Ian Holloway Millwall Exclusive: Why he was sacked, how he was nearly arrested, and why appointing Roy Keane would be ‘fireworks’

Ian Holloway by Ian Holloway / 09 October 2019, 17:08

Ian Holloway talks all things Millwall. From how the job first came about, to his volatile relationship with sections of the support, which nearly led to his own arrest.

Ollie also discusses his successor, Neil Harris, and whether the likes of Roy Keane and Tim Cahill would be a good fit in the Lions’ dugout...

First off, how did you get the Millwall job...

If it wasn’t for Millwall insisting on wanting me as many times as they did, I probably wouldn’t have returned to management at that time, as I’d only recently left Crystal Palace.

I really liked the club’s chairman, John Berylson, who made it really obvious that he felt that I was the right man for the job. It was his persistence that impressed me. It’s always nice to be wanted.

If you look at the first season when I took over, it was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever done in football, getting them out of that relegation battle. They even made mugs with my face on it!

Where did it go wrong...

Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise when I first took the job - which I should have checked - was how many players I’d be able to get rid of in the summer. Many of the players I inherited were on too much money, and nobody else wanted to take them on that money so I couldn’t change them around.

In my second season we were in the Championship’s top-5 after five matches, but unfortunately it was downhill from there.

The fans then fell out of love with me, they didn’t like me at all, so in the end I left and Neil Harris got the job.

There was a load of abuse aimed at me during what turned out to be my final game, a 4-1 defeat at home to Norwich. The Chief Executive, Andy Ambler, gave me a letter which informed me that the club was relieving me of my post.

In fairness to Chairman John Berylson, who I had a good relationship with, he rang me and told me that he had had to take the advice of his Chief Executive. They felt that it was better for Millwall for me not to come to work. And that was that.

I was bitterly disappointed. My pride was hurt. At the end of the day I don’t believe that we would have gone down. But I can’t prove that.

Is there anything I would have done differently? I would have won some more games for starters!

Why did the fans turn on you...

I have no idea why they turned on me. We were losing games at the time, and they thought that we might get into the play-offs, like I did with my previous teams Crystal Palace and Blackpool, both of whom I won promotion with. So they were half expecting me to do miracles.

At the end it was almost untenable. The fans turned on me so badly that the board thought that I needed to leave. It wasn’t my decision, it was the board’s decision. They didn’t feel that it was right to let me continue with my contract. I tried my best but whether that was ever good enough for them I doubt it very much.

There’s a very small section of the fans who don’t help the club, they ruin it. But they have some absolutely fantastic, loyal, honest and hardworking fans who deserve for things to be better - but you don’t ever read about them.

What was going through your head when you were greeted by the Millwall fans after you returned with new club QPR...

When I went back I knew they would be after me. I just tried to be professional, but if anyone gives me stick I normally give them it back.

I almost got arrested at that moment by the police for inserting a riot, and I find that absolutely hilarious. Apparently I should have just got off the coach and started walking, and not have ‘aggregated the crowd’. I mean come on.

I nearly got arrested by the police for doing my job, having a bit of banter. Apparently it might have got nasty. Well, I can assure you that it wouldn’t have been me that got nasty, so why would they want to arrest me.

Apparently I was goading them by holding my hand to my ear - I nearly got arrested for holding my hand to my ear! Amazing isn’t it? I nearly brought the game into disrepute by ‘my actions’. Unbelievable.

Neil Harris, who replaced Holloway in March 2015, left the club last week. What did you make of his tenure...

I thought Neil Harris was a great appointment at the time, and he proved to be just that. Unfortunately he was at the helm when Millwall went down to League One but he managed to bring them back up at his first attempt which was a magnificent achievement.

Neil had to learn the hard way, but he got Millwall straight back into the Championship the following season. At the end of the day the fans brought into him, and he was a great success.

I thought that Neil was doing a very good job under difficult circumstances. Unfortunately in the summer he lost Lee Gregory - who was a goal machine for him - to Stoke, and Steve Morrson to Shrewsbury, he was their talisman. It’s been very difficult.

Who should Millwall appoint as their next manager...

Roy Keane at Millwall. Wow. That would be interesting.

Most of the Millwall supporters are brilliant but they do have the odd one or two who can be pretty volatile. I can imagine Roy Keane would stand up to that, and for me that could cause fireworks, which would be great to watch.

READ: Roy Keane at Millwall - For and Against

For Keane to go to Millwall, that would be a definite learning curve for him. The Roy Keane I know would be very outspoken, and I’m not sure that would go down very well. He says what he feels, but so do the Millwall fans. But who knows? It could work a treat. What I’m saying is would Roy fancy that, would he want to go to Millwall? I really don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.

Click here for the next Millwall manager market

I think the club would be better off appointing an ex-Millwall player. You could say Millwall took a big risk when they gave Neil Harris the job as he was a total novice. It needs to be someone that the fans have a connection with, they need to have Millwall at heart, and be passionate about the club. They have to buy into you. It doesn’t matter whether they are experienced or not in my opinion.

If they are going to go down the inexperienced route then Tim Cahill would be superb.

I believe, from my experience of working there that because I never wore the shirt as a player, many fans went off me very quickly. I don’t think they would do that with someone like Tim Cahill.

Maybe they should go for Teddy Sheringham? Another former player who has had experience as a manager. Or Marc Bircham who was my assistant, he’s very very good and hasn’t got a job at the minute.

Am I in the frame for it? I doubt that very much. If I went for the job, I don’t think I’d get it!

There’s a lot of really good managers out there who haven’t got a job at the moment, and the Millwall job could represent a fantastic next step in their careers. Whoever takes it will have a very good Chairman behind them. And I genuinely wish them all the success in the world. But I’m glad I’m not the one making the decision!

What about Millwall’s future prospects...

I don’t think Millwall can become a Premier League club at the moment. If they think they can, then good luck to them.

We all want to be successful. I believed that I could get them there, and I believed that I could play a certain way. In the end I don’t think they liked the way I was playing. It wasn’t just because we were losing. They like the 4-4-2 formation which is what Neil then employed during his time. It’s all about horses for courses.

Realistically how can they step forward, grow, and become a Premier League club when they’d be limited to how many people they can get into the ground. That’s the biggest challenge. I genuinely wish them all the best. The vast majority of their supporters deserve their team to be winning for them.

Have Millwall ever had that much success in the Championship? The club reaches that level and then can’t push on, which is not necessarily the managers' fault. It’s down to the budget, the wages, and attracting players to the club for the right reasons.

I believe the Chairman genuinely wants to do the right thing for Millwall but the Championship is so tough this season. If Millwall were to finish in the top-6 I think it would be almost as good an achievement as Huddersfield under David Wagner, or Blackpool did when I was manager.

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