Millwall boss Gary Rowett has revealed a potential lack of first-team opportunities at The Den is the reason why Mahlon Romeo has been sent out on loan to League One side Portsmouth, speaking in an interview with NewsAtDen.
After initially seeming to rule out a possible move for the Lions’ right-back just a matter of days before transfer deadline day, Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley managed to recruit Romeo just a matter of hours before the window closed and the 25-year-old will now spend the rest of the 2021/22 campaign at Fratton Park.
He will be looking to become a vital part of a side who have gone unbeaten in four of their five third-tier games so far this season and conceded just one goal in over 450 minutes of League One football.
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This may make it tough for the Millwall loanee to force his way into the starting lineup if Pompey can continue defending in a similar vein – but his vast amount of experience at Championship level could persuade manager Cowley to throw him in straight away.
The 25-year-old made 35 appearances in the second tier last term and has been a regular for the south-east London side since his arrival from Gillingham in 2015.
He initially plied his trade with the Lions in League One, but adapted well to the Championship after their promotion in the 2017 play-off final against Bradford City.
But with increased competition for the right-back spot at The Den, Rowett believes this was the right time to send him back to the third tier on a temporary spell.
Speaking to NewsAtDen on the move, Millwall manager Rowett said: “Mahlon’s been a fabulous player for us over the two seasons that I’ve been here.
“Danny McNamara came back from St Johnstone to stake a claim for that place and is doing really, really well.
“We’ve also got Lenny (Ryan Leonard) and Billy (Mitchell) who have proved that they can play there as well.
“And Mahlon at this stage of his career really wanted the chance to play more regular football. I couldn’t guarantee that.
“He goes with our best wishes and, like I said, he’s been brilliant for us.
“I hope he goes on to have a really strong season. It was a difficult decision but sometimes you have to allow people to move on and play football on a more regular basis if you think it might be difficult for them to do that here.”
Whichever way you look at this loan from Romeo’s perspective, there certainly won’t be a shortage of motivation for him to do well at Fratton Park.
He will either be looking to prove his worth to Gary Rowett in an attempt to get back into his first-team plans in the Championship, or he could be looking to put himself in the shop window with some outstanding performances during the 2021/22 campaign.
Either way, this can only be a good thing for Portsmouth who will need to squeeze everything they have out of their players if they want to ensure they don’t miss out on a top-six spot again this season.
They came agonisingly close to securing a play-off place last season, declining at the latter end of the campaign before losing to Accrington Stanley on the final day to consign them to another year of League One football. As it turned out, a win would have been enough to beat Oxford United and Charlton Athletic to a play-off spot.
The fact Romeo will be competing in a team fighting for redemption and promotion will keep him sharp throughout the season, which will only help in his quest to prove himself as a solid Championship player who is a class above the third tier, whether he returns to his parent club at the end of the season or desires a move to another second-tier side who could play him more regularly.