Date: 4th August 2016 at 5:42pm
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Is it that time already?

It only seems like yesterday that thousands of Lions fans trudged miserably back down Wembley Way, having resigned themselves to another season in League One following the 3-1 play-off final defeat to Barnsley.

Last summer saw a period of dramatic change at The Den, but this close-season has seen minimal movement. Just Shaun Hutchinson, David Worrall and Gregg Wylde have signed on the dotted line to challenge for a first-team place, while youngster Paul Rooney has joined to play in the Under-21 side.

Star names such as Jordan Archer and Lee Gregory remain in SE16 despite interest from elsewhere, whilst the likes of Ben Thompson and Mahlon Romeo will look to embark on their first full seasons in professional football.

But what questions are there to be answered over the next nine months?

Photo: Charlotte Wilson

Millwall lost 3-1 to Barnsley in the League One play-off final back in May – Photo: Charlotte Wilson / Offside.

Perhaps the biggest conundrum lies in the attacking department. Last season, the partnership of Gregory and Steve Morison scored a combined total of 46 goals – the best since Neil Harris and Paul Moody fired the Lions to the Division Two title back in 2000/01.

Morison rolled back the years, producing performances of the highest quality week in, week out, assisting the likes of Gregory to a record goal-haul over the campaign – but can he do it again?

There’s no doubting that the ex-Norwich City frontman possesses the class in his armoury to do so, but whether the fact that he is another year closer to the end of his career will hinder him remains to be seen.

Likewise with Gregory, will he be a one-season wonder? Or will he go from strength to strength and hit 20+ goals once more in 2016/17?

To do that, it is likely that most assists will come from out wide. In Shane Ferguson, David Worrall and Wylde, Millwall have three out and out wingers capable of providing a pinpoint delivery into the box – but who will boss Harris plump for as his first-choice pairing?

Injury to Hutchinson and Joe Martin may force the boss into a defensive re-shuffle for the opening games of the campaign, allowing Ferguson to play at left-back, but when all are fit, who starts?

mbe Wanderers - Fred Onyedinma of Wycombe Wanderers - Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

Lions midfielder Onyedinma enjoyed a successful loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers last year – Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

And where does that leave Fred Onyedinma? The explosive youngster failed to ignite last year despite a promising start, but an exciting pre-season has stood Fred in good stead going ahead. Rumblings have emerged of Harris possibly opting to play Onyedinma through the middle more this time round, so that could present him with a chance to shine.

As eluded to above, it will also be interesting to see how Millwall’s trio of Lion cubs – Archer, Thompson and Romeo – fair in their first full seasons of professional football.

With the prospect of ‘second season syndrome’ dangerously looming over their heads, all three will be looking to carry on the form that pushed them from relative nobodies to first-team stars in 2015/16.

Moving from certain individuals to the team as a whole, the way the Lions start the season will tell a lot going forward.

Notoriously poor starters, a disastrous four defeats at home in a row to kick off the previous campaign ultimately cost Millwall automatic promotion – it will be vital that they kick the season off strongly in their pursuit to go one better in 2016/17.

The opening month will see Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United visit The Den, with away trips to Milton Keynes Dons, Peterborough United and Chesterfield.

Photo: Mark Leech

Where will Harris’ Millwall finish in the league standings this term? – Photo: Mark Leech

Corresponding fixtures last year saw the Lions come away from games against Shrewsbury Town, Coventry City, Barnsley, Scunthorpe United and Chesterfield with just four points.

The same outcome will see the Lions playing catch-up again before the season has barely got underway. Therefore, it will be imperative that they hit the ground running.

Should they do that and should history repeat itself with regards to the strikers scoring and players performing to their full potential, I see no reason why Millwall cannot challenge at the very top of the table for the entire season.

Teams such as Charlton, Bolton and Oxford United (potential dark horses!) may join the likes of the Lions, Sheffield United and Coventry at the summit, but the club showed its potential and ability to be amongst the best for large parts of the previous campaign.

Here’s hoping we go one better this year!

The runners and riders are on the starting grid – on your marks, get set, go…

 
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