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Fan Focus: Millwall fan Stephen lets us know what Sunderland can expect at The Den today!

Ahead of Sunderland’s trip to The Den, Matty spoke to Millwall fan Stephen Jones from That Millwall Podcast to discuss their excellent form - and the deadline day signing of ex-Mackem Duncan Watmore!

Matthew Crichton: Millwall’s deadline day signing was ex-Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore - how did that signing go down with supporters?

Stephen Jones: The signing of Watmore came at a time where we were looking for an out and out striker, so initially was seen as a bit of a panic buy - but from what we’ve seen and heard of him, I think most of the fans are quite pleased with him signing and looking forward to seeing him in action.

MC: Another player recently brought in was former West Brom forward Oliver Burke on loan, was the thinking there to add more pace to your frontline?

SJ: Absolutely! We’ve been crying out for some pace in the side and think Burke has the ideal attributes the squad was missing. We’ve had him before and again was seen as a little bit of a panic buy but I think he’s a good addition and will give us something different that has been missing this season.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Duncan Watmore made 87 appearances for Sunderland, scoring eight goals and assisting 11.
Photo by Matthew Ashton/Getty Images

MC: Millwall currently sit just one point out of the playoffs, which is largely down to your side having a third best defensive record in the league - what makes Gary Rowett’s side so solid?

SJ: Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper - they are arguably one of the best defensive pairings in the division. Hutchinson is our captain, probably up there as one of the league’s best and a proper ‘Millwall’ centre half, when he plays we look far more solid at the back. We also tend to set up to play on the counter, which naturally means we’re set up more defensively, which makes it harder for teams to break us down.

MC: Only QPR and Reading have beaten Millwall at The Den this season, what makes it such a difficult ground to visit and get a result?

SJ: I think the reputation of ‘The Den’ plays a huge part in this and when the players bring the crowd into play, there’s not many harder grounds to come and play football.

From a squad perspective we have had arguably the best squad of players for a long time and most of the time, buy into messages from the management and fans and give everything.

It’s not always pretty and sometimes you leave games after being held at home disappointed but you can never really dispute the commitment from the players at home.

Sunderland v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship
Gary Rowett previously managed Burton, Birmingham, Derby and Stoke before joining Millwall.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

MC: Rowett is the Championship’s second longest-serving manager behind Mark Robins at Coventry - do you think that time has helped Millwall to stabilise and grow?

SJ: He has transformed us from a lower Championship side to an established top 10 (and pushing for the playoffs) side.

His style of football and not willing to really ‘go for it’ in games is what let’s him down a little bit and the supporters are still divided on him in that aspect.

I don’t think anyone would argue though it’s clear to see that he has taken us forward and developed the squad massively in his time with us. I think he’s a good manager at this level and we have real stability under him at the moment.

MC: Dan Ballard will face Millwall for the first time since his loan spell last season - will he be in for an excellent reception from your fans?

SJ: No one tends to get an ‘excellent’ reception coming back to The Den!

Ballard was a good player for us last season and I think we all would like him to be lining up in our side on Saturday. I’m sure after the game he may get a ‘clap’ but during the game he will be treated like any other opposing player.

Millwall v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship - The Den
Dan Ballard made 33 appearances for Millwall last season on loan, scoring once.
Photo by Jacques Feeney/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: We discussed the threat of Zian Flemming earlier this season - which other Millwall players should Sunderland be wary of?

SJ: Zian Flemming is the main man in this side but at the moment, Tom Bradshaw has hit a run or form being involved in 7 goals in his last 7 games, a real workhorse in the side and always willing to chase down ‘lost causes’.

He doesn’t always find the back of the net but he’s someone to look out for.

Of course we have the new signings of Burke and Watmore who we hope will hit the ground running.

MC: Millwall tried to play on the break during their visit to the Stadium of Light - what style of play can Tony Mowbray’s side expect to encounter this time?

SJ: I think it’s likely we will play the same formation and set up to be hard to beat but think with the new additions we may look to start fast and get on the front foot.

We were unlucky not to be ahead in the reverse fixture and think we’ll look to put that right on Saturday.

Millwall v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship
Former Sunderland captain George Honeyman is expected to start against his former club today.
Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images

MC: Which eleven players do you think Rowett will select?

SJ: Long, McNamara, Hutchinson, Cooper, Wallace, Saville, Mitchell, Honeyman, Watmore, Flemming, Bradshaw (4-2-3-1).

MC: Sunderland won the reverse fixture 3-0 - what is your prediction of the score this time around?

SJ: It’s going to be a very good game between two good Championship sides, however I can’t go against the Lions at home, so I’ll go with 2-1 Millwall.


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