|Pre-Season: Finishing Touches
|Will Millwall's summer spending spree tempt back the missing fans?
Its Now or Never|
The boardroom of Reg Burr's West End office is dominated by a drawing of that classic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy with their famous "another fine mess you've got me into" catchphrase underneath.
The much-maligned Millwall chairman must have cast a few rueful glances at that picture last season as the Lions slid down the Second Division, attendance's slumped disastrously and the debts piled up.
But Burr has never been one to runaway from fight, and just 12 months after
he helped wrestle the club back from the brink of oblivion he is ready
to launch an all-out assault on the First Division.
There are times in football when you have got to be patient, when you have got to sit back and take all the abuse," explained the 63-year old investment consultant who spent much of last season writing polite replies to some highly critical letters.
I can understand the frustrations of the fans. Over the last 40 years or so they have consistently had to put up with a team that hasn't been as good as they deserved.
But I think a lot of the supporters don't appreciate how close we came to going out of business last summer. If we hadn't formed the new consortium and dealt with Mr. Thorne there wouldn't have been football of any sort at the Den."
By the time we took over, the club had already lost John Fashanu and Anton Otulakowski and people like Steve Lowndes, Steve Lovell and Robert Wilson didn't want to play for us anymore. Unfortunately most of the decent, players who had become available during the summer had already fixed themselves up elsewhere - and it was virtually impossible to sign anybody."
Manager John Docherty was forced to work with a paper thin first team squad and the Millwall board resigned themselves to a season of consolidation and plenty of abuse from those success-starved Den fans.
I felt that the most important thing was to consolidate our Second Division position, although by Christmas I thought we might have a
chance of getting into the play-offs. At that time we started trying to sign players again, but although we agreed terms with several people, for one reason or another the deals all fell through. I still we might have made it into the play-offs if we hadn't lost Danis Salman and Les Briley for, nine weeks through injury. "
Instead of the promotion play-offs, Millwall found themselves scraping to preserve their Second Division status, and Burr and Docherty bore the brunt of the fans frustrations.
The Millwall chief isn't interested in mudslinging, but it clearly upsets him that he and Docherty are painted as the villains of the piece, while his predecessor Thorne and George Graham are regarded as heroes by the Den fans.
Of Graham he will only say, "George did well for Millwall, he got them up half a division every season, but I don't think he was really dedicated to the club, he was only interested in building up his own reputation as a manager.
The Millwall chairman is anxious to clear up one popular misconception though - that the money for the club's bold summer spending spree has come from that £2.7 million deal with the Asda Superstore chain.
ontrary to most reports the money from the sale of the old glassworks site adjacent to the Den went straight into Thorne's bank account - the money for Millwall's signings has come out of the directors pockets with Mr. Burr digging deeper than most.
We lost money consistently last season and the board felt that if the same thing happened this time there would he no real future for Millwall,"he explained. We decided that the only way out of the stranglehold the club found itself in was to make a concerted and quite definite push for the First Division.
As a result Docherty was given the go ahead to spend £85,000 on midfield Kevin O'Callaghan, £200,000 for striker Tony Cascarino, £80,000 for defender Steve Wood - and now there's the possibility of a £160,000 deal for George Lawrence.
Add that to the £100,00 the club paid out for Terry Hurlock and the £20,000 they spent on Jimmy Carter before last season's transfer deadline and it takes the consortium's investment in new players alone soaring above the £½ Million mark. "We believe we have put our money where our mouths are," stressed Burr. "Now it is up to the supporters to do the same by coming in through the gates."
"With the overheads the club has now got after buying these players we need an average home gate of 8,500 just to break even. "It is no good people waiting to see how the first few results go and then if we win a few matches coming back a few hundred at a time. We need them there right from the first match of the season. If they don't turn up we won't be able to afford to keep the players that we have signed and almost inevitably we will sink back into the Third."
As well as the £500,000 they have spent on new players, Burr and his boardroom colleagues have also had to pay out £400,000 on ground safety work, £20,000 on new drainage and there's another hefty bill for the new floodlights, which are due to be installed any day now.
"The directors have made a big investment in the club, but they are not going to go on pouring money in if the public support is not forthcoming," said Burr.
"I don't believe that football clubs should be the play things of one or two rich businessmen, This club belongs to the supporters and now it is up to them to prove that they really want First Division football. We are the only London club who hasn't played in the First Division and I think it would be the greatest thing ever if we could change that."
