BY RICHARD CAWLEY
It is a record that has stood for nearly three decades. A record that has stood despite Millwall reaching an FA Cup final, playing European football and a number of trips to Wembley Stadium.
But it has finally gone. Or – if we are being accurate – it will be consigned to history at the start of 2019.
Because Tom Bradshaw’s initial loan move to the Lions last week becomes a guaranteed £1million transfer when the January window opens.
And that is great news for Paul Goddard. Up until this month he had been Millwall’s most expensive outlay when he signed from Derby County in December 1989 for £800,000.
It is a statistic that has been staggering to comprehend still standing considering the huge inflation in transfer fees and the fact the South London club have spent a fair chunk of that period in the second tier.
“Thank goodness for that,” was his response when catching up with the South London Press this week. “It was my only year in football I’d like to replay.
“Everything went wrong for me at the club that year. There were masses of things going on at the club, including three different managers.
“It was John Docherty who bought me with the view that you can’t play direct football in the First Division, what is now the Premier League. He said: ‘You are the first cog in the wheel, trying to get us to play good football on the floor.’ That was playing my game.
“I played three matches and then was left out, the manager had to leave me out. It went from bad to worse. Millwall never saw the best of Paul Goddard, by a long shot and they made their feelings quite clear to me as well. It was a tough, tough year.
“I actually saw Neil Harris in pre-season and I said to him: ‘Neil, any chance of your chairman getting a bit of money out?’ His actual reply was: ‘There is no chance of us spending £1m on a player’. So I was delighted when he did!”
Goddard was also the record signing for West Ham in 1980, the fee again £800,000 when he left QPR.
“I always remember John Lyall’s first words to me were ‘I’ve spent all my money from the FA Cup on you, you’d better be good’.
“I still visit Millwall in my role as an agent, I’ve been doing that for 12 years and when I come back there are still certain Millwall supporters that firstly tell me what they thought of me and secondly that I was a waste of money. So to get it off my shoulders is a nice feeling. It is a vibrant club and the supporters are beyond passionate, or at least some of them are.”
Goddard’s six years at West Ham was never likely to make it a smooth transition period. Bradshaw, who has arrived from Barnsley, has no worries on that front.
Middlesex-born Goddard, 58, felt it was a factor in not settling into a groove.
“I don’t even think that crossed my mind when I was making the decision,” he said. “On my debut I had my shirt ripped off my back when someone put their arm through the cage at the old Den.
“They ripped it as I was going out for the warm-up. They basically told me they didn’t want me to be playing for Millwall.
“On the same day I had to have a policeman stop a bloke coming to get me as I was walking to the car park. I had my two little girls with me. That doesn’t help.
“There is a rivalry and I did underestimate that, for sure.
“Doc got the sack and I think he was severely under pressure from the people above. It happens a lot of the time.
“If you look at Manchester United now it is a similar situation – I don’t think everybody is singing off the same hymn sheet in terms of all the directors, manager and coaches. Millwall had been playing a way that had been successful for years but realised you couldn’t play that way in the First Division.
“I think at one point Bob Pearson, who was chief scout and who I’d known since I was a kid, took over. It got to the point where there were definitely orders from above not to play me because they wanted to move me on to somewhere.
“I loved my career and I’m very proud of what I did and the clubs I played for. There were all different and I was successful at every club. But I wasn’t successful at Millwall – I know that.
“I’m not using anything as an excuse. I didn’t play well enough and do well enough.”
The Lions are into seven figures for the first time but Goddard does not expect the price tag to weigh heavily on Bradshaw.
“Come on, a million pound is like chicken feed now,” he responds. “It is what someone like Mesut Ozil earns in two weeks.
“It isn’t really a heavy burden. Neil does his homework and I’m sure if he gets in the team and starts scoring goals then everybody will be right behind him.
“I don’t think it is such a big problem now. Look at the millions spent at other Championship clubs. In the bigger scheme of things it is nothing. They are just big numbers going up all the time. But that’s not a player’s fault.
“It is just how football and finance in it keep on going. What they haven’t got right is spreading the money down the leagues well enough.”
Goddard, who works for Stellar Group, is an admirer of Harris’ body of work since becoming manager.
Successive League One play-off finals led to promotion to the Championship with the Lions producing an excellent eighth-place finish last time around.
“He’s been sensational,” said Goddard.
“Neil has taken the mantle on and done a great job for the club. People talk about attitude, work ethic and the atmosphere there, Neil puts into them what he expects and that can take you so, so far.
“If I was the chairman there and I did have money I would give Neil a few more million because that little bit more could find Millwall right in the thick of it in that league.
“That walk across the car park in the future means I might not be called the biggest waste of money – it could be someone else. I truly, truly hope for Tom that he is very successful.
“The majority of it is good banter, but there are a few who take it a little bit too far.”