|Millwall beat off giants to land Ireland striker|
|Lions Swoop for Cascarino|
MILLWALL beat a host of big-name challengers yesterday in the race to sign Republic of Ireland striker Tony Cascarino.
by JOHN LUKE
Arsenal, Charlton and Wimbledon were among the top clubs in the queue for Gillingham's leading scorer, but Millwall swooped first.
The signing makes up for their failure to land Portsmouth striker Mick Quinn earlier this week. Millwall, who were ready to pay £300,000 for Quinn in their bid for promotion to the First Division, snapped up Cascarino for £225,000.
Quinn had said that he wanted a chance to play First Division football with Pompey and Cascarino, who scored 30 goals last season, had made no secret of saying that he wanted football at a higher grade.
Millwall wanted to sign him, before last season's transfer deadline, but Cascarino, 24, stayed at Gillingham in an unsuccessful bid to help them reach Division Two.
Cascarino, who chose to play for the Republic of Ireland despite being qualified to represent England, Scotland or Italy, will have a medical today.
Gillingham manager, Keith Peacock, said. "We didn't want to lose him, but I can understand his feelings and wish him the best of luck."
He added. "He was recommended by my brother-in-law, Peter Woollard, who was sponge man with Crockenhill in the Kent League. When we signed him we gave the club a set tracksuits worth £200."
Millwall manager John Docherty last week also managed to complete the signing of 19 year old midfielder Wesley Reid in a free transfer from Arsenal.
MILLWALL have been ordered to pay £80,000 for Steve Wood, the six-foot central defender, who moved to the Den from Reading 10 days ago.
BY ROB BOWDEN
The Lions will also have to part with 50 per cent of any profit they make from the sale of Wood, but manager John Docherty is still convinced that he has landed another bargain.
Reading valued the powerful 24-year-old at around £300,000 but Millwall were prepared to gamble on Wednesday's transfer tribunal slashing that asking price - and it paid off.
"We signed Wood on an unconditional contract which means we would have had to pay whatever fee the tribunal set," explained chief executive Graham Hortop.
"We were the first of a batch of hearings that went on at Blackburn on Wednesday and we feel we were dealt with very fairly"
The tribunal's decision takes Docherty's June spending spree to £365,000 following the arrival of midfielder Kevin O'Callaghan from Portsmouth for £85,000 and striker Tony Cascarino from Gillingham for £200,000.
Docherty has also snapped up talented teenager Wesley Reid on a free transfer from Arsenal, and there could be one more new face at the Den in time for the start of pre-season training.
"There is a possibility of one more signing, although the pressure is off a little bit now," said Hortop.
"We are delighted at the way we have been able to strengthen the squad."
Ambitious Millwall want Robert Lee of Charlton to Partner Tony Cascarino next season.
First Week Fixtures|
Millwall begin at newly promoted Middlesbrough on August 15. The first chance for fans to see John Docherty's new look Lions at the Den is on August 18 when Reading are the visitors. That game provides an early opportunity for newly signed central defender Steve Wood to play against his old club. Midfielder Terry Hurlock is also an ex-Reading player.
ALBERT SQUARE isn't the only location in London's East End where
it's all been happening in the last few weeks. The comings and goings at
The Den have matched anything 'Dirty Den' can offer and, thanks to the
efforts of manager John Docherty, Millwall fans can look forward to
four new faces in their cast at the start of the new season.
He has splashed out more than £300,000 on Tony Cascarino from
Gillingham, Kevin O'Callaghan from Portsmouth and Steve Wood from
Reading, as well as signing Wesley Reid on a free from Arsenal.
"All the recent activity has been the fruition of a lot of work over the
year," says John, who took charge at the club when George Graham left
for Arsenal, "and they are going to he key players in the new season. For
example, Kevin O'Callaghan was involved with Portsmouth's promotion
push and is obviously hope he's going to he up there again.
"He's a quality left-sided midfield international, who's already played in
Europe and the First Division with Ipswich. Meanwhile, Tony Cascarino
is a proven goalscorer who got 30 goals last term and, while Ipswich
and Aston Villa wore after him, he jumped at the chance to join us
because he's a Millwall fan", enthuses John.
