BY TOBY PORTER
Millwall Legend Tony Warner hopes the Lions go gung-ho in their last six games of the season, to give them hope of going up.
The ex-Lion – known to fans as Denzil after an Only Fools and Horses character – was in the team which last came closest to reaching the top flight.
He believes only one or two more experienced heads in the 2002 squad would have made all the difference.
And this time around and with with the Den club still having slender hopes of getting into the knockouts, he hopes manager Gary Rowett will tell his players to “come out swinging”.
Warner said: “We do not have a high enough points average at the moment and we need to change things around during the run-in to get promotion.
“I understand the manager has his philosophy – but are we happy with sitting outside the play-off positions?
“I would want to be a bit more attacking – because a team with a defensive style is unlikely to win all the games.
“I would want us to be a bit more aggressive and not play defensively – because there’s so much to gain and nothing to lose.
“That would be my way of bursting into the top six.”
Warner is goalkeeping coach at League One Accrington Stanley at the moment having trained at a string of top clubs such as Fulham, Hull and Bolton.
He’s back living in Liverpool now, close to where is mum and dad brought him up.
But he can recall all the heady years under Mark McGhee, then Dennis Wise when the Lions came so close to the Promised Land.
“In 2002, we needed a couple more old heads who had plenty in the tank,” said Warner. “I was really impressed with Dion Dublin who we had on loan for the run-in. He was very influential.
“If we had added more, it might have made a difference. We were a hair’s breadth away.
“We had a lack of experience at the top level – maybe someone like Robbie Savage or Paul Dickov would have made the difference. But what we lacked, we made up for with enthusiasm.
“I remember Mark McGee said before the home leg of the play-off semi-final against Birmingham that the side which gets to the Premier League ‘is in the ground tonight’.
“And he was right – Birmingham beat Norwich on penalties in the final. Sport is about very fine margins.
“It has been done since then by Bournemouth. But you cannot get there by luck – you need a very good manager, a good side, good backing and to leave no stone unturned and there has to be in an ethos that everyone must buy into.
“I used to see a psychologist and it certainly did me no harm. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, though. You do have to be mentally strong and able to manoeuvre around problems and get over defeats quickly and contain any issues – that’s how it helped me. You don’t want to crow too much about wins or dwell on losses.
“I’ve known managers who, when they are beaten, say ‘we were a disgrace, we were useless’. But that doesn’t help the players.
“When I was at Hull, the manager Phil Brown had worked with Sam Allardyce and used psychology a lot. But it is not the thing you can force on players.
“We did have quite a few injuries in 2002, so the size of the squad might have made a difference you do have to have. You need strength in depth so the train does not lose momentum.
“Millwall were never going to have a squad as big as the other teams because the maths does not add up. Maybe we were underpowered if you look at it with hindsight – but at the time I didn’t feel like that. I didn’t feel like we were taking a knife to a gunfight. We did get very close.
“Dion Dublin did miss an easy opportunity that night at the Den.
“If that’s gone in, in the semi-final, we might have been enjoying the challenge of going to Wembley.
“We were an absolutely brilliant team and no one could take away from the brilliance of that time. We could have taken on anyone in that division. We did not fear anyone.”
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