Millwall boss Gary Rowett has addressed Nottingham Forest’s failed pursuit of Jed Wallace, suggesting that keeping hold of the talismanic winger was “one of the big things this window” for the south London club.
The 27-year-old’s contract at The Den is set to expire in the summer and it has looked unlikely for some time that he will sign new terms, which appeared to fuel Forest’s attempts to sign him last month.
Wallace has been sidelined with injury since December but returned to action for the first time in the 0-0 draw with Preston North End last night and Rowett addressed the fact that the winger was still at the club.
He said: “That was one of the big things this window. One of the factors was that we wanted to keep Jed.
“You want to keep your best players available. We need that attacking quality in the final third to give us a chance to win games.
“You’ve seen it in the last few weeks when we’ve put young players on to try and win games against young sides and it’s difficult to do that but what we’ve been able to do tonight and what we’ll be able to do in the future is put players on that know what it takes to win games in the Championship – and the likes of Tyler Burey to come on and give you that little bit of zip.
“It’s good to keep Jed. I think you could see he hadn’t trained that much in seven or eight weeks but because he’d been so important for us, I thought he might give us a little bit more of a spark but maybe tonight that was asking too much of him.”
There was movement both in and out for Millwall in the winter window, with Oli Burke and Luke Freeman arriving on loan from Sheffield United and Ben Thompson, Matt Smith, and Jón Dadi Bödvarsson leaving the club.
On the topic of January, Rowett added: “I just felt the group needed a little bit of a freshen up. I think we’ve done that in sorts, I think keeping Jed has helped us to do that a little bit in a different way.
“It wasn’t perfect, it’s something we need to improve on down the line but we’ve got some good players in that I think can affect the team.”
Millwall faced a difficult decision concerning Wallace in January, with Forest seemingly pushing hard to prize him away from the club and the prospect of seeing him leave for nothing in the summer becoming a more likely reality.
Rowett’s comments highlight his stance on the situation was and it seems the club see keeping hold of him as a clear victory despite his contract situation.
You can understand that given just how important the 27-year-old has been to this side over the past few seasons.
He was unable to provide the spark last night but has done it so many times in recent years – adding 25 goals and 25 assists since the start of the 2019/20 campaign.
His departure in the summer, should it come, is going to be gutting for supporters of the south London club and they need to make the most of him while he’s still here.