Should Millwall sack Gary Rowett?
After the heartbreak of last season and some poor performances this season, questions are being asked about Gary Rowett. In this piece, I will look into Rowett’s positive and negative traits from his time in Bermondsey and ultimately, determine if Rowett is the right man for the job.
Rewind almost four years ago. Millwall were 18th in the Championship after a 1-1 draw with Luton.
Shockingly, club legend Neil Harris – who was in charge at the time – resigned, feeling it was the right time to leave.
A few weeks after Harris’ shock resignation, it was soon announced that Gary Rowett would be appointed manager. That was the start of a new era at Millwall.
So, let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses since Rowett took charge.
Since Rowett took over, one undeniable improvement has been the reliable, consistent defence. This has mostly been thanks to operating a back three with wing backs.
Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper have diligently led the backline since Rowett’s arrival.
Typically, Rowett has worked with Danny McNamara and Murray Wallace as his wing backs. Both are strong defensively, which has significantly contributed to Millwall’s strong defensive record. However, neither are the best in attack, which I’ll expand on later.
The former Derby gaffer has instilled a very pragmatic approach with The Lions, focusing more on dealing with the opposition rather than proactively attacking opponents.
Rowett has utilised a two man midfield, both of whom sit deep as defensive midfielders, performing similar duties to ball winning midfielders.
Despite the perceived negative tactics, this yields results; achieving top half finishes in every season since taking charge.
Looking into Millwall’s defensive stats further, The Lions consistently rank in and around the play offs based on defensive form, emphasising Rowett’s solid defensive structure.
Superb Youth Management
Another undeniably strong trait of Rowett’s is that he is more than happy to give youth talents a chance. But, most importantly, he knows how to manage their game time effectively to motivate them further.
This is evident through the likes of Danny McNamara and Billy Mitchell. Both are from the Lions academy and have played crucial parts of Rowett’s team since taking over.
One player in particular who I feel Rowett is doing particularly well with, is Romain Esse. Esse is an extremely promising youngster at Millwall, featuring at U18 level for England and getting his first senior goal in Millwall’s 1-0 win against Middlesbrough in the season opener.
Despite the strong performances, Rowett has been hesitant to make the youngster a guaranteed starter, giving Esse bench cameos and an occasional start. By doing this, Millwall have seen a fired up, hungry Romain Esse. This is a man who is determined to make his name and prove to the gaffer how good he is.
That hunger comes from strong man management. Undeniably, Rowett can excel at this at times.
However, there’s been a lot of criticism of Gary Rowett recently from the Millwall fanbase and this is one of the biggest negatives about Rowett as a whole…
Lack of Consistency
Despite Millwall securing results and strong Championship finishes thanks to Rowett’s defensive tactics, inconsistency is a massive problem at The Den. A recent game which perfectly represents this feeling is Millwall’s home game against Blackburn back in May last season.
The Lions were superb in the first half, relentlessly attacking and gaining a 3-1 advantage at half time.
At that moment in time, Millwall had found themselves in the play-offs and with one eye on who they may play in the Semi Finals. However, the second half saw inconsistency rise and Millwall were ultimately defeated 4-3.
Results like this were hard to stomach when comparing to previous results, such as a 1-1 draw with eventual Champions Burnley and a 3-2 win over promoted Sheffield United.
Undeniably, Millwall are known for performing strongly against the better teams and disappointing in the “easier” games. However, it’s results like that which not only result in missing out on play-offs, but also cause unrest in the fanbase.
This was taken into account when I decided to place Millwall outside the Play Offs in my Championship Table Predictions.
Should Rowett Stay or Go?
Before I give my verdict, I ran a poll on my X (fka Twitter) account to see from a Millwall fan perspective what their thoughts were.
This was the result of the poll:
In conclusion, I would say I agree with the result of the poll: Gary Rowett should not be sacked.
My first reason for this is that quite simply that I don’t think there’s a better option with this current squad.
This team has been recruited and built to play with 3 centre backs and 2 wing backs.
Arguably, Millwall have the best wing back options they’ve ever had under Rowett, in Joe Bryan and Norton-Cuffy.
Both have heavily impressed so far this season and have made Millwall look significantly more threatening going forward.
I also feel it would be hard to justify sacking Rowett after the recent league positions delivered.
As much as the defensive tactics are frustrating to watch, consecutive top half finishes is superb for a club of Millwall’s stature.