Millwall’s Gary Rowett ‘proud’ of fans – as he reveals Mahlon Romeo’s role in pre-game meeting

GARY Rowett said he was “proud” of the club and Millwall supporters after the draw against QPR on Tuesday night – and the Lions boss revealed Mahlon Romeo played an important role in the pre-game planning.

Millwall and QPR players linked arms behind a ‘Unite for Change’ banner ahead of the game, with Romeo standing in the centre alongside club skipper Alex Pearce.

Rowett revealed Romeo was in a meeting at the club with groups including Kick It Out, Show Racism The Red Card, the PFA and the EFL until 6pm on Monday evening.

Some Lions supporters booed the taking the knee gesture before last Saturday’s game against Derby.

On Tuesday, Millwall fans applauded when players stood together and again when QPR players took the knee before kick-off.

“[The fans] responded to the message we were trying to portray which is what we all want: anti-discrimination, a fight against inequality, racism,” Rowett said.

“None of us want that in our society and football is a very powerful tool in order to fight it. What we tried to do today was create a line between the knee being the only gesture and another form of a gesture which I think the fans got behind fantastically well.

“I didn’t hear any negativity, I heard everyone get behind it. I’m sure there were people looking on in the football world and the world in general hoping that maybe there would be more negativity, and it didn’t go that way.

“I’m proud of the fans and I’m proud of the club for the work they’ve done to at least try to make this a positive thing.

“I think every single person in both teams, both clubs, got behind that message. For me that was quite clear and very, very positive.”

Mahlon Romeo leads Millwall out

Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair took the knee celebrating the latter’s goal in the 1-1 draw.

Rowett added: “I wasn’t aware the whole team would take the knee [before the game], I wasn’t aware they’d celebrate that way but that’s not our decision. That’s every player’s decision to do that. We’re living in a world where it’s everyone’s decision to react how they want to react.

“Tonight our fans reacted positively. I believe that the negativity was around the knee, and you can decipher and argue why that was, that’s not for me to decide.

“The message [is] around doing something proactively as a club to try to make positive change. I hear a lot of statements and comments but what we probably haven’t seen is enough action from the authorities around this.

“What we’re trying to do is act. A lot of the world was watching and I think the club have come out in a very positive way this evening and backed up the work they’ve been doing for years in the community. I’ve seen that first-hand.

“So I’m proud of people because there’s been a lot of flak flying around, a lot of mud slung at the club. Not necessarily what happened Saturday but the actual club.

“Everyone associated with it tonight has at least the chance to feel proud of it.”

Rowett said it was “never discussed” that Romeo wouldn’t play, and he praised the defender, who raised his right fist as the opponents took the knee before kick-off.

Rowett said: “Mahlon was an important part of all those discussions. I’m sure that for him and for the likes of Tyler Burey and Mason Bennett it was a difficult afternoon Saturday, as it was for all of us. We’re a team and we stand together.

“Yesterday we sat in a meeting until around six o’clock and Mahlon was there when really he probably should be preparing for a game.

“But it was an important meeting and important that he was there to proactively decide which way forward we would go. He spoke very intelligently, he spoke very passionately and he should come out with lots and lots of credit.

“To then go and perform in the way he did, it must have been difficult, but I thought he did really well.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly