IAN Holloway apologised to Millwall fans after the Lions were thrashed 4-0 by Bradford City – their fifth defeat in six games.
Millwall’s hopes of progressing to the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they would have faced Chelsea, were dashed on a night Holloway admitted was “embarrassing” for the club.
The League One side were on top even before Mark Beevers was sent off in the sixth minute and the deluge of goals that followed summed up a season that is quickly unravelling.
Before speaking to the press, Holloway locked his players in the dressing room for well over an hour to diagnose exactly what had gone wrong.
Searching for answers, the Lions boss said: “It’s a very difficult night.
“It was going to be a tough enough game anyway so to make a mistake like that and bring their fella down…I don’t think the referee had a choice with the red card.
“Then there was a lack of confidence in the team and each other, and we let a goal in almost immediately. You could see then how bad it is for everybody.
“In my whole footballing life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team capitulate as badly as that. All I can do is apologise to the fans. We’ve got so much work to do.
“The lads don’t look like a Millwall team – they didn’t have any fight in them – and they don’t look like my team. That’s what we’ve been talking about in the dressing room.
“Bradford looked like they wanted it more than my lot did after the sending off.”
Over 600 Millwall fans made the long trip to West Yorkshire only to see their side humiliated, prompting chants of “Holloway out” at the final whistle.
“That’s football at the moment,” said Holloway, when asked about the reaction of the supporters.
“I’ve been doing it for 19 years and have managed 860-odd games, and this is football.
“Football is unforgiving at the moment and all sorts of things get chanted and shouted.
“I didn’t see the pride that you should wear a Millwall shirt with and that’s unacceptable.
“I said when I first took the job that it was going to be tough. I didn’t expect it to be this tough but it is. With the way the fans are, I don’t blame them after that.
“We’ve got to demand a reaction. The fans deserve one because that was embarrassing.”
Holloway fears that his players have fallen into bad habits of previous seasons and is eager to ensure any new signings do not fall into the same traps.
“We’ve got some new players but I don’t want to get them into this group because there’s something wrong with it,” he added. “We’re dysfunctional.
“They were like that last year but we managed to get a decent run together at the end of it, which just saved us, and they were like that the year before after the club lost Chris Wood.
“It’s a habit they’ve got into. I was brought in to change that so it’s my responsibility. But I’m at a fantastic club that I think suits me.
“I want to play in an aggressive way – my teams always have. By that I mean playing on the front foot with closing and pressing, and after we went to ten men we couldn’t do that.”
Asked if he was confident of turning results around, Holloway said: “I’m always confident. That’s what you have to be in my position.”