Tom Bradshaw is having best season of his career – but Millwall striker greedy to achieve even more

Every successful striker has a greedy streak and that’s why Tom Bradshaw is looking to squeeze even more out of what has already been a stellar season on a personal note.

The 30-year-old’s double in Millwall’s 3-2 win over Blackpool last Friday took his Championship tally to 17 for the campaign – easily his best return in England’s second tier.

Bradshaw has scored two hat-tricks this season, both in matches televised live by Sky Sports, won a Championship Player of the Month award and an international recall by Wales. Impressive.

“From a personal standpoint it has been a really, really enjoyable season where I’ve managed to score quite a few goals and help the team in important games,” Bradshaw told the South London Press. “It’s a season I look on already as one of my most successful. If we can get the job done and get to the play-offs then that will be the cherry on the top.”

Bradshaw is joint fifth with Burnley’s Nathan Tella in the Championship goal charts.

The last Millwall striker to net more in England’s second tier was Darius Henderson – with 19 – in the 2011-12 campaign.

The hard-working, hustling frontman has previously scored 20 goals in successive seasons for Walsall in League One.

“To score 20 goals in a season in League One was quite special and then being able to repeat it the next season – but that doesn’t compare to this one and how important my goals could be for us as a team and potentially getting into the top six,” said Bradshaw.

“Getting recalled by Wales, doing it at Championship level and us being successful as a team, as well as me, is what separates this season from any other that I’ve had. We’ve still got a game to go in the regulation season and everyone’s aim and ambition is to get into the play-offs – that’s what we’re striving to do.”

Bradshaw admits that the initial target before the league kicked off on July 30 was to reach double figures.

“It’s my most successful goal return in the Championship so I probably wasn’t expecting to be on 17 with a game to play,” he said. “But I’ve always backed myself to score goals at this level.

“The team has been incredible. Obviously we’ve had periods where we’ve struggled to get a win but every team is like that at some point in the season, bar maybe Burnley and Sheffield United – who have gone up in first and second.

“Every other team goes through a spell where they are under a bit of pressure. It’s all about how you react to that pressure. It was a prime example of the character we’ve got in the team that we managed to get the win on Friday with so much on the line. Hopefully we can do the same on Monday.”

Bradshaw could have made it three trebles in the current campaign if Zian Flemming had not taken on spot-kick duties at Bloomfield Road.

Nominated taker Andreas Voglsammer was on the bench so the club’s record signing stepped up to beat Pool keeper Daniel Grimshaw.

Manager Gary Rowett joked afterwards that Bradshaw would have been in training over the weekend – instead of getting a four-day break – if he had tried to take the ball off Flemming.

Millwall v Luton Town SkyBet Championship, The Den, 07 April 2023
Picture : Keith Gillard

“If the game scenario was slightly different and we were two or three-nil up then it’s something maybe I would have spoken to Zian about,” said Bradshaw. “Obviously the game was so tight and it was such an important one, ultimately he was our main penalty-taker on the pitch. So it wasn’t for me to decide.

“It was very much a case of Zian is taking it and then keeping everything crossed that he stuck it in the back of the net.

“There was an incredible atmosphere in the dressing room afterwards but it was very much ‘enjoy it tonight but as soon as that is over with then it’s full focus on Blackburn’.

“It was a big result but it will mean absolutely nothing if we don’t finish the job on Monday.”
Bradshaw’s brace in Lancashire underlined his confidence, a clinical first-time clip from Ryan Leonard’s low cross and then lifting over Grimshaw after being fed through by Duncan Watmore.

“The first goal was a great run and great ball by Lenny,” said Millwall’s number nine. “It had enough pace on it that I could literally just direct it on goal.

“Goals like that happen so fast that is is mainly instinctive. The instincts of experience, I guess.

“To see that go in so early in the game is any striker’s dream.

“The weight that Duncan put on the second ball was perfect and it meant I just needed a tiny little touch to set up the dink.

“In honesty, that was pretty much the only option on because the ball was played through and I was getting squeezed by the two centre-backs and with the goalkeeper rushing out. Luckily it paid off.”

Millwall went into last week’s fixture outside of the play-off places and having collected three points from a possible 12.

The win, their first on their travels since defeating Reading 1-0 on March 11, lifted them to fifth. Other results over the weekend largely went in their favour although Coventry’s 2-0 triumph over Birmingham dropped them one spot. Blackpool felt a must-win.

Millwall v Huddersfield Town SkyBet Championship, The Den, 18 March 2023
Picture : Keith Gillard

“Maybe earlier in the season, like at Wigan, you might take a point,” said Bradshaw. “We were pushing on so much there to get a winner and left ourselves open at the back to concede a second.

“That probably would have been a result where we’d have taken the 1-1 and moved on, but at this stage of the season every win we can get is vital.

“It added to the excitement of the game, because from what I’ve heard it was great viewing. I felt like we were definitely more attack-minded as a team and that reflected in the goals and chances.”

Handling the occasion will be key at a packed out Den on Monday.

“There has been pressure on our games the last two or three weeks,” said Bradshaw. “I was talking to my dad this morning (Monday) and saying that, in some ways, there was just as much pressure on the game last Friday as what there will be on Monday – in terms of that we knew we had to win. We knew what was at stake if we didn’t.

“It’s something where you might get a few extra butterflies in the stomach but it is something I can’t wait for.

“I think the atmosphere will be incredible and it’s a game which every player wants to play in. We’ve been in and around the play-offs in recent years but never close enough to pose a credible threat.

“This is the closest I’ve been to getting in the Championship play-offs. It would be amazing to be involved in them. I’m sure Blackburn will be going into it with the same mindset, which should make it a good spectacle.”

Bradshaw is an unselfish player, but greedy in other ways. He said: “I don’t think any striker is ever satisfied with the amount of goals they want and always are pushing for more. It’s what makes a striker a striker. The euphoric feeling is hard to compare to anything else.”

If Millwall do the business against Blackburn, The Den crowd will experience similar emotions.

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