THERE was only one thing missing from the best week of Danny McNamara’s career so far.
McNamara is a Millwall fan. His family are Millwall, so are many of his friends and he said he received “hundreds” of messages wishing him well before he made his senior debut.
It was a whirlwind two weeks, after a return from St Johnstone, then being told by Lions boss Gary Rowett he was going to make his senior debut, then making his league bow days later.
Millwall had a potentially classic FA Cup third-round tie against a non-league Boreham Wood side out to cause an upset.
It would have been one of those David versus Goliath situations played out against a backdrop of noise and fervour.
Except there were no fans.
McNamara has described his experience this year so far as “surreal”, and that includes marking your debut, your league debut and no doubt soon a home debut in empty stadiums when you probably dreamed of it all happening in hostile away grounds and a heaving cauldron of a Den.
“It’s just the new normal at the moment,” McNamara tells NewsAtDen. “It’s rubbish without fans, especially the Millwall fans. We know how passionate they are and they give 100 per cent. It ups our game. I know what it’s like to be a Millwall fan.
“It’s just a shame that they can’t be there at the moment but hopefully they can come back soon.
“It helps me out massively that I’m a Millwall fan, it gives me that extra ten per cent. I want to help the team as much as I can. I can only give my all and that’s what I intend to do if and when I play.
“It’s been pretty surreal, it’s gone so quickly from the day I got back from St Johnstone to making my debut at Boreham Wood and then playing the following games.
“It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for me and I’ve loved every minute of it so far. I had hundreds of messages from family and friends saying how happy they were for me. I’ve had loads of support. My mum and dad are obviously over the moon with me but keeping me grounded, too.
“I’ve come in and experienced it all so quickly. It’s been a great two weeks, it was just a shame we didn’t get a result against Forest.
“I didn’t think I was going to make my league debut that quickly. I knew I’d had a good game against Boreham Wood, but to step up and play my first Championship game the Tuesday after, I never thought that was going to happen.
“When my name was on that team sheet I just wanted to take my opportunity.”
That opportunity came along because of how well McNamara had done under former Millwall assistant Callum Davidson in Scotland.
McNamara says playing against Rangers and Celtic was similar to his experiences of the Championship so far.
Davidson got the call before Christmas that his old boss Rowett wanted to take McNamara back.
“He was gutted that I was leaving, but he was also buzzing because the reason I went out on loan to St Johnstone was to show that I was good enough to play in the Championship,” McNamara says.
”He gave me games week-in, week-out and improved me as a player. That’s shown as the gaffer at Millwall has given me my opportunity to go and play and take my chance.
“When we played Bournemouth it was very similar to when we played Rangers back at St Johnstone, the way they keep the ball.
“I think Celtic and Rangers are not miles off what it’s like in the Championship. I just think in the Championship your mistakes are punished a lot more.
“We played a similar formation at St Johnstone to what Millwall play, so that helped me out massively.
“Callum would show me when to press, when not to press, decision-making in the final third. It’s all helped me out, in attack, defensively, off the ball.
“I learned so much from Callum so hopefully I can bring that to the Millwall team.
“The first month or so was tough. My parents couldn’t get up to me, I couldn’t get back to them. The only time I could get to see them was during an international break when I could get home for a couple of days.
“But you know what? It’s probably made me more of a man. But coming back home has been brilliant, being with my family.
“It’s been a really great experience, the last six or seven months.”
On his return, McNamara took the place of Mahlon Romeo, who has been a first-team regular for the majority of the time since the end of the 2015-16 season.
“We’re both fighting for the position,” McNamara says. “Mahlon’s been great with me before every game I’ve played since I’ve come back. He’s been nothing but positive, telling me how I’m doing and what I can do better.
“He’s just a great lad, and a great person to learn from.
“Even when I was in the 23s the lads were nothing but supportive of me. I get on really well with the first team. There’s not a bad person in the team. Everyone gets on so well.
“Everyone gets on with the gaffer and he brings positivity into the changing room. Honestly, I’m not just saying it because I play for Millwall, but genuinely I couldn’t say a bad word about anyone.
“They are nothing but positive towards me.”
After major milestones in the last two weeks, it’s not improbable that McNamara could soon come into the reckoning for a senior Ireland cap.
It’s something he admits he has thought about.
He said: “Definitely, of course. But you’ve got to take it step by step and what will be will be. But of course I’ve thought about things like that.
“I’ve got to be patient, keep doing what I’m doing and maintaining my performances, and hopefully Stephen Kenny can come down to some of the games and it puts something in his mind.”
Image: Millwall FC