Millwall have this week announced their replacement for outgoing manager Kenny Jackett, who has accepted the challenge of getting Wolves promoted back in the Championship. The man now charged with getting the Lions in a Premier League play-off places is Steve Lomas, previously at St. Johnstone.
It was always going to be difficult replacing Jackett after the brilliant job he did for the club. After being appointed in November 2007 he got the London club out of League One in 2010 and led them away from relegation for the following two seasons. This year he also managed to reach the FA Cup semi-final until his squad were knocked out by eventually winners, Wigan.
But Lomas has proven he is extremely capable of taking Millwall to the next level if you consider the work he did at his former Scottish employers. In his two seasons at St Johnstone he achieved two top six finishes and got the Saints into the Europa League qualifying rounds (last season they were knocked out at the second qualifying round 3-1 against Turkish side Eskişehirspor).
Of course, this record meant very little to Millwall fans when Lomas’ arrival was announced, due to the fact in his playing days the Northern Ireland international played 227 competitive appearances for rivals West Ham. One fan hung the banner “F*** off Lomas” on the gates of The Den.
The rivalry between the two clubs is long running and has flared up with violent clashes in the not so distant past. In 2009 during a League Cup match there was fighting outside West Ham’s stadium before the game, with one fan being stabbed. This spilt over into the game when three times play was suspended because West Ham fans had invaded the pitch in order to get to the Millwall travelling section.
Millwall are regularly scorned by fans of rival teams and in many areas of the press for being thugs but the actions that day at West Ham, and those at the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan (when a small number of Millwall fans began attacking one another), are not representative of the vast majority of spectators.
Between 2011 and 2012 the Lions were behind Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Middleborough and Sheffield Wednesday when it came to the number of banning orders dished out, and those 56 who were banned betray a fan base that is dedicated and peaceful. Those are the fans who really care about the club and want success, from whoever delivers it.
If Steve Lomas can avoid another Millwall relegation battle in the Championship next season and secure a mid-table finish, perhaps even creeping towards to the top six places, then fans will get behind the 39-year-old. They may love beating West Ham, but they would love promotion to the Premier League even more.
image: © londonmatt