And no improvement under Holloway
15 February ~ When Ian Holloway took over as Millwall boss shortly after an embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of Southend United at the beginning of January, there was a surge of unprecedented optimism at The Den. Having finally lost patience with the floundering Steve Lomas, supporters were expecting an improvement with the arrival of a manager who had already taken two unfashionable sides into the Premier League. Six games later, and having taken just five points out of a possible 18, the doom merchants are out in force once again.
Some tactical selections by Holloway in the last three games have been baffling. His decision to start with four strikers – all with top-flight experience – against bottom side Yeovil Town in midweek backfired spectacularly after the Lions failed to muster a single shot on target in the first half. And although his team managed to rescue a point thanks to a late Steve Morison header, more was expected and Millwall are just one place off the relegation places as they prepare to face Bolton Wanderers today.
However, there is a more serious threat on the horizon than a drop to League One. Lewisham Council’s decision to sell three pieces of land adjacent to the ground – including the club car park and the Lions Community Centre – to a property developer has cast doubt over the club’s tenancy at Zampa Road.
While the council have publicly stated that Millwall remain a vital part of the community, chairman John Berylson rebuked this claim on the club’s website and aired his dismay at the council’s decision to exclude the Lions from the regeneration scheme. Berylson also revealed that the club had submitted their own development plans for the land in question but the council declined to consider them.
On the face of it, the threat does not seem too strong. After all, The Den still has over 100 years outstanding on its current lease. Furthermore, the club’s own proposals would also see the same areas of land redeveloped, with a leading hotel chain supposedly interested in committing to the project. However, should the development take off and the proposed Surrey Canal Triangle regeneration meets expectations, the value of the land currently occupied by the club is more than likely to increase.
How long the council will be prepared to honour their existing tenancy agreement with the club in the face of temptation is open to question. After all, it would be much easier to sell the many planned luxury homes if Millwall Football Club and their supporters were not the noisy neighbours next door. Neil Andrews