Sunday, September 24, 2017
Millwall star: I was *****ing myself before Scunthorpe decider – if you...

Millwall star: I was *****ing myself before Scunthorpe decider – if you don’t have nerves then you don’t care

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Lee Gregory has admitted he would swap all his goals this season if it meant celebrating promotion at Wembley tomorrow.

The Lions striker has netted 18 times for Millwall in the 2016-17 campaign – level in the club’s scoring charts with Steve Morison.

But none of that matters to the Yorkshireman, 28. It is all about being a Championship team come Saturday night.

When asked if lessons were learned from defeat to Barnsley 12 months ago, Gregory told the South London Press: “Yeah – don’t lose.

“It has got to be one of the worse feelings. I know the fans are heartbroken. I’ve watched Sheffield United lose there. But when you do it as a player it is twice as hard. We don’t want to do it again.

Photo: Brian Tonks

“It lingers with you all season. You think back to that one game. That one 90 minutes. Where you could have done a little bit better and got the result.

“It didn’t happen but we’ve got a chance to rectify that.”

Gregory is just as straight-talking when he touches on the pressure to succeed.

“On the Sunday before the Scunthorpe game I was ****ing myself. If you don’t get nerves then you don’t really care – that’s my thought.

“Come Wembley I’ll be really nervous – but it is all before kick-off. As soon as we kick-off they disappear and you are focused on one thing.

“As a young lad I’ve been there as a Sheffield United fan a few times and never watched them win. It’s a massive occasion as a player and supporter. I just want to experience that win.

“People talk about the size of the pitch there but it is nothing to do with it. Maybe the emotion drains you a bit more. Maybe if you’re winning it can push you on more. I’ve only felt losing there and it was so disheartening. It was hard to play in.”

Gregory has netted nine times less than his total from the season before. But manager Neil Harris recently stated that his number nine’s all-round game has improved.

Photo: Brian Tonks

“I feel performance-wise I’m a better player this year,” said Gregory. “Would I take the goals over the performances? Yeah, probably. But we’re only in the same position we were last season.

“I don’t care if I score at Wembley – as long as we win. I’d swap every single goal this season to win at Wembley.”

It really goes without saying that Gregory’s goals have been huge in getting Millwall to this point.

He put them in front in the must-win fixture at Bristol Rovers on the final day of the normal League One season. And he tucked away Steve Morison’s cross to make it 3-1.

His 52nd-minute header at Scunthorpe United – coaxing Morison’s cross over Joe Anyon – was a hammer blow for the Iron as they slipped 2-0 behind early in the second half.

“I’ll be honest – I can’t really remember it,” said Gregory.

“I can remember Steve going through one-on-one with the defender. I thought he was going to hit it, the next minute it came to my head. It was instinct. Fortunately it went in and the rest is history.

“Scoring just before half-time helped us massively. We knew if we go in at half-time level that we could come out and perform. Especially with the wind. We were wind-assisted in the second half and it was an advantage.

“Scunthorpe went for the win more at home and were pushing on. Steve said it already, but if you leave me and him up top two-v-two then there is only going to be one outcome.”

Millwall’s Lee Gregory (centre) holds off Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane (left) and Marc Roberts (right) during the Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday May 29, 2016. See PA story SOCCER League One. Photo credit should read: Nigel French/PA Wire.

Gregory does not spend time analysing why he and Morison are such a potent combination.

“There’s just that click,” he said. “We both work as hard as each other.

“In terms of pressuring the keeper from kicks, it is whoever is there at the time. If I do the forward run then I’ll stay with the keeper and Steve drops back in, or vice-versa.

“We don’t really work on it in training. It just seems to work. If it is not broken then don’t try and fix it.”

Eight of Gregory’s goals have come from the penalty spot. But his last three were in open play.

“If people want to moan about me taking penalties – I don’t care. I don’t care if it is a penalty or not. If my name’s on the scoresheet then I’ve scored.”

So is there a favourite for tomorrow?

“No. Completely on the day. Last year we were favourites and look how it turned out. It is on the day. It is a big occasion and hopefully this time it’s our year.

Barnsley’s Alfie Mawson (right) and Millwall’s Lee Gregory (left) battle for the ball during the Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium, London.

“We didn’t have the perfect build-up for the Barnsley game with injuries but what can you do? That’s football unfortunately.

“It could happen again this year. You hope it doesn’t but have got to prepare ourselves for everything.

“You can’t review the season until after Saturday. Our aim was to get promoted – whether top-two or the play-offs – it doesn’t really matter how.

“I don’t think you can say any club is too big for League One, but Millwall should be in the Championship.

“Sheffield United did amazing. When you think they came to us at the start of the season and we thought ‘these aren’t the best’ – they turned it around.

“If you look at what they have achieved – 100 points is massive for any club in any league. Hopefully we’ll join them.

“It’s weird, we went 16 games unbeaten and didn’t majorly move anywhere. I think we were eighth, seventh and sixth – those three spaces. We got into the play-off places and our form dipped – but we didn’t move again. That’s the kind of luck you need.

“We have got momentum. We are three matches unbeaten. Making it four is the sole aim.”

Sports Editor | South London Press sports editor since 2007 who has covered huge sporting events for the paper – Crystal Palace’s Championship play-off final, two trips to Wembley in the FA Cup and David Haye’s world heavyweight unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Previously sub-edited on the Sunday Mirror, Daily Star and Sport First. Former ClubCall deputy editor.

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Millwall star: I was *****ing myself before Scunthorpe decider – if you...