John Docherty's hopes of completing his spectacular £½ Million summer spending spree by signing Southampton striker George Lawrence have hit an unexpected snag.
The Millwall manager sees 24 year old Lawrence as the final piece in a team building jigsaw that has seen him snap up midfielder Kevin O'Callaghan from Portsmouth, striker Tony Cascarino from Gillingham and defender Steve Wood from Reading.
But although Docherty has already agreed a fee, believed to be around £160,000 mark, with Southampton boss Chris Nichol, his weekend of talks with Lawrence failed to produce a signing.
"There are one or two problems," admitted Docherty, who despite the delay is still optimistic that he will be able to complete the signing.
|Lawrence says 'yes' to Lions|
Persistence paid off for Millwall manager John Docherty yesterday, when Southampton striker George Lawrence yesterday agreed to sign for the Lions.
Docherty has been on the trail of the 24-year-old marksman since the middle of last season when he agreed a "fee with Saints boss Chris Nichol only to find that Lawrence wanted to serve out his contract at the Dell.
Undeterred the Doc's renewed his interest al fortnight ago but although he and Nichol quietly settled on a fee of around £160,000, Lawrence still had reservations about dropping down a division and moving back to London.
Docherty took time off from the Lions first day of pre-season training to have another round of talks with Lawrence yesterday, and the London-born striker finally agreed to sign on the dotted line. The arrival of Lawrence takes Docherty's spending spree to £525,000.
|Lawrence gets last chance|
George Lawrence, Millwall's £160,000 transfer target was being told today it is make your mind up time.
Manager John Docherty who has an open cheque book to revamp the Second Division side, is losing patience with the Southampton Striker.
Millwall agreed the fee with Southampton more than a week ago.
But Docherty who snapped up Gillingham striker, Tony Cascarino for £225,000, Reading Defender, Steve Wood for £80,000 and recaptured Portsmouth winger, Kevin O'Callaghan for £85,000, will wait no longer.
"This business has dragged on too long and if I don't get a firm yes from George now, I will be looking elsewhere." he said yesterday.
|Mac is back as Millwall's No. 2|
MILLWALL manager John Docherty today appointed his former Brentford boss Frank McLintock as his assistant at The Den.
McLintock,the former Arsenal League and Cup double-winning captain, sacked by Brentford in February, is returning to the game despite carving out a successful career in radio broadcasting.
Docherty himself was lured away from the No 2 post at Brentford last summer when Millwall were fined £1,000 for making an illegal approach to him. Now he is leading a determined revival bid at The Den.
In the last 12 months he has signed more than £500,000 o new blood, including striker Tony Cascarino from
Gillingham, defender Steve Wood from Reading, winger Kevin O'Callaghan from Ipswich, and, most recently, midfielder George Lawrence from Southampton.
Now he sees a renewed partnership with McLintock as the basis for a concerted attack on promotion to the First
Division for the first time in Millwall's history.
by Steve Acteson
Millwall's manager John Docherty finally got his man yesterday when George Lawrence signed from Southampton for £160,000.
Lawrence, 24, who can play as a winger or in midfield, is sixth new face at cold blow lane since March, when Terry Hurlock joined from Reading for £100,000 and brings Docherty's spring and summer spending to £650,000.
His persistence also bagged forward Tony Cascarino from Gillingham for £225,000, brought back winger Kevin O'Callaghan form Portsmouth for £85,000 and gave him Reading centre-back Steve Wood for £80,000.
Docherty has also taken promising young midfielder Wesley Reid from Arsenal on a free transfer.
FRANK McLINTOCK is back In football with Second Division Millwall. The 47-year-old McLintock, who led Arsenal to the League and Cup double 16 years ago, had spurned two chances to return to the game after he was sacked by Brentford four months ago.
Alan Ball manager of newly promoted Portsmouth, and a Turklsh club, both wanted McLintock's services but he was so disillusioned by, the professional game that he turned down both offers.
However, Millwall boss John Docherty succeeded, where the others failed, and McLintock, who had Docherty as his No. 2 when he was at Brentford, started work today.
I took some persuading," said McLintock, "but John kept on at me when I saw the sort of good players that he was able to recruit, I relished the chance of working them and working with him".
Before clinching McLintock's agreement, Docherty splashed out £500,000-plus on bringing in new blood like Kevin O'Callaghan, George Lawrence, Tony Cascarino and Steve Wood.