The lions boss refused to be drawn on their chances of promotion but
Kevin O'Callaghan - who began his career at The Den as a 15-year old
reckons everything is set for a big push on the top flight. "People have
said it's a strange move for becoming back here, but I wouldn't have
signed if I didn't think the club was ambitious," he explains.
"Portsmouth manager Alan Ball told me Millwall had made an offer
that had been accepted, which is a fairly big hint that you're not wanted.
I spoke to the club and then had to link up with the Eire squad for the
games against Brazil and Luxembourg, so I had a few days to think
about the move and I signed virtually straight away when I got back".
"Previously Millwall were in the habit of selling promising players.
For example, I went to Ipswich and Dave Mehmet joined Tampa Bay
Rowdies, but new they want to hang on to their youngsters".
"Another indication of the way the club is thinking was the £300,000
bid for my Portsmouth team-mate Mick Quinn. Fair enough, he turned
them down but it just shows how ambitious they are."
Kevin was the first departure from Fratton Park as Alan Ball re-shapes
his squad for 'Pompey's return to the top flight and the Eire international
does admit to a few regrets.
STRIKER Tony Cascarino, Millwall's latest acquisition at £200,000, was the £180 kid they let slip through their fingers.
Tony a Millwall fan since he was a kid, was playing for Crockenhill in the Kent League when former Millwall boss Peter Anderson had him watched. The word from the scout was not encouraging and Gillingham stepped in.
And they paid for Cascarino - 30 goals for the Kent club in the Third Division last season - by buying Crockenhill a new strip worth £180.
Millwall manager John Docherty had no hesitation in shelling out 200 grand for the 24 year old forward.
"I've been watching him for a long time, said Docherty. "I tried to sign him when I was at Brentford. He's a good forceful type of layer, good in the air. He's proved himself in the Third Division and I'm confident he'll carry on in the Second."
What about the £180 price tag? 'I can believe it," said Docherty. It happens all the time, doesn't it? It's part of football's folklore."
Cascarino was out running in Richmond Park, along with seven other first-teamers, on Tuesday. "I prefer to keep things ticking over this time of year," said Docherty.
"They do a bit for two days a week, that's all. It builds up nicely to the hard work in July and makes sure they don't put too much weight on".
Cascarino completed the trio of players Docherty was after. He snapped up former Lion Kevin O'Callaghan from Portsmouth for £85,000 and defender Steve Wood from Reading for a fee to be decided by tribunal.
"They're good acquisitions and I'm looking forward to the new season," he said. "I welcome the break at the end of a season but after a fortnight I'm ready to Roar again."
MILLWALL manager John Docherty must be well pleased with the £80,000 price tag placed on central defender Steve Wood by the soccer tribunal.
Wood had been valued a £300,000 by Reading but Millwall offered only £45,000. Docherty's Scottish nature is unlikely to be offended in coughing up the extra 35-grand.
"It wasn't a conditional transfer, so we, were ready to pay whatever the tribunal decided," was Docherty's canny comment.
Millwall, already running twice a week in Richmond Park, start pre-season training in earnest on July 16. They have fixed up a home friendly against Gillingham on Friday, August 7 (7.30pm).
With their three new signings - Wood, £85,000 Kevin O'Callaghan and £200,000 Tony Cascarino - Millwall have a side capable of making serious challenge for promotion.
MILLWALL'S summer spending spree is already beginning to pay off 'With a big increase in the demand for season tickets.
The Lions have splashed out a total of £365,000 on midfielder Kevin O'Callaghan, striker Tony Cascarino and defender Steve Wood in a concerted attempt to end the club's 100 year wait for First Division football.
"The new signings have certainly created a lot of interest," said chief executive Graham Hortop. "There is a big demand for season tickets particularly amongst old supporters who are coming back to the club."
Manager John Docherty may make one more signing before the start of the season, but he stressed "We have already got competition for places in every department which is something we didn't have last season. There is going to he quite a scrap to get into the first team as far as I can see."
Meanwhile Docherty has angrily dismissed speculation linking teenage Millwall keeper Brian Horne with a possible move across London to First Division West Ham United. "It is absolute rubbish," he said. "There is nothing in it at all".