JED Wallace won’t mind too much if he has to cancel his pre-wedding party at the end of May – because it will mean Millwall have reached the play-off final.
Wallace – who turned 28 last Saturday – is getting married in June and the celebrations will kick off the previous month with a do in Surrey.
The date for that is May 28 – the day before the Championship decider at Wembley for the final place in the 2022-23 Premier League.
Millwall are four points off the play-offs with eight games left this season. Four of those fixtures are at The Den.
Wallace was part of the side that won promotion to the Championship with their 1-0 win over Bradford at Wembley in 2017.
If he is to make another visit to the stadium in May then he and his partner will have plenty of rearranging to do.
“I’m getting married in Spain in June but before that we’ve got a party in England the day before the play-off final. So if we get to the play-off final it can’t happen,” Wallace told NewsAtDen.
“We’re having a party in Surrey and then flying over to Spain. My missus grew up in Spain so it will be three or four days which will be nice after.
“It’s a risk worth taking, to be honest. It’s a weird one, but if we have to miss it for the play-off final I’ll take that all day long. So would my missus, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“If there is a time to miss a wedding party it’s definitely for a play-off final for the Premier League. It’s something I wouldn’t mind doing.”
Those bookings probably looked safe enough in January, when Millwall were 11 points off sixth after three successive league defeats.
The Lions were eight points off the play-offs after their 3-0 defeat to Fulham the following month and they were struggling to find form with just one win in six games.
They also had a number of players out through injury, particularly in attack, including Wallace, and were off the back of a disruption when several players were unavailable over the winter following positive Covid-19 tests.
But six wins and two draws in their last nine games have brought them right back into the mix.
“Probably towards the end of January you would have said we had no chance,” Wallace said. “But then typical of the core group of players at Millwall and also of the club as a whole, backs against the wall we had nowhere else to go, really, only to come out swinging.
“That’s in the DNA of the club. We put together a great run and have given ourselves a small opportunity. We just have to see what happens.
“There are teams above us that have vastly superior squads to ours and double our attendances. Much bigger clubs.
“But Millwall has always thrived when it’s the underdog. That’s the mentality of the club. That’s the way it’s been since I’ve been here and that’s what it’s like at the moment.
“So who knows what could happen.”
Millwall lost four games in a row at the start of the year including the FA Cup third-round defeat against Crystal Palace.
But manager Gary Rowett or the players were never going to press the panic button.
“The gaffer is pretty consistent with how he is day-to-day,” Wallace said. “He’s experienced in the Championship, he knows what he’s doing. He also knew we had players coming back from injury.
“To be fair, we actually weren’t playing that badly. That’s probably the worst thing about it, when you think you’re doing all right but you’re losing. That’s not good.
“A couple of games recently we’ve not played well and won. Ultimately that’s what it’s all about.
“The gaffer ain’t going to panic and we’ve got a group of experienced players. You look right down our squad, we’ve got senior pros everywhere that have played a lot of games in the Championship and a lot for Millwall. Myself, Bart [Bialkowski], Hutchy [Shaun Hutchinson], Coops [Jake Cooper], Muzza [Murray Wallace], we’ve all played well over a hundred-odd games for Millwall.
“We know what it is to be a good Millwall player and a good Millwall team. At the moment we do look decent. It’s just those fine lines. With a team like us, a goal either way from a corner can mean zero points or three points. Unfortunately we just finished on the wrong side of that at the weekend.”
Millwall have been here before. They went into the last international break of the season in 2017-18 also four points off sixth place.
Neil Harris’ side were unbeaten in twelve and had won six league games in a row away from home. But five of their last eight games then were against teams above them in the table and they eventually fell short with two matches to go.
Wallace knows that on paper the fixture list this time doesn’t look as difficult.
But he has a note of caution.
“Under Neil we were in the play-off [race] going into this break but we knew we had a really tough run-in,” Wallace said. “Whereas this year our run-in does look favourable.
“But, I think any real Millwall fan would tell you, we’ve got just as much of a chance of losing to Barnsley and Peterborough at home as we have of losing to Bournemouth or Fulham.
“You only have to look at Barnsley’s recent results. They drew against Fulham, they were the better team against Sheffield United first half.
“These teams have a lot to play for, as do we, so we go into it knowing what to expect. If we can play as well as we did against Huddersfield we’ll be fine.
“Hutchy said it a few months ago, he hit the nail on the head, apart from Fulham every single game is a 50/50 game.
“Huddersfield, 17 unbeaten and they come down to The Den and we beat them. We go to Stoke who hadn’t won in eight and lose. That just sums up this league, really.
“We’re looking forward to it. It’s a good position to be in, we’ve got nothing to lose. There are plenty of big clubs above us but we’ll try and sneak in and see what happens.
“If not but we finish in that top 10 then I think we’ve had another great season.”
Millwall’s players are being asked more about their top-six chances but are understandably cautious not to hype it.
Daniel Ballard, though, told NewsAtDen recently that it’s an opportunity to grasp as they don’t know when they will be in this position again. Ballard was in the Blackpool side that defeated Lincoln City 2-1 in last year’s League One play-off final.
“It’s a group of players that always respond well to when we just go out to play football, give it 100 per cent and not put too much pressure on ourselves,” Wallace said.
“Dan Ballard, great young player, had a promotion campaign last year with Blackpool and he’ll be hungry to do the same again. It’s completely fair enough.
“The senior players in the dressing room are just trying to keep everyone calm. One thing you know with us, we’re never going to fall short on effort. People like Muzza, [Maikel] Kieftenbeld, Benno [Mason Bennett], Bradders [Tom Bradshaw], they give their all every day.
“So we’re not going to fall short on effort. Whether we fall short on a set-play here or there or a little bit of quality here or there, that’s probably what’s going to cost us.
“But we won’t fall short on trying and we’ll see where we end up.”
Image: Millwall FC