Jed Wallace was one of Millwall’s standout performers last season – but the good news is that he is ready to try anything to take his game to the next level.
When I caught up with the former Portsmouth and Wolves winger last Wednesday he was driving to Simply Float in Tunbridge Wells to aid his recovery from the pre-season friendly at Colchester United.
The company has pods – filled with 500kg of Epsom salts and water – and claim it helps athletes quickly rejuvenate aching muscles.
Wallace has been a leading light in pre-season and took his haul to four goals with the only strike against VfL Bochum on Saturday.
“I feel strong and I made a big effort in the summer to improve in the off season,” he said. “Just to be a little more professional, if I can, and see where it gets me.
“A big part of football is what you do off the pitch and I’m trying to make sure I get that right, hopefully it means we as a group can go one better this season.
“Technology is huge in football and you’d be silly not to reap the rewards of it. LeBron James [one of America’s top basketball stars] spends £3million a year on physio, a chef and all sorts of things.
“I haven’t quite got £3million to blow but if I can chip away a little then I’ll do it. It is a short career and last year made me hungrier than ever to do everything I can to get as high as I possibly can.
“The lads have given themselves a good platform to go on to better things.
“It is all about the one per cents in this game.
“You have got to get the best out of yourself, because there are a lot of players in this division who have got a lot more ability than we have got at Millwall. I’d prefer to be floating in a pod for 45 minutes chilling rather than a cryo-chamber which is minus whatever ridiculous degrees. Hopefully this will keep me out of there.”
Wallace was one of last summer’s major additions – but by the time that August swung around in this window the only additions have been namesake Murray, snapped up from Scunthorpe United, and Bolton goalkeeper Ben Amos on a season-long loan.
The Lions had done their bulk of business quickly following promotion. But improving a squad that finished eighth in the Championship is not without its difficulties.
“The club recruited so well over the last couple of years that you aren’t really going to improve our starting 11 unless you start paying massive wages and massive transfer fees,” said Wallace.
“The flip side is about improving as a group and our strength in depth. You saw last season when we had a couple of injuries and suspensions, it becomes difficult with a small squad.
“The players are hungry for players to come in and compete for their places, it is something you welcome. It is something which has helped the club in a positive way in the last three or four years.”
Wallace is also circumspect on missing out on Ben Marshall. The Salford stylist made a big impression on the opposite flank during his loan from Wolves, but Norwich City blew the Lions away at the last moment on finances to end hopes of a summer reunion.
“I was upset because he is a good guy and any player that comes in and the team goes 17 games
unbeaten has to be seen as a big plus,” said Wallace. “Marshy was great on the pitch and off it. But we were a good team before he came and also a good team after he left.
“It was not make-or-break to our season whether he is with us or not. It’s just how football pans out.”
Wallace looks once again to be a main player for Millwall in 2018-19.
The 24-year-old is on 82 games for the Lions with 11 goals and 13 assists. He featured 43 times in the Championship last season, the sort of run he never got at that level after swapping Pompey for Wolves in July 2015.
“I don’t set targets but if I get a run of games I fancy myself to contribute goals,” he said. “I knew I was ready a couple of years ago in the Championship but I didn’t get the chance properly.”
Millwall lost just four home games last season – only Wolves, Cardiff, Fulham, Aston Villa and Brentford boasted less – and Wallace knows that could mean a change of approach from opposition in SE16.
“In League One we had struggling teams come to the Den like Walsall, Bury and Oldham who were happy to draw 0-0,” he said. “They would come and sit, we’d find it difficult when they did that.
“The fans need to realise that teams will come here and think a point is a good result, whereas maybe last year it wasn’t. It is going to be frustrating at home at times.
“Fans will need to be a little more patient when we’re trying to break teams down. No-one really wants to play us at The Den – to match us there is difficult for anyone.
“We want to build our season around our home form again. We have to improve, certainly before Christmas, on our away form.”
Wallace looked for the game at Reading – where his parents live – when the fixtures came out, along with the two fixtures against Leeds United.
He fancied Cardiff City as promotion dark horses 12 months ago – which proved unerringly accurate – so how about this time?
“I’m going to say Preston or Brentford,” he responds. “But in terms of more obvious ones – Stoke will be good and so will Middlesbrough. Brentford will be good if they keep hold of their players – they were one of the better sides we played. Sheffield United could do well too.
“There are always one or two surprises, like us. Fifty points is the initial target and getting there as quick as we can. What happens from there, happens from there.
“The players will all be dreaming that this could be the season something could happen. You don’t start it wanting to finish fourth from bottom. I’m ambitious. If the manager is ambitious and the players are pushing in the right direction, we’ll see if we can improve on last season.”
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