BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Murray Wallace has been used to being a first-team regular over the past two seasons – and has no intention of that changing at Millwall.
The Lions wrapped up the signing of the 25-year-old defender on Wednesday afternoon with the former Scotland under-21 international heading to The Den to finalise personal terms and complete a medical.
Millwall’s defence was one of their strong points last season as they finished eighth in the Championship – with the joint fourth-best record in terms of goals conceded.
And Wallace will surely only make them stronger in terms of options.
From January 2016 he had started every match for Scunthorpe until the final game of last season – only dropping out for a dead rubber against Bradford City before the League One play-offs.
The Iron’s failure to get promotion via that route for the season campaign running, they lost in the semi-finals to his new club in 2017, ensured their key man would be on the move.
“I have great memories and had a great time at Scunthorpe,” Wallace told the South London Press. “Ideally it would have been great to go up through the play-offs and into the Championship with them.
“Losing play-offs doesn’t get any easier. It is heartbreaking.
“Unfortunately that didn’t happen. On a personal level for me, I wanted to play at a higher level and kick on in my career – to test myself.
“I’m delighted to be signing for Millwall. I’ve played against them many times over the years and it’s always been a tough place to come to, a tough team to play against.
“I’ve had conversations with the manager – what he wants to do with the team. It was an easy decision.”
Not that Wallace is expecting a starting spot with the Lions to be a gimme. Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper were hugely impressive at centre-back in the last campaign.
While the former Rangers youngster can also play at left-back, he admits that a central role is his preferred role.
“In the second half of last season I kept following all the scores and kept seeing Millwall getting great results and keeping lots of clean sheets. They’ve obviously got a very good defensive set-up, which is something I want to be a part of.
“The manager talked about the type of characters he likes in the dressing room and it perfectly suits me.
“What he says Millwall look for in a player is me down to a tee.”
Wallace has proven himself at Scunthorpe, now he has to do it all over again in South London.
“The way I look at it every pre-season – whether you are joining a new club or at the same one – is that it’s a clean slate for everyone,” he said. “You have got to go in and impress the manager to be playing.
“Of course it is frustrating [if you have to bide time to get games] but you have got to have respect for your team-mates – they’ve obviously done brilliantly.
“They’ve got a great defensive record, but I’m here to play. I’m not going to make it easy for other players to be in front of me.”
Wallace’s unbroken playing time at Scunthorpe once stood at 7,560 minutes.
“It is quite a nice stat,” he said. “I’d played every minute of every game since signing. It might have been a Checkatrade game. I hadn’t missed a league one until the last game of last season, when there were quite a few changes to rest players.
“That’s what I’m all about. I want to play every single game and do as well as I can.”
Wallace also has aspirations to break into the senior Scotland squad. Millwall keeper Jordan Archer has achieved that last season and George Saville, Shaun Williams, Aiden O’Brien and Mahlon Romeo have also seen international countries come calling.
“Scotland is a massive part of why I want to come up to the next level,” said Wallace. “I want to be considered for the national team. It’s a massive ambition of mine.
“When I was playing for the under-21s I thought maybe something might happen then but I wasn’t playing regular football in the Championship.
“I just needed to develop my game by playing regularly. When I went to Scunthorpe I felt I was back on track but unfortunately I hadn’t been looked at for selection.”
Wallace was released by Rangers at 16 and joined Falkirk. He won the 2012 Scottish Challenge Cup with the Bairns.
“I had shot up in terms of height at Rangers but hadn’t quite filled out,” he recalls. “I was maybe just lacking being the complete package at 16, I wasn’t quite there.
“I decided I wanted to go and train full time, that was what I was missing to bulk out.
“I made that decision and haven’t looked back since.
“The Challenge Cup is the equivalent of the Checkatrade Trophy in Scotland.
“But it still means something. I was playing with Darren Dods at the time, he had played for Scotland and Dundee and was well-known up there. He said something that stuck with me: “I’ve got all these honours but had never won a cup’. At the age of 33 or 34, it meant a lot to him.
“Winning any sort of honour is massive for any player.”
When it came to leaving Falkirk, Wallace ended up penning a deal with Huddersfield in January 2012 – he was loaned back to the Scottish club for the remainder of the season.
Charlton had been linked with him along with Ipswich and Brighton.
“The reason I chose Huddersfield at the time were they were in League One and I thought I’d go in and play – build my career from there.
“But they got promoted to the Championship and when I went down they changed manager and brought in lots of new players. That stopped me getting the consistent football I was looking for.”