After a horror show on Saturday against Coventry City, in which the Lions found themselves 3-0 down inside the first half hour and 4-0 down by the final whistle, Neil Harris’ side return to The Den on Tuesday night for the visit of Barnsley. Tykes season-ticket holder, Phil Saunders, provides the ammunition for this version of ‘The View From The Opposition’…
Name: Phil Saunders
First Barnsley Game: In the 1986/87 season, as a 6 year old with my Grandad. It was a cold Tuesday night game against Stoke City. I can’t remember any of the match – not even the result – but I’ve still got the scarf I got that night. It’s seen better days, as you can imagine! It’s just a cheap bit of wool with red printing on it, but it means a lot to me because it’s from the very first day my addiction to football and Barnsley FC started.
Since that day, as a little lad smelling the Bovril and pipe smoke for the first time supporting Barnsley Football Club, they have been a massive part of my life. This year, I’m on my 19th season ticket on the bounce. I’ve had one every year since I started working for a living. I’m also on a run of missing just one league game in the last 8 seasons (home or away) and even that was only down to illness, about 5 years ago – I still bought the match ticket and train tickets but never used them.
Greatest moment following Barnsley: There’s been some fantastic results in my time as a Barnsley supporter – and one or two brilliant seasons. Beating Liverpool away in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, then Chelsea the round after, on the way to a FA cup Semi-Final at Wembley, being the last team in 20th century to knock Manchester United out of the cup, the season we finished second in the First Division and got promoted to the Premier League… but the best moment was when we came out of administration.
ITV Digital went tits up and couldn’t pay what they said they would, so we couldn’t pay our bill and had to go into administration, owing £2.5m. By far, it’s the worst thing any football fan can go through, but coming out of it at the other end and still having a club is by far the best thing I’ve witnessed as a Barnsley supporter. It’ll never be beat, no matter what we go on to achieve in the future.
How do you rate Barnsley’s chances in League One this season? What’s the aim?: The aim has to be promotion. We’ve got a very young squad – the average age of our first team squad is just 21, which is the youngest out of the 92 league teams. We have one of, if not the youngest manager, too. We’ve got four or five lads in our squad that will one day play in the Premier League (and a couple that’ll play at the top end of it, too), but young lads will make mistakes, it’s inevitable – because of that, it’s really hard to judge what we’ll do this season. I think a top 6 finish could well be achieved, but it’s not something I could predict with confidence at this stage.
One thing is for sure – we have some very good players to watch this season.
Likewise, how do you think Millwall will get on after their relegation from the Championship? Who will be key to any success they may have?: I’d say you’re in for what we had last season; ups and downs, a rebuild and being unpredictable from one game to the next. A brief flirtation with the play-offs at one point, before just falling short at the end.
After Millwall’s 4-0 defeat at home to Coventry City yesterday, are you worried about a backlash from the Lions on Tuesday, or do you see this as a perfect time to play them?: I don’t fear a backlash, to be honest. I’m looking at it positively – hopefully we’ll come out and give you more of the same from the off. The first ten minutes being high tempo, closing down, plenty of pressure on the ball and trying to keep you penned in; attack the first 10 minutes as we would the last 10 minutes if we were one goal down etc. If we do that and get a goal, you could be in for your second hammering in four days.
Who are Barnsley’s ‘ones to watch’ this Tuesday?: We have quite a few quality players. James Bree, a 17 year-old right back, Marc Roberts, a young centre-half we got from Halifax this summer has looked really solid so far, Josh Scowen, a box-to-box midfielder, is top class on his day, Ben Pearson & Joe Rothwell are midfielders on loan from Manchester United, Dan Crowley is on loan from Arsenal (he’ll be top class one day – he is being called the next Jack Wilshire), plus we have Sam Winnall – a top striker for this league if he can stay fit. (Barnsley also have former Millwall youth prospect, Conor Wilkinson).
How do you see the game going?: A very scrappy, low-scoring game with very little in the way of clear cut chances.
Phil’s Team Prediction: Davies; Smith, Roberts, Mawson, Nyatanga, Bree; Scowen, Pearson; Rothwell; Watkins, Winnall
Score Prediction: Millwall 0-1 Barnsley.
Millwall v Barnsley takes place at The Den on Tuesday 18th August, kick-off 7:45pm.