Don't get me completely wrong, I have a pretty high opinion of myself, but on occasion, I would like to step outside my body for 30 seconds and give myself an almighty kick up the backside !
I watch a lot of lower level football and consider myself a very good judge. Division 1 is my league, it is the third tier of english football and where, as a Brentford fan, I have watched most of their silky skills. This season, four teams stood out for me, two went up automatically, one made the playoffs (the other was not the Bees btw) and yet as soon as they got there, I started to doubt them. That team is/was Millwall and I am not going to make the same mistake today, when I expect them to make a well deserved return to the Championship.
They came withing 20 minutes of doing so last season, when in the final here they led Scunthorpe 2-1 entering the last quarter of the game. That experience will be invaluable today, they know what to expect from the day, what the atmosphere and level of expectation will be like, they also know that even if they lose, that life goes on, so the fear of failure will not be so great.
Since the one game playoff final was introduced, seven teams have returned to either Wembley or Cardiff the following year, Millwall will be the eighth. Six of those won the next time round and the single failure, Leicester City in 1993, actually returned a third time the following season and then completed the job.
I deeply regret opposing Millwall with Huddersfield in the semis, not just because they lost, but because I did not go with the evidence of my own eyes. Which is that Millwall were the best team entering the playoffs and with the experience from last year, were the obvious pick. The South Londoners will have 40,000 noisy fans behind them today and can introduce a number of match winners from the bench, which could prove key in a one off final. Man for man I rate them the superior outfit by far, with 12-13 of the squad having been here before. Swindon have big doubts about a couple of key players and whilst I don't want to single out any individuals especially one that has been as prolific as Charlie Austin this season, but he was playing non league football earlier this season as there is no telling how the occasion might get to him and some of his team mates, with the Lions, it is pretty open and shut. Even their non league recruit Steve Morison has two Wembley appearances to his name, scoring on both occasions and he has Mr Millwall, the vastly Neil Harris to keep him on the straight and narrow.
I have nothing but admiration for Harris, who is Millwall's all time highest scorer and loved by all at the New Den. He has battled testicular cancer and twice been told he was surplus to requirements at the club he loves, but forced managers to do an about turn by his determination to score and pure strength of character. Kenny Jackett actually told him his contract would not be renewed in the off season of 2008, Harris responded that he had no intention of leaving, his goals kept them up that season, he got a new contract in the summer and the rest is history ! Now that is a man to lead you into battle !
Millwall -0.5 2.10 + ........ 2.20 still available in places.