Millwall boss on professional contract offers: Youngsters can see ‘pathway’ to first team

MILLWALL manager Gary Rowett said the club’s young players can see a “clear pathway” to the first team and they will be given a chance if they show they are good enough.

The Lions released their retained list this week and also confirmed they had offered first professional contracts to Jordan Gillmore, Arthur Penney, Alfie Allen, Nana Boateng, Tyrese Briscoe and Abdul Abdulmalik (above).

But there was disappointment for under-23s Rob Strachan, Harry Ransom, Reuben Duncan, Sam Skeffington – who is currently on loan at Barnet – and George Alexander who were told they could leave the club. Under-18s Ollie Bate and Ezekiel Miller have also been released.

Of Millwall’s current first-team squad, four players – Ben Thompson, Danny McNamara, Billy Mitchell and Hayden Muller – came through the academy. Mahlon Romeo and Tyler Burey progressed to the first team after initially being signed to the under-23s.

Rowett praised under-23 manager Kevin Nugent and his assistant Paul Robinson for their work in a season disrupted by Covid-19 and the consequent restrictions.

Rowett is determined to give young players the chance to impress.

“What they’ve seen is a pathway can open up for the likes of Danny Mac, Hayden Muller, Billy Mitchell, Tyler Burey. They can see that pathway,” Rowett sad.

“Nuge and Robbo have done some really good work in some difficult circumstances this year.

“The hard work starts when they come back in and I think we’ve proved now that if a player is good enough then there’s every chance they might get an opportunity.

“So let’s see.”

Hayden Muller in action against Burnley

It’s the responsibility of head of academy Scott Fitzgerald, along with Nugent and Robinson, as well as under-18 bosses Larry McAvoy and Chris Perry, to assess the players and decide if they are being retained or released.

Rowett said he almost got bad news at the start of his career.

He explained: “I was very close to being released after my first year apprenticeship at Cambridge. But then the next year I got into the team, I was seventeen.

“And sometimes that shapes my thinking. I think that by the time you’re 20 if you’re not playing regular first-team football you need the opportunity to go and find that somewhere.

“The under-23 guys have been with them all season and built those relationships up so they manage that process.

“All the first-team lads are the ones we’ve chatted with and given reasons why [they are being released] and are there to support them moving forwards as well.

“Because of course clubs will ring us about players, I’ve already had quite a few clubs ringing me about individuals that have been released. Obviously you want to feed that back to the lads and let them know who’s been enquiring.”

Lions under-18 forward Tyrese Briscoe

Meanwhile, Muller, Dan Moss, Jayden Davis, Alex Mitchell, Sean O’Brien, Junior Tiensia and Isaac Olaofe will remain with the club next season.

Olaofe and Mitchell are on loan at Sutton and Bromley, respectively, and could be sent out again next season.

Tiensia is also at Sutton but hasn’t featured recently.

Rowett said: There are clubs that will enquire about those players. You can look at [Olaofe’s] scenario and at Junior Tiensia who’s gone to the same club and had little game-time. We’ll asses that moving forward.

“There’s been interest in the likes of Alex Mitchell and Tanto [Olaofe]. We’ll make decisions on those players.”

Image: Millwall FC