BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Tom Bradshaw admits his wait for a Millwall goal made netting at Swansea City last weekend feel that little more special.
The 28-year-old had not scored for the Lions in the Championship since New Year’s Day but equalised at the Liberty Stadium.
While the Welsh side went on to inflict a first league reverse of the new campaign on Gary Rowett’s side, Bradshaw could at least take some satisfaction from ending a 24-match scoreless streak.
The former Barnsley and Walsall forward had moved into double figures for the 2019-20 season after a deft finish in a 3-0 FA Cup win over Newport County on January 4 before the goals dried up.
“Experience is definitely something that helps you through those periods,” said Bradshaw. “It is part and parcel of being a striker.
“Even if you are playing well and not scoring then eventually you will get some criticism for it. You get a lot of glory when you are scoring and a lot of heat when you aren’t.
“You get spells where everything you touch goes in and then other moments where it is not so easy.
“You learn to deal with it and you can’t let it get to you too much. The team comes first – if you win games then everyone is happy. It was a disappointing result at Swansea and I feel like they were sloppy goals that we don’t usually concede. We’d been defensively solid all season and the majority of the last one as well.
“I’ll always give my all in matches and the team ethos is to attack as a team and defend as a team. That’s one of the reasons we have been so good defensively – everyone buys into that. It’s not just defenders stopping us conceding and leaving the attackers to score. It’s everyone’s job to do both.
“I feel like I’ve got a bigger role than just getting goals but when you go through the kind of spell I did it really makes you appreciate those moments. It definitely intensifies what you feel – it’s a combination of excitement, relief and just enjoying it. It’s a special feeling that is hard to replicate.
“Sometimes when you’ve scored quite a few on the bounce you almost take it a bit for granted.
“If I could put my finger on why [there are barren spells] it would be half the job done. Football works in mysterious ways. You can be doing everything in your power and the ball still won’t go in.
“You have to keep believing in yourself and keep remembering what got you in the team – that you deserve to be there and that you have scored goals your whole career. You need to stay calm and do your job.”
Bradshaw has netted 86 times in 339 career outings – 11 of those in 63 matches for Millwall.
He would have added to those stats but for a cruciate knee ligament injury which he suffered in November 2018, three months after he arrived from the Tykes.
His next first-team outing came as a substitute on the opening day of the following season.
Bradshaw’s contract situation is not totally clear, with the Lions having an option to extend his stay by a further 12 months.
If that isn’t taken up – or he doesn’t pen an extension – then he is due to be a free agent at the end of June.
“With everything that has been going on and how hectic it has been I haven’t had the chance to speak to the club yet,” he said.
“There is a one-year option if the club decide to take it up. I’m sure there will be a conversation on that.
“I’m definitely happy to stay. We’ve got our roots down here and have bought a house in the area, my little girl goes to nursery. So we’re really settled. I love playing for the club and it’s a really special group of lads, so on that front I’d love to be at Millwall.
“I love representing the club.”
The Lions players have been handed a few days off this week due to the international break. But they will play another five fixtures in October, yet again putting more physical demands on them.
“It’s really important the lads gets some recovery time because it will be the last time we can do that for a while,” said Bradshaw. “It’s going to be mad hectic – games every few days. You need to get energy back into the legs. But all the lads have adapted to the schedule. We won’t be using that as an excuse.
“It’s a bit like when we came back from lockdown, the schedule after that was crazy but we acclimatised to that.
“You’ve just got to take extra precautions and do your recovery right – protein shakes and knowing when to put your feet up. That last bit is not that easy with a one-year-old.
“A lot of the lads have got young kids and you learn to enjoy your family time, that in itself is relaxing – more from the mental perspective.
“It’s really healthy to switch off. The lads will tell you I’m a Netflix addict. I try to cram in as many episodes as possible.”
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