Millwall slam door shut on Portsmouth return for Ben Thompson

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Millwall boss Neil Harris has confirmed that Ben Thompson will not be returning to Portsmouth on loan.The 23-year-old made his first Championship start for the Lions in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.

Thompson starred for Pompey until his recall at the start of the January transfer window.

And Harris deployed him in a midfield three at the Riverside Stadium at the weekend alongside Ryan Leonard and Shaun Williams.

League One high-fliers Portsmouth had been hoping he could hook back up with them if he did not get game time with the Lions.

But Harris said: “Ben will be staying with us for the rest of the season. Not just because of a strong performance at the weekend, it had been my mindset all along.

“Ben had a fantastic first half of the season at Portsmouth, but he’s also been fantastic for the last few years [for Millwall].

“He didn’t play as much football as we’d thought he would last season due to the [unbeaten] run we went on.

“At the start of the season we didn’t think he would be in the starting 11 and even being on the bench probably wasn’t what he needed at the time.

“When the opportunity to go and play for Kenny [Jackett] at Portsmouth it was a great opportunity for all of us. He did really well and was a big part of them getting to the top of the division.

“Bringing him back has brought some impetus and personality into training. He’s brought some hunger into the training ground.”

Meanwhile Harris has explained James Meredith’s absence from the matchday 18 on Teesside.

“It was tactical – I decided to go with Murray [Wallace] at left-back,” said the Lions chief. “James travelled with us and was disappointed he wasn’t involved but we had Shane Ferguson and Ben Marshall who can both play at left-back. So we had cover in that position.

“It is not a scenario I generally like to be in – leaving senior players out of the squad – it’s not happened in the first half of the season really.

“Jiri [Skalak] didn’t travel and James didn’t make the bench, that’s where we are at the moment – we’ve got good competition. It’s not nice for players not to be involved but that’s the reality of the level we’re at and where we are as a club. We need that strength in depth.

“Players need to be ready when called upon and go straight in the team. I think it’s clear with my team selection in the last couple of weeks that I’m not afraid to change the team or change the system for certain games.

“As much as continuity in a team can help at times, sometimes you need to freshen it up to keep people on their toes.

“I made five changes at the weekend and that was down to a change in shape but also that some individual performances have not been to the standards I expect and the fact I want to give people opportunities.

“Players need to understand they might be out for two games and then back in for three – or in for one and then out for one.”

IMAGES BY BRIAN TONKS

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