it and my body is capable of doing it.

“All you can do is try and prepare as best as you can. I’m the type of player who puts their body on the line – stretches for last-ditch tackles. That can have a little effect on me. But I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ll play my normal game.

“I’ll be as ultra professional as I can be and then just pray!”

Leonard played in the 3-2 win at Blackpool in the penultimate fixture of last season – on the right of a back three as manager Gary Rowett shifted formation – but then was forced to miss out on the final day defeat to Blackburn that ripped a play-off spot away.

“I managed to get myself fit for Blackpool – I think I trained once or twice, just to make sure I was available,” said Leonard.

“It was nice to be back but then to miss the last game was devastating. I pulled my other groin. It was a small tear which could potentially be from trying to get back for the other game.

“It was a seven to 10-day injury. I tried to train and get through it but I wasn’t helping myself or probably helping the manager or the squad by declaring myself fit for that. I had to make the tough decision to tell the physio that I wasn’t available.

“I was there supporting the lads. I think as players it has helped us to go away from that match and let the dust settle – the gaffer told us to take a bit of time, learn from our mistakes and then come back for pre-season ready to give it a right good go.

“We’re going to try and go one better next season, as we have tried to in the last three or four seasons under the manager. I don’t think anyone can fault that we keep coming back and giving more and more each time.”

So will Leonard be setting any targets for games in the 2023-24 campaign?

“I’ve probably done that in recent years and then what has happened, has happened,” he said. “I’m not going to set myself any targets, other than that I’m going to be fit for the first game of the season.

“Then I hope to be available for every game after that. That’s as far as I’m going to look at it.”

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.