By Richard Cawley
Steve Morison reckons people do not put enough stock by team-spirit – highlighting it as a key reason for Millwall’s success.
The Lions are all but assured of Championship football next season and extended their unbeaten run to nine matches after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland.
Morison – who has taken on the captaincy since Tony Craig’s departure at the end of January – said: “People don’t appreciate how much of an edge it gives you when you have got team spirit and togetherness.
“When I was at Millwall the first time around, when we got promoted and stayed up in the Championship, everyone was in it. The worst season we’ve had here is when there was no spirit in the camp and it was all about individuals.
“I left Millwall for a Norwich dressing room full of Championship players who had never played in the Premier League and we stayed up with about 10 games to go. We were all together, all fighting for each other.
“This Millwall team I’ve been a part of in this last three years has had that. We’ve had last-minute goals, setbacks and injuries to players who have been major parts of the team. The manager has always got rid of a few and replaced with better quality. This squad now has got everything – youth, enthusiasm and experience.
“We’re a couple of weeks away from having to leave four senior players out of a matchday squad when Aiden O’Brien and Byron Webster come back from injury – it’s never been known at a Millwall I have been at.
“But everyone is doing it on the same pay structure. No-one is miles ahead of anyone else. It’s just right.
“There is no moping around – win, lose or draw. We have a laugh and wind each other up. We do really enjoy each others’ company. We’re so relaxed and comfortable. We say the same message before each match – do what we do and let’s see if they can deal with us.
“You get the odd team who can deal with us but you can see consistently through the season that we haven’t been fully defeated where someone has completely outclassed us. We’ve had a bad 10 minutes at Derby, the first 45 minutes at Wolves – but we still only lost 1-0 and had 10 men for about 35 minutes.”
Millwall have spent a fraction of what many clubs at this level have splashed. Yet Morison once again references Norwich, but this time as an example of where things can go wrong in terms of salaries.
“In that first season under [Paul] Lambert, everyone was within a pay structure and quite close to each other,” he explained. “It was 10-15 grand a week, everyone in that band. No-one was on 25 or 30 grand. Someone on £5,000 a week was not being asked to do the same as someone on £30,000.
“I noticed a change at Norwich once Lambert left and Chris Hughton started bringing in people like Sebastien Bassong from Spurs. Players like that were on a hell of a lot more than the rest. Straight away there is unrest in the camp – straight away.
“You can see it instantly. You looked at a person in a different way to what you looked at everyone else, who you saw as an equal.
“At Millwall, that is the situation that happens when Steve Lomas and Ian Holloway are in charge. It was every man for himself. I think it showed on the pitch between the players and it shows between the players and the fans.
“Now it is not like that at all. I definitely think under this manager [Neil Harris] that would never happen.”