BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Gary Rowett would love to have Ryan Woods at Millwall next season – but admits that the on-loan Stoke City midfielder’s future is far from cut and dried.
The 27-year-old is in line to make his 50th appearance for the Lions in tomorrow’s Championship fixture at Reading.
Woods has been on loan with the SE16 outfit since January 2020 but still has more than 16 months to run on his contract at Stoke.
Rowett is a huge admirer of the Norton Canes-born schemer and was City chief when he arrived from Brentford in August 2018.
The Millwall manager has revealed he has had a conversation with the former Aston Villa youngsters about his future.
“I’ve spoken briefly to Woodsy about it,” said Rowett. “My job is to get Ryan Woods playing at his very best so he gets to the end of the season and 10 teams higher up in this league or in the Premier League say: ‘We want Ryan Woods as part of our team’.
“Whatever happens, happens. Really Woodsy should be out of our reach.
“I’d love to keep Woodsy for longer, but it is a challenge. We have had him for 18 months and from his own perspective I’m sure he wants to play at the highest level he can. I know there was a little bit of interest in the summer from other teams.
“My job is not to pre-empt what is going to happen in the future and talk about other team’s players who are contracted for next season.
“My job really is to help get some of those players back on to their feet and playing to the best of their ability, the rest will take care of itself.
“If we have got him next season – brilliant. But I don’t plan too far ahead with loan players because it can be impossible to predict what it looks like in six months time.”
Millwall have resolved some of their contract issues with a hat-trick of renewals this week – Danny McNamara, Murray Wallace and Tyler Burey all penning extensions.
But there are still senior pros in the ranks who are due to be free agents at the end of June – including Matt Smith, player-coach Shaun Williams and Alex Pearce.
Derby loanee Scott Malone is also up in the summer but looks likely to be offered the chance to stick at The Den. The left wing-back moved on to four goals for the campaign with a slick move and finish in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
“He’s been brilliant for us,” said Rowett. “When we signed him it was controversial for some people – do we want to sign another 30-year-old who has been around the Championship? Everyone wants you get someone who is 20 or 21.
“But for the money we are paying I don’t think we could have got anyone better in the division at left wing-back. He covers massive distances in games.
“He is always in goalscoring positions. Compared to Danny and Mahlon [Romeo] he has got that knack – he takes that little bit of a gamble over 10 or 15 yards to get in the box.
“When I was at Burton we took Scottie on loan and played him central midfield – pushing forward. He is a good defender but his best attributes are going forward.
“He is up there in the goalscoring charts and that’s partly down to the fact we haven’t scored enough goals in the forward areas.”
Millwall have been dealt an injury blow with Ryan Leonard set to be out for around two months after suffering ankle ligament damage against the Owls.
Rowett is also without Murray Wallace (broken foot) and Connor Mahoney (quad) for the trip to Berkshire.
But midfielder Billy Mitchell is expected to be in the travelling party.
The 19-year-old has not featured this season due to hamstring tears.
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