Millwall man was unfit when he first signed – but draws praise from Lions chief for summer of graft

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

Millwall boss Neil Harris has praised Jiri Skalak for putting in extra graft over the summer to try and make his Den stay a success.

There were high hopes for the left-winger when he signed from Brighton last August but the Czech Republic international failed to impress.

Skalak made just 14 Championship appearances – 462 minutes in total – and Harris moved to bring back Ben Marshall for a second loan spell in January.

“Jiri has come back in wonderful shape,” said the Lions chief. “He has worked really hard this summer.

“The problem Skally had was that he came into us unfit. He was de-conditioned and because of that he couldn’t hold down a place in the team or get a run of games to get in top shape.

“Some players need continuous football and he hadn’t had that for 18 months.

“He’s gone away and worked really hard in the Czech Republic with a personal trainer and come back in the best shape we have seen. He has looked confident and like he is having a right go.

“Nobody wants Jiri Skalak to show his quality in a Millwall shirt more than me – I’m the manager who signed him. I want him to step up this year and play a big part.

“I want us to be more exciting and play with width – balls into the box. We have signed a striker in Matt Smith – we’re trying to get another one in – and Tom Bradshaw is back; they are goalscorers who thrive off balls into the box.

“We need players who can cross the ball and Jiri comes into that equation. We need people in the starting line-up and off the bench to change a game.

“Jiri Skalak’s whole career shows he has got the ability to do that when he gets service in the final third.

“If we get to the stage that Jiri is absolutely at his best and he can do no more then it is down to the manager to pick them. There is a real buzz for Jiri since he has come back. He is coming in with a smile on his face. I want that to continue over pre-season.”

IMAGE BY BRIAN TONKS

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