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05/06: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 28/12/05, 7.45pm
On Probation
By Mike Peter

In his Southampton preview, Matt talked of the Saints managerial job being one of the toughest in football. And yes, whilst I doubt many managers envy George Burley’s clear-up job right now, his task pales in comparison to the position David Tuttle finds himself in.

Millwall’s chairman Peter De Savary, the latest in a series of “dodgy dealers” in charge at the New Den, and Lowe-esque in his ineptness has pronounced Tuttle both an exciting, Boothroyd-esque young coach with a electrifying ideas for the future and at the same time stating that his appointment is still very much a care-taker arrangement.

So essentially, Tuttle finds himself in a fairly unique managerial situation. He’s been put on probation for a month. Talk about pressure – facing the toughest bit of the footballing calendar with no experience in the job and a squad that looks threadbare and talentless. De Savary seems to have committed a similar sin to the Watford board last March and shouted “GAMBLE” and now awaits to see whether his chips have landed favourably. One doubts whether they will. Sure, Millwall’s situation may be more desperate than our own, and a change perhaps necessary, but surely Colin Lee, albeit not the best of managers, is better equipped to do the job than an inexperienced member of Lee’s own coaching staff. Hell, at least Boothroyd’s CV was good.

Meanwhile Lee has moved upstairs. Not good enough to do the job, but still a part of the new and exciting regime. You can see why Millwall fans are a bit confused.

In goal for Millwall will be Colin Doyle, who made yet another mockery of the transfer window this week by returning on an “emergency loan” until January, after being recalled from his original spell at The New Den by Steve Bruce for a single game. This in spite of the fact that Millwall already have two fit goalkeepers on their books, in Lenny Pidgeley and 19 year old Terry Masterson. But, of course, they’re not very good, so an “emergency” loan is entirely justified. Perhaps Watford could bring in Petr Cech, as an “emergency” replacement for Ben Foster and his sporadic form? Anyway, Pidgeley seems to be delaying his inevitable departure from Chelsea with a very pointless loan spell – he’s only played one (cup) game since arriving and Lee didn’t bother putting him on the bench for the three games since then. First choice Andy Marshall has been out injured since November.

Millwall’s situation is not aided by Matt Lawrence’s absence. The shaggy haired captain was got a straight red against Coventry a fortnight ago, and so misses this one. His replacement for the Reading game, Tony Craig, was, in typical Millwall fashion, sent off himself, although for a tame two bookables, so he’ll be back for this one. Lining up alongside him in the centre of defence should be American Zak Whitbread, who’s on loan for Liverpool. Restrained to the League Cup and Champions League qualifiers at Anfield, he’s impressed so far. Mark Phillips will be at right-back. More a centre-back these days, Phillips finds himself here due to lack of other options. Marvin Elliott could conceivably be deployed there, although it’s now agreed that his star performance at right-back in the FA Cup final was very much a one off. On the left, Paul Robinson is inferior to his name-sake, but virtually unchallenged– summer signing Jamie Vincent hasn’t played since October. However, while the real Paul Robinson was being stretchered off at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, this Paul Robinson was being sent off at Leicester so he too will be missing.

David Livermore will probably be charging around in the middle. Canadian Josh Simpson played beside him at Reading, although the return of Jermaine Wright from injury will probably see the end of this. Tuttle may also opt to throw ex-Chelsea nutjob Jody Morris into the fray to steal the side up a bit - this would mean Livermore moving over to the left, with Alan Dunne – used here last weekend – moving back. Other options in the centre are youngest-player-in-the-cup-final Curtis Weston and bizarre Claridge signing Sammy Igoe – neither are likely to start. Nor is Barry Cogan, an actual winger. Not very Millwall. Occasional full-back Elliott will almost definitely be on the right, he’s strong but not exactly fast.

Up front Millwall look toothless. Barry Hayles and Carl Asaba, the first choice pairing, would make a half-decent strike-force at this level – however, both are injured. Thus Bruce Dyer, on loan from Stoke and made for this sort of crisis, leads the line. As we know from his time with us, Bruce is dependable but not hugely prolific. The laws of fate say he’ll score against us though. He’s wearing the number 55 shirt by the way, quite why I’m not sure, although the allusions to American Football suggest that Millwall are simply choosing the correct sport for their style of play. Obscure Lee signing Carlos Fanguerio is out as well, so Ben May lines up almost by default. He’s got 5 goals this season, but isn’t regarded as particularly dangerous. Slightly-too-old-to-be-a-youngster Kevin Braniff is the sole back up, he is yet to open his Millwall tally.

After Boxing Day's success we face another game against a side with a new manager. Given Millwall's evident limitations, and the head of steam we worked up on Monday, there's every reason to hope for an accelerated run of form.