BY ALEX GRACE
Gary Rowett believes that when he has all of his options available to him that his Millwall side will be able to challenge the upper reaches of the Championship.
The Lions have finished the last two seasons in eighth and 11th place and are currently 11th following back to back wins over Bristol City and Barnsley.
Rowett said: “We’ve got to be ambitious. We want to be ambitious. We are a football club that for a large part of the Championship have done quite well but then maybe dropped down and not done so well.
“We’ve always said that we want to be a team, a club, that can sustain that top half of the table challenge, which as we know is a tough, tough challenge with a lot of the teams in there. We need all of our players available, we need a little bit of good fortune with injuries and we need to click a bit in that final third and if we do we will have a very good chance in and around those areas. Two wins in a row in the Championship, as we know, changes the whole outlook on things and it’s a great time to do it just before the international break.”
Since returning to the Championship four seasons ago, Millwall have flirted with a play-off challenge in all but one season. What Rowett wants is for his side to continue their top-half challenge despite having one of the smallest budgets in the league.
“We are Millwall, we want to be as competitive as we can, we want to be proud of the team, we want to do as well as we can, our aim is of course to be pushing for that top 10,” he said. “If you’re pushing for that top 10, like we have in the last two seasons, then you’re likely to be challenging for the top six. But with the teams in this division and the money they have spent, we would be a little bit arrogant to say we expect to be in the top six. We will have to work incredibly hard and do whatever we can to see if we can get up in those areas .”
Injuries and illness have been the major disruption to Millwall’s season so far, Jed Wallace and Sheyi Ojo have been absent with illness. The likes of Shaun Hutchinson, Scott Malone, Jake Cooper, Connor Mahoney, Danny McNamara, Ryan Leonard and Benik Afobe have all missed games through injury.
“I would say overall it’s been about six months since I’ve been able to pick from a fully fit squad,” said Rowett. “We are starting to get back to that. Scotty Malone, I think will be okay. He wasn’t far off today, but I just felt coming to Barnsley we needed everyone to be sure, we couldn’t afford to carry anyone if they weren’t fully fit. Mason will be okay, so I don’t think we are far off.
“When we’ve got those options we have the ability to play that front three, we have the ability to bring Matt on late in games, we have the ability to start Matt and the likes of Mason and Tom but we haven’t been able to do that so far and we need those options.”
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