Millwall defender Jake Cooper won’t commit to whether the club can make a play-off push this season – but he says boss Gary Rowett’s positivity has made it easier to achieve this season.
Cooper is enjoying the different pressures of this season compared to last – they now have 41 points, compared to 44 for the whole of 2018-19. And he believes Rowett’s attitude has helped the transformation.
“The biggest thing that I saw when he came in was he never talked about us trying to survive or stay above the relegation zone,” said Cooper, who has now made 103 consecutive appearances for the club. “He was always talking positively about us – about how high we could go.
“It wasn’t putting a number on it or anything. But he always sounded very positive about how we could approach the games and the season. That goes into the players and we have been looking forward now for a while instead of at what’s behind us.
“Who knows? It’s early. There’s 19 games left. We know what it’s like trying to make the play-offs – the boys that have been here a couple of years – when it’s on the line. We have to keep performing, get wins at home and keep performing away from home like we have.
“We were fifth or sixth with two games to go a couple of years ago so we know about getting in there early and trying to hold on to it. It’s not the easiest thing to do but we’ll try not to look at it and put too much pressure on ourselves.
“What has changed is a different style – maybe a different mentality for a few of the lads that were struggling. We had a great run under Neil Harris a couple of seasons back. We feel like we have a great squad and we’ve come together now. The manager has changed the identity – given us a fresh look at things.
“It’s working at the moment and we’re trying to carry it on and build each week. We feel like we’ve still got a lot of progress to make and we’re hoping game by game we can keep improving and doing what he wants us to.
“There’s never been a game when he has been fully satisfied with our performance, and that keeps pushing us on.
“He certainly mentioned the away form when he first came in. That was something we needed to change and we’re on a great away run now.”
Cooper played a vital part as ever – at one stage hacking a Tyrese Campbell header off the line to preserve the Lions’ vital clean sheet.
“We’ve changed the shape and it’s been working for us,” he said. “We’ve only conceded one or two goals in that shape. That’s given us a breath of fresh air. We work on it on the training ground and feel it can improve us as a team.
“Everyone feels really comfortable in their position in this formation.”