Jed Wallace is looking forward to testing himself against Everton on Saturday – but reckons being pitched against a top Premier League club in the FA Cup can be a double-edged sword.
The Lions reached the quarter-finals in the 2016-17 campaign and took a hat-trick of Premier League scalps – reigning champions Leicester City, Watford and AFC Bournemouth.
But they were torn apart 6-0 at Tottenham in the last eight at White Hart Lane.Millwall took four points from a possible 12 after that, but rallied to win promotion to the Championship via the play-offs.
“We got done by Spurs and it nearly derailed our season,” said Wallace, 24.
“Look at Burton [who lost 9-0 at Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg earlier this month] – it does dent your confidence.
Their confidence will be at rock bottom after that because you just feel ‘wow, I’m doing all this but they are so much better than me’.
Luckily we managed to stay on course. We had that in the group to get over the line, but a lot of sides don’t have that mentality. A cup run is great, but we’re hoping that we don’t let ourselves down on Saturday.
“I remember what the gaffer said after the Tottenham match: ‘That’s your standard’. Yeah they are talented, but when he was speaking to [Mauricio] Pochettino after the game he was telling him they were animals in training every day.
“The message was that you need to strive to get anywhere near what they are doing.
“It was something we were not used to. We used to put the ball in the channels and expect to win a throw-in or corner, whereas there [Jan] Vertonghen would flick it to the side and they would be out again.”Wallace does not expect Everton’s players to freeze at a sold-out Den.
The atmosphere there – plus the intensity of Millwall’s pressing game – certainly helped unsettle the trio of clubs they dumped out two years ago.
“I’m not sure it will bother these boys because I can imagine Goodison Park, when it is not going so well, is a difficult place to play,” said Wallace. “I’m sure they’ll be used to the pressure.
“It’s never easy for teams to play out from the back at The Den – Derby tried to do it this season [and lost there]. We’ll be underdogs. They have spent £44million on Gylfi Sigurdsson and £35m on another player [Richarlison].”
The Toffees are seventh favourites with the bookies to lift the FA Cup.
“Everton are probably not going to be pushing top four at the moment or get relegated,” said Wallace. “So the likes of them, Watford and Newcastle, why don’t they go for the FA Cup?
If I was a football fan I’d rather my club get to the final than finish seventh or ninth.
“I wouldn’t be surprise if they go full strength. And even if they don’t, they have got a lot of international players.
Leighton Baines hasn’t been getting a look-in – what a player he has been. I could be up against him on Saturday.
We’re under no illusions. ”
Reading-raised Wallace’s earliest FA Cup memories are Farnborough’s 5-1 defeat at Highbury to Arsenal – and Havant & Waterlooville going down 5-2 at Liverpool.
He said: “I used to go and watch Basingstoke and Farnborough with my uncle. They were two non-league sides doing well.
“For some reason I remember DJ Campbell playing for Hayes & Yeading against Newcastle.
Ten years ago you’d find every year that someone would do something amazing against a big club and get their move.
It doesn’t happen so much now. Clubs have got so many resources that players are watched 30 or 40 times before they get a move.”
Wallace’s dream draw is the same as Lions chief Neil Harris’.
“I’d have loved West Ham,” he said. “I’d have loved to have seen that atmosphere at The Den. It would be electric. But Everton at home is a good draw – if you’d offered me that before, then I’d definitely have taken it.
I’d really like to play Portsmouth [his old club] – but the way they are going we could be playing them next season anyway.
“Everton will bring a big following and hopefully we can reward our fans, who go up and down the country, with a good performance. As long as we do that we should be there or thereabouts.”