TYLER Burey has moved to centre stage in more ways than one for Millwall recently.
Not only are the Lions relying on Burey to provide the goals and assists with so many attackers out injured, but the former AFC Wimbledon player has been deployed up front, which is not his natural position.
Burey describes himself as an “out-and-out winger” and that’s where he played when he was first introduced to the Millwall side.
Burey started his first-ever league game for the Lions in a two-man attack with Mason Bennett and scored in the 2-1 win at Derby County.
Then Burey and Jed Wallace were the unconventional front two after Bennett went off injured in the 1-0 victory against Sheffield United last Saturday.
While some players are content to catch the manager’s eye and then hope to get their chance, Burey not only did the first bit but then told Gary Rowett he was ready to impact the team, the Millwall manager recently revealed.
It’s pointed out to Burey that is a lot of confidence for someone who had never started a Championship game for the club.
“That confidence has come from Hartlepool” Burey told NewsAtDen. “When I went to Hartlepool I had the No.7 shirt so I knew what I had to do: I had to score, I had to get assists, I had to do something every game for us to get a goal or something like that.
“When I came back to Millwall it was the same attitude as at Hartlepool, wanting to score goals, wanting to assist and help the team as much as possible. I had to bring that back to Millwall and keep my confidence going and high. That’s where it comes from, really.
“I’m an out-and-out winger but when I went on loan to Hartlepool I was playing as part of a two up top. I’m familiar with it but of course I’m still a winger.
“I’m in the team to do a job and I’ve got to the do the job to the best of my ability. Wherever I’m playing, whether I’m out wide or up top, I’ve just got to work hard and try to do my best for the team.”
It was something of a coincidence that Burey was given the No.7 shirt at Hartlepool considering the player with that number on his back at Millwall, Wallace, says he is a big fan of Burey and admires the youngster’s confidence.
Burey ultimately wants to emulate Wallace, who has established himself as one of the best attackers in the Championship.
“Jed’s very good for me, he’s always helping me,” Burey said. “He was talking me through the game [against Sheffield United], we helped each other. It worked out well in the end because we won the game.
“He gives me all kinds of advice, switching my game up, working hard. Just all round how to improve my game and get better.
“It’s like having someone in the position that you want to be in, so it’s great having Jed helping me all the time [to get there].”
There may be a bit of an overnight success feel to how Burey has become so important for Millwall, but that certainly isn’t the case.
Burey had to bide his time for a year-and-a-half between his first appearance for the club – as a substitute in the 4-1 win over Huddersfield on the last day of the 2019-20 season – and his first league start last month.
He insists he never lost belief he would get his opportunity in the starting line-up.
“No, I always told myself if I kept working hard, kept pushing and kept learning, experiencing it, kept going, going, going, staying positive, I knew eventually I would get my chance,” Burey says.
“Luckily I carried on working hard and I didn’t let my head drop, or my attitude drop, and I got my chance.
“Whenever you go to a new club you have to adapt to their whole environment. When I first came in I had to adapt. I came in under one manager (Neil Harris) and then he left so I had to prove myself again.
“I had to keep going to get my chance and I took it this time how I wanted to. That’s just from me learning, learning and learning and working hard.”
Burey has so far seamlessly adapted to the rigours of playing week-to-week in the Championship. He was still, effectively, a League Two player at the start of this year, playing his last game for Hartlepool on January 1.
“In the Championship you’re playing against teams that have just been relegated from the Prem which is the best league in the world,” Burey says.
“Playing against those kinds of clubs, of course the quality is going to be different. It’s the quality and patterns of play different clubs have. That’s been the main difference [to playing in League Two].
“I’ve adapted to it from training. When I first went up [to train with the first team] I used to take too many touches and lose the ball quite a lot. It was just to get two touches in my head, after I take my first touch the second touch is a pass. That got streamed into me.
“Now I know I have to be quick compared to before I didn’t know I had to be that quick.”
He has also shown he is able to think quickly on the pitch. For his goal against QPR, he ran on to a brilliant flick from Wallace before bending an effort into the far-right corner.
“I knew what I was going to do before I even got the ball,” Burey reveals. “It was similar to the shooting drills we do in training so I knew exactly what I was going to do. First touch to line it up, second touch I knew I was going to shoot straight away.
“I always do shooting practice after training so it’s come in handy. I’m getting in the positions to finish now. Over my time at Millwall I have liked to get involved in the shooting drills after training –and it’s paying off.”
Image: Millwall FC