20 April 2009
With the voting closed and the MSC set to announce Millwall's Player of the Year next week - the 'News' has put together a rough guide of those in with a shout of putting the coveted award on the mantelpiece.
It has been a topsy-turvy kind of season, that has left Kenny Jackett's men still in with a shout of automatic promotion to the Championship with three games to go.
After a gruelling pre-season regime that got his squad fighting fit, it has been an almighty team effort, with 20 players making more than ten league appearances over the season, with the valuable contribution of no less than eight loan players. But here is the 'News' shortlist of the runners and riders to replace skipper Paul Robinson as the Lions' brightest star - and also those that were never really in the race.
Age 27 / Apps 31 / Goals 2
Diving header at Colchester
Captain fantastic and reining Champion Robbo has played with his head, his heart and his ability - in that order - as the rock in the Lions' defence.
Just how important he is to the squad perhaps wasn't realised until his fractured metatarsal against Scunthorpe on January 31 ruled him out for the remainder of the season and the backline floundered for a while.
As a real leader with a real passion and a voice - Robbo will take some beating, despite missing much of the vital run-in.
Age 23 / Apps 46 / Goals 2
Has one per game,
but opener at Hereford
TC made an almost instant impact on his homecoming, having rejoined the Lions on loan at the tail end of last season. The deal was made permanent - and nobody seemed more delighted than the versatile tough-nut, who would run through walls to make a challenge for his club.
In Robbo's absence, he has not only covered his position admirably, but worn the armband with equal gusto. His lack of experience has been offset by the example he sets in every tackle, header and pass and his expectation of those around him to follow suit.
Age 29 / Apps 50 / Conceded 54
Penalty saves against
Hartlepool and Huddersfield
The ever-present stopper, who has played more games in his nine months at the Den than in the combined five seasons in the English game elsewhere, is still developing.
Yet his command of the box and his willingness to row with defenders, the crowd and anyone within earshot is more power to his elbow. His shot stopping and kicking have developed into serious strengths, while his positioning and decision-making are steadily improving. He has grabbed the number 1 shirt with both hands and could be in situe for a few years to come.
Age 31 / Apps 37 / Goals 10
Stand out moment:
The 112 at Crewe / Huddersfield Hat-trick
Record breaking goal scorer Chopper had his doubters at the end of last season and the beginning of this - and with the biggest being the gaffer, he had a lot to prove.
But once given the opportunity to get a run in the side, Harris got the goals that he promised.
Having never been first choice and with an endless list of strike partners and various different roles, Harris has got his head down and led by example, with some crucial performances and vital goals.
Age: 24 / Apps 37 / Goals 1
His bone-crunching tackle
on Shane Blackett, typical
The tough tackling and tidy central midfielder, who appears to have unlimited energy and drive, has added steel to the Lions. His willingness to run, track back and cover whilst rattling in to tackles left, right and centre, before hopping back to his feet to play the short and simple pass has made young Jimmy a big hit.
While there is work to be done on his forward play, he is quickly becoming a vital cog in the Lions machine.
And the also rans:
Zak Whitbread, Tresor Kandol, Andy Frampton, David Martin and Gary Alexander
And those not so close…
Ahmet Brkovic - The creative Croat started among the first team squad in the opening few games of the season and has steadily tailed off into a reserve team regular.
His neat flicks and dangerous crosses have been few and far between and he is yet to pull off his trademark overhead kick in the Lions' shirt.
Danny Senda - The injury-ravaged full back is yet to kick a ball all season, having dislocated and shattered his knee in the last game of last season at Swindon.
The overlapping full-back is out of contract in the summer, but will be desperate to be a part of the Lions' campaign next term.
Daniel Spiller - Set-back Spiller will be desperate to erase this season from all memory, having failed to make a single start after his comeback from repeat hernia and groin injury woe.
When fit and available, he has proved he can make an impact - but his Lions career has been over before it really began.
Vincent Pericard - The Stoke striker seemed to hit the ground running in a Lions shirt, are making a good impact in his only two starts before rupturing his Achilles tendon away at Cheltenham.
His power and presence in the absence of Gary Alexander seemed to work well alongside Harris, Grimes, Martin and Henry
Izale McLeod - His quite public spat with the gaffer and a spell of poor performances having got off to a bright start, made life at the Den quite difficult for the out-of-favour Charlton striker.
His pace, prowess and goal-scoring record at this level is certainly not to be sniffed out - and given his time again, he could have been a real threat for the Lions.
It's tough. Abdou, Frampton, Craig, Harris.
It is no surprise that almost the entire first-choice back four are in with a shout. The formidable clean sheet run of midseason and the last ditch and back-to-the-wall defending late on in games, which has saved the Lions' bacon all too often, has been a key feature to the Lions' success this term.
For that reason, in our opinion Tony Craig must get the nod. For his do-or-die, rough-and-ready mentality, combined with his ability to match the biggest and strongest and quickest and most skilful frontmen put in front of him.
The winner of the MSC Player of the Year 2009 will be paraded on the pitch before the last home game of the season against Leyton Orient on Saturday, April 25.
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