Since Neil Harris’ shock resignation as manager earlier this month, speculation has been rife as to who will succeed the Millwall legend at The Den.
And it now seems like the field has narrowed to three candidates – Wycombe Wanderers’ Gareth Ainsworth, current caretaker boss Adam Barrett and Gary Rowett.
Millwall were reported to have held initial talks with Ainsworth regarding the managerial role last weekend, with the latest suggesting the 46-year-old is ‘likely’ to remain at Adams Park.
If this is the case then a large majority of Millwall fans will be breathing a collective sigh of relief….
Millwall fans have long memories and will not have forgotten a couple of incidents Ainsworth had with fans’ favourite Tony Craig during his playing days – one which resulted in Craig breaking his cheekbone.
Even putting personal sentiments aside, the majority of Ainsworth’s managerial experience has been in Leagues One and Two with question marks looming large as to whether he would be capable at managing at a higher level.
His style of football can’t be considered progressive either, tending to favour playing with a striker with aerial prowess, which is – again – where much of the criticism of former incumbent Harris came from.
In comparison, Rowett would not only bring a wealth of Championship experience but his style of football is considered more cultured than that of Ainsworth.
Rowett may have enjoyed a less than successful spell at Stoke City but before that he can consider himself unlucky at both Birmingham City and Derby County.
Birmingham sacked Rowett in favour of Gianfranco Zola with the side lying seventh in the table – only to see the Italian go on to win just two of his 24 matches in charge at St Andrew’s.
Meanwhile, at Derby, a win ratio of 43.3% and a Play-Off Semi-Final defeat to Fulham in only his full season in charge was deemed a failure.
But what of the third candidate supposedly in the reckoning, caretaker boss Adam Barrett?
Barrett won his opening match against high-flying Leeds United at The Den just 48 hours after Harris’ sudden departure and is expected to remain in charge for the trip to Brentford this Saturday.
The 39-year-old said he felt ready to be a manager after the win over Leeds but whether that equates to being ‘Championship-ready’ is a different matter entirely.
However, Millwall arguably played their best football of the season in the 2-1 win over promotion chasing Leeds with Barrett also showing astute tactical awareness in decision making with key substitutions at crucial times.
Of course, any game against Leeds at a sold-out Den should be enough to fire up any Lions side – particularly one keen to give the departing Harris a farewell performance to be proud of.
Therefore it may not be best to judge Barrett’s managerial capabilities just yet – with Saturday’s London derby against Brentford a better test for any potential credentials.
Other names mentioned include former players Kevin Muscat and Tim Cahill but with both Australians’ experience not extending to British shores, it could be argued they have even less experience than Barrett.
That’s not to say either wouldn’t be welcomed back in South London – but ideally as part of a coaching staff to ensure the new man, namely Rowett, maintained strong links to the club.
The remaining question would be whether, if appointed, Rowett could handle the fans’ criticism during the bad spells with many caving under the pressure in the past
But something tells me he has the right pedigree and experience to see him right.