THE day has finally arrived, as Millwall welcome fans back to The Den for the first time since February this afternoon as bottom side and one of Gary Rowett’s former clubs Derby County arrive in SE16.
Defeat at Blackburn on Wednesday, Millwall’s third in the league this season, extended the Lions’ winless run to seven games.
Derby parted company with Phillip Cocu after their poor start, with former England captain Wayne Rooney in temporary charge.
Alex Grace spoke to Rams fan Simon Long ahead of the game.
Why do you support Derby?
I was born a Ram – my Dad engrained Derby County into me since I was a small child.
What season did you first start following Rams?
That would be 1993. My first game was when Derby played Cremonese in the Anglo-Italian cup.
What is the most memorable Derby game you’ve seen?
It has to be Leeds 2-4 Derby in the play-off semi-final second leg for a 4-3 aggregate win in the 2018-19 season – what an atmosphere. What a night.
Phillip Cocu left, and Wayne Rooney is currently in charge and wants the job full-time. Could he be the man to take you forward?
For me, no he’s not. I personally think we need an experienced manager in to take the helm.
However, he is unbeaten in his first two games as interim – both 1-1 draws at home which we probably should have won.
Louie Sibley scored a hat-trick when the two teams met back in June – how has his development continued since?
It’s an odd one because he hasn’t had a regular run of games and with our poor start to the season the team has been constantly chopped and changed.
The takeover is rumoured to be close – are the fans happy about this?
Yes, I think the vast majority are very happy. We are just getting frustrated about how long it is taking to complete.
It’s been a woeful start for the Rams – why is this?
I don’t think any of us can really put our finger on why it has been so woeful. Not replacing Chris Martin is a big factor, I feel, but I think uncertainty about the takeover is also playing a part.
What are your aspirations for the season?
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but staying in the Championship.
Former Rams boss Gary Rowett is in charge at Millwall now – what are your thoughts on him and the job he’s doing in SE16?
He did a very good job for us and got us to the play-off semi-finals in 2015-16.
I listened to a podcast and he explained why he left as he didn’t feel he could do what owner Mel Morris wanted him to do: build a team using the academy players.
He’s doing a very good job with you. You were very unlucky not to make the play-offs last season.
With the next transfer window just around the corner, where do Derby need to strengthen?
We desperately need a striker. Colin Kazim-Richards has come in and has been exceptional in his last two games, but I still think we need to recruit in the forward position.
If you could add two Millwall players to the Derby side, who would they be and why?
Mahlon Romeo – very quick and always seems to cause us problems every time he plays against us.
Jed Wallace – Trojan in midfield
Who are Derby’s danger men?
Kazim-Richards. He’s our focal point in attack and brings other players into the game. He’s 34 but he can find the net and also create.
Kami Jozwiak, a fast, tricky winger who loves to run at defences and cause problems.
Fans will be present at The Den on Saturday afternoon, but of course no Derby supporters – will you be following the game from home?
I will be watching on RamsTV and even though there are no Derby fans I think it will be refreshing to see supporters back and the atmosphere they’ll create.
What’s your predicted Derby starting XI and formation?
Marshall; Buchanan, Clarke, Wisdom, Byrne; Knight, Bielik, Shinnie; Jozwiak, Kazim-Richards, Ibe
And finally, a score prediction?
Tight game – I’m going for a 1-1 draw.