Appointed manager on the 19th October 2019, Millwall boss Gary Rowett has been at the club now 19 months (599 days). Sacked from Stoke City in January of the same year, the Millwall job is Rowett’s fifth Football League management job, also managing at Burton Albion, Birmingham City and Derby County previously. Having been considered and missing out on the Millwall job six years previous to Steve Lomas, it was Neil Harris who put forward Rowett to succeed him at The Den as boss in SE16.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure on Rowett when initially appointed. Many shared the same initial impression that having left Derby for Stoke, it perhaps tarnished a reputation he had of being an uprising Championship manager. However looking at the fortunes of Derby now with plenty of financial uncertainty, it highlights in football the full story is never quite out there. What was in Rowett’s favour was the fact he seemed to be a success at clubs which thrived on being the underdog, especially at Birmingham where his dismissal was one of the most un-just in recent history, having been sacked whilst Birmingham were in the play-off places.
Throughout his time as manager, Rowett has constantly eluded to a “three year plan” which was laid out to the club board during the interview process before he got the job. Here is why going into next season, pressure might start ramping up on Rowett and co.
So what is the three year plan?
“If I look back at the interview process I had to deliver a three-year plan – this was almost like the third year, getting into the top six or at least getting really close to the top six.” Gary Rowett in July 2020
“When I came in I had a three-year plan. The first year was to build a solid Championship team that wasn’t flirting with relegation; the second season was to build a top-10 team that maybe flirted with the top six and the third season was to try and break into the top six.” – Gary Rowett in May 2021
Two separate interviews towards the end of his last two seasons at Millwall as manager, both mentioning his three year plan. With us now approaching the third season of his spell at The Den, expectation from the manager has to be that we finally break into that top six right? If only football worked that way…
As we mentioned in our last blog post, so much depends on recruitment going into the coming season, especially improving our forward line to increase our goals output. To be fair to Rowett, he didn’t have a real pre-season last year, in that the season before had finished in July, and by September we were off and running again in the new season at the time. All of this wasn’t ideal, but with the players all having at least six-weeks off before the squad returns to pre-season at the end of the month, the off season is perfect timing for Rowett to work with the recruitment team and Harvey Bussell to bring in those key personnel for us to kick on and realise our goal of play-off contention next season.
When Rowett had first arrived at Millwall, a lot of us fans were impressed with is press conferences especially post match, where he’d come out and give an honest and transparent verdict on the result and performance of the team. He’d also be a breath of fresh air with straight answers to anything asked of him by the club media and local papers. Being as transparent with his “three year plan” might also be a masterstroke from the manager, it makes everyone aware of the ultimate goal and the players we might recruit are buying into a club who aim to be up at the right end of the table next season.
The risk with being so open and honest is clear to see, if we don’t recruit well, if we don’t get off to a good start to the season in the opening months, then the pressure on Rowett will be massive. Having not been able to watch Millwall in person last season, many fans returning to The Den will want to see a Millwall team firing on all cylinders. If results and more importantly performances are not to the standard of supporters, I don’t think I need to highlight the consequences to that do I?
A win percentage of 38.4% doesn’t scream a successful stint to date as manager, however with only 25 defeats in 86 matches as manager we’ve become a team which are very difficult to defeat. Averaging just over 1.1 goal per game throughout that spell once again highlights our real lack of a goal threat which hinders us from moving further up the league table; I can’t stress enough how important this summer is for the club to back the manager and give him the tools he needs to take us to the next level.
Having finished 21st place under Harris in his last full season as manager, I think we’d have taken two top half finishes the seasons after with open arms. What finishing 8th and 11th truly highlights for me is that we’re a stable club in a division where stability is very hard to come by, Rowett has offered that stability with the ever present support from chairman John Berylson. The job so far has been an above average return for Rowett, but now we need to try and build on that and complete the managers three year plan.