TOM Bradshaw is in positive mood ahead of this season – despite not scoring in the last 20 games of the last campaign.
Bradshaw, 28, scored 10 times in the first 28 games of the season, but then didn’t find the back of the net again after netting in the 3-0 win over Newport in the FA Cup third round on January 4.
In his 11-season career, Bradshaw has averaged a goal every two-and-a-half league starts.
His time at Millwall has been disrupted, first by a serious injury and then the suspension of football last March due to Covid-19.
Bradshaw played just 10 games in 2017-18 before sustaining ACL damage at Brentford that November that ended his campaign.
He returned the following August and went on that scoring run that was similar to his career average before suffering a drought.
But Bradshaw is in good spirits ahead of the new league campaign, which begins on Saturday against Stoke.
“Once this season starts it’s a clean slate. I scored 10 goals last season, which was okay but I’d like a slightly higher return,” Bradshaw said.
“I missed 10, 11 months the previous year, so it was my first full season, really [in 2019-20]. For my first season post-ACL, I feel it was positive. I feel really focused going into the new season and I want to do everything I can to convince the gaffer I deserve a spot in the team.
“They’re a great bunch of lads, and all the coaching staff and the gaffer I get on really well with. It’s a club that I love being at and long may it continue.”
Lions boss Gary Rowett has tried Bradshaw in a new position in pre-season, on the left side of a front three. He has also featured behind the main striker.
Bradshaw said: “I’ve probably played more times in the hole than as the direct striker. I’d never really played to the left of the three, but I enjoy it. If anything it probably gives you more freedom, you have more space to do your work in compared to the middle of the pitch in the final third. It’s quite congested there.
“If I’m put on the left I’ll do my best to play as well as possible. The gaffer is playing different formations and trying people out in different positions to see what they can do for next season.”
Millwall have finished eighth in two of the last three seasons, either side of a surprise relegation battle.
All three seasons went down to the second-last game. Millwall lost 4-3 at QPR in July, which ended their top-six chances. One more win would have clinched sixth spot.
“We’re probably not as big a club financially as some of the other clubs in the division, but we’ve been challenging for the play-offs in two of the last three seasons,” Bradshaw continued.
“We were right in the mix almost until the very end and that’s a credit to the lads. We didn’t have a massive squad either so that was a lot of lads playing a lot of minutes.
“The club is run really well, and we know we’re capable of getting into the top six. We beat a lot of really good clubs last season and got results in a couple in games when we shouldn’t have.
“Over all, I think the club and the fans would say it was a good season. We’ve got a good platform to build on. We were saying last season, ‘we’re in the position we’re in because we deserve it’. The table doesn’t lie. It doesn’t show you sympathy or give you bonus points for doing okay.
“I felt like we let ourselves down a bit, we thought it was a really achievable goal. That shows the belief and positivity that we’ve got in the group. We know we’re good enough to challenge again for the play-offs.”
Bradshaw will have extra competition this season, after Rowett recruited striker Troy Parrott on a season-long loan from Tottenham.
Parrott, 18, looked sharp in two pre-season friendlies, scoring against Bromley and Southend. But the Ireland international got injured in the second game and is a doubt this weekend.
Bradshaw will welcome the challenge when he returns.
“He’s been a great addition to the group,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve been a new signing myself a few times and it’s been good for him to get time with all the lads and help him settle. He’s done that and I think it’s always good to bring in competition into the group, it can only be a positive.
“With the group of lads we’ve got I think it’s a case that everyone’s made him feel welcome. We’re really good friends so when a new player comes in everyone wants to make them feel at home.”
Image: Millwall FC