Millwall skipper Alex Pearce discusses squad mood – and why boss had to calm players down

THE Lions are back and raring to go – with skipper Alex Pearce revealing boss Gary Rowett had to calm the players down when they returned to training.

Millwall reconvened at Calmont Road in late May and the squad arrived back so eager to get going again that Rowett had to apply the brakes.

Millwall will restart their league campaign against Pearce’s former club Derby on Saturday.

Pearce admitted it was difficult training at home during the two months they were away from their base with no “end goal” in sight.

He praised Rowett and the staff for how they have handled an unprecedented situation.

“They’ve been fantastic, keeping in touch with all the lads and keeping us updated with information where they could,” Pearce told NewsAtDen this week.

“It’s difficult for them also because for a lot of the time they were in the dark about a lot of stuff.

“As players we were chomping at the bit when we got back and I think the manager could see that and he probably wanted to just calm us down at times and take it steady the first few days. The lads were so energetic at getting back in, and so happy just to be back with each other.

Alex Pearce chats with Ryan Leonard

“The Strava [fitness] app is a great app and all the lads were on that. It gets competitive, lads want to get the best times on the runs and that’s only a good thing, healthy competition is good. We had that and hopefully it can pay dividends.

“Everyone’s buzzing to be back and everyone’s in very high spirits. It’s been a long lay-off with the lockdown process and everyone was chomping at the bit to get back into training and now, eventually, getting back into games starting this Saturday. It’s going to be a great occasion.

Bart Bialkowski warms up

“It was difficult because if you speak to a lot of players the hardest thing they found was training without that end goal in mind, you’re training all week without your reward on a Saturday.

“To go through all of that without knowing when we were potentially going to be coming back was probably the most difficult time. It was all up in the air. When we got a date things started picking up and people started getting excited again about football and getting back into training. Thankfully we’re almost there now.

“The overriding feeling among everyone at the club was, if we could get the games back on, if it was safe then let’s try our best to get the games back on. It’s been very safe, as safe an environment as you could hope for. The players and the staff, everyone in the building is getting tested twice a week and still being very sensible when you leave the training ground. We’re keeping on top of things at the training ground and thankfully things have gone okay so far. Long may that continue and we can just focus on the football.”

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson sports a new hairstyle – one of a number at Calmont Road since lockdown

Like everyone else, the Millwall players have had to isolate during the pandemic. That can pose problems psychologically, but Pearce said an environment of openness and support at the club meant no player was going to be left feeling alone.

Pearce continued: “We’ve got a very tight-knit squad at the club anyway so we haven’t got an issue in terms of anyone feeling isolated from that group. We all look after each other, we all text each other, we all speak to each other.

“I’m a part of that, of course. Any information I had passed on to me by the club I would then pass on to the lads. That’s part of my role and that happened at certain times throughout lockdown.

“It was just about making sure the lads were okay, really. The lads were very good in terms of keeping on top of their fitness. Sometimes you’ve got to look more at the mental side of things. Mental welfare is just as important as the physical side.

“We encourage it at the club that if you are feeling a little bit down or whatever you should go and speak to someone. I’d like to think that with the group of players we’ve got if someone was struggling the lads would get around them and certainly be there for them as best we could.

“We’re massive on that and try to encourage it as best we can.

“The lads have got up to speed pretty quickly after maintaining it during lockdown. We’re looking forward to the start and we’re raring to go.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly