If Jimmy Abdou entered a popularity contest between former Millwall players, he’d win it at a canter.
The ex-Lions midfielder spent a decade at The Den during a highly successful period between 2008 and 2018, in which he made almost 350 appearances and played a key role in helping the club secure promotion to the Championship on two separate occassions – the second of those turned out to be his final competitive game for the club.
His hard work, determination and never-say-die attitude quickly saw him become a fans favourite at The Den.
Abdou, who is still playing for hometown club Martigues in the fourth tier of French football at the age of 35, caught up with the Football League World’s Jake Sanders in an exclusive Q&A-style interview to discuss his time at Millwall.
Who was your favourite midfield partner at Millwall?
“I think during my most successful time I was playing with Liam Trotter, we had a great time together.”
What is your best moment in a Millwall shirt?
“The goal against Leeds United was my best moment. My second was when we got promoted the year after against Swindon Town in 2010. We had obviously lost to Scunthorpe the season before so it was a big relief.
When we achieved promotion, it was a big relief, I was really happy.”
Do you feel like you should have scored more?
“Of course, but I didn’t really have the opportunity to go forward at the time, because I was more defensive. When I played with Liam Trotter, he was more the one attacking, so I had to back him up.
During my later years I had the chance to get forward more, so I think I should have definitely scored more.”
Who is the toughest player that you’ve ever faced?
“I remember one day when we played against Norwich City at The Den. They were flying at the time and their best player was Wes Hoolahan.
And I remember the whole week Kenny Jackett was telling me to man-mark him the whole game. Wherever he went, he wanted me to follow him. And even when he got substituted at the end of the game, I wasn’t even aware he had gone off and I just tried to follow him again. That afternoon, I ran everywhere, I didn’t even have a position, I was up and down the whole game. I did well, because we won the game and he didn’t score, so it was job done.”
Who did you used to room with at away matches?
“It’s very difficult to remember, because through the years I shared with so many different players.
Do you remember Tresor Kandol? He was there, he used to love being on the phone. I don’t know whether he was phoning France or back in his country, but he just stayed on the phone for hours and when we had to leave the hotel for the match, we went to the reception to pay the bill and he had a huge phone bill.
I can’t remember exactly, but it was more than £100. I had to lay out for him! But he did pay me back, so it was very funny.”
What makes The Den so special?
“The atmosphere, it’s so intimidating for the opposition team.
When I first arrived at The Den, it was a friendly game, so I didn’t see it really, but during my whole first season, I realised how important the fans are for Millwall.
They make such a big difference in big games and when you’re a bit down as a player, they give you the extra push to go beyond your capacity on the day, so for myself, that’s what they give to you, they understand and played a massive part in my game for all these years.”
Did you ever expect to stay at Millwall for as long as you did?
“First of all, I was so honoured to be given a testimonial, I am so grateful to Millwall for giving me the opportunity to do that. I remember when I used to talk with players years ago, they would always say ‘Jimmy, you’re going to stay for years and years’ – and I’d only been there for four years. I couldn’t have expected to be there for such a long time, especially now with players coming and going all the time.
It was a big achievement for me as a foreign player, I am really proud of that and really glad to have achieved that.”
If you could have played alongside anyone in football history, who would it be?
“I think it would have to be Zinedine Zidane. When I was younger, he was the man I was watching. When France won the World Cup in 1998 and he then went to Real Madrid, he was unbelievable. He would go forward and I would try to protect him. I would try and give him the ball and he would do the rest.”
Who was your boyhood footballing hero?
“When I was really young, I used to support Marseille – my local team – and they won the Champions League in 1993.
I remember that generation with and Chris Waddle and then Tony Cascarino came a few years later. He was so technical, Waddle at the time was one of the best.”
Do you consider yourself a Millwall fan and are you hoping to return to The Den?
“Of course. The first team that I watch on the TV is Millwall, so I definitely consider myself a Millwall fan.
To spend as many years as I did there and make all those good memories, myself and my son are Millwall fans.
I haven’t really had the time, but I can’t wait to come back. Hopefully next season I have more time to come and watch the games – I watch the games all the time on the TV and I can see no change in the atmosphere at The Den.”