This time last season, talk of Premier League football around The Den would have been unthinkable.
Millwall were in the process of limping over the finishing line in a depressing Championship survival battle and ended up being extremely thankful that Rotherham United were simply not good enough to remain at this level.
Neil Harris’ side finished with 44 points, just four clear of what would have been a disasterous return to League One.
Wind on 12 months, and just like two seasons back, Millwall are quietly dreaming of the big time and turning out at grounds such as Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge, which is a far more attractive proposition than travelling to Rochdale, Fleetwood Town or Scunthorpe United on a Tuesday evening.
But whilst Gary Rowett’s men are continuing to hold their own against some of the Championship’s most powerful clubs, they’re still rank outsiders to finish inside the top-six. Unsurprisingly, the bookies still have them down finishing in 10th, which would be by no means disgraceful.
In their defence, their current form of just one win in eight matches means it’s hardly surprising.
Likes so many of the sides around them, Millwall have been struggling to find the consistency of late, something that hasn’t tended to be a concern since the Rowett revolution got underway in late-October.
The Lions boss takes his out of form side to Nottingham Forest tonight in the toughest of their 10 remaining league matches, and the ex-Derby County boss will be hoping to get one over Forest on his return to the City Ground.
Victory by the River Trent would put Millwall within touching distance of the play-offs and crank up the pressure on the sides above them – especially with two of their closest rivals in Swansea City and Bristol City hosting top-two hopefuls West Brom and Fulham this weekend respectively.
With as many as eight sides attempting to finish in just three remaining top-six places, the play-off race is set up to be one of the most competitive in recent years. And, although Millwall are currently joint-bottom in that mini league table, anything remains possible at this stage of the campaign.
Look no further than this time 12 months ago.
Play-off winners Aston Villa found themselves still four points adrift of the chasing pack after 36 games, and remarkably sealed their fate with two games to spare. Whilst the Lions achieving that feat looks increasingly unlikely, no side in the running has put down a marker in recent weeks.
It all means that given the competitive nature and unpredictability of the Championship, this is surely their best chance of promotion since falling at the penultimate stage on that painful evening against Birmingham City at The Den almost 18 years back.
And whilst football isn’t played on paper – Wigan Athletic’s 1-0 success at leaders West Brom and a host of other results this season have proved that – Millwall have by far the kindest set of fixtures.
The down side for Rowett is that the Lions have generally struggled against the so-called lesser sides in the division this term. It’s all good having a those games, but you’ve got to go and and win them. And three of Millwall’s defeats under Rowett have come against sides that currently find themselves in the bottom-nine of the standings, in Reading, Barnsley and most recently, the disappointing 1-0 defeat at Wigan.
If that suddenly changes, then nothing is stopping the Londoners from putting a run of victories together. The unthinkable almost happened after that astonishing run when Harris was in charge in 2017/2018, so why can’t Millwall go one better this time?
Three points against Forest tonight – and those dreams could soon become a reality.