Millwall full-back Mahlon Romeo’s temporary departure from The Den was quite a surprise on paper.
Having made 35 appearances in the second tier last term under Gary Rowett and helping to lead the Lions to a reasonably impressive 11th-place finish, he was expected to play a big role in their first team again this season.
After all, he has largely been a regular for the Championship outfit since his arrival in 2015 and had played over 200 competitive matches for the club before his move this summer.
Quiz: Have each of these 24 ex-Millwall academy players ever played in the Premier League?
In fairness, the 26-year-old did only play three halves of football in five league matches at the beginning of this campaign for his parent club, joining League One side Portsmouth on deadline day and looks set to remain with Danny Cowley’s men throughout 2021/22, barring an injury crisis in the English capital.
This is because he has been an ever-present figure at the back for the south-coast side, only appearing in his first league game for the club as a substitute but starting the following ten and operating in a back four and five during his time in the third tier.
That adaptability has made him a useful asset for Pompey along with his Championship pedigree, although his form did decline with his current loan side’s before their recent revival.
Going unbeaten in their last four competitive matches, Romeo has been impressive against the likes of Bolton Wanderers at the end of last month and Harrow Borough in the FA Cup last weekend, but there’s still plenty of work to be done with 30 league games left to play between now and the climax of the campaign.
Missing out on the play-offs by just two points at the end of 2020/21, losing at home to Accrington Stanley on the final day, the third-tier side will be desperate to secure a place in the top six.
Currently sitting in 14th, they are seven points adrift of the play-offs as things stand, although they will be hoping their win in the EFL Trophy last night will give them the momentum to charge up the League One table in the coming weeks.
Winning over half of his duels in all competitions this term and boasting a 65.2% dribbling success rate, he looks to be the perfect wing-back for Cowley to use this season in his side’s quest to rise up the table, despite only recording one assist for the south-coast club so far, although his future after the end of the campaign looks uncertain.
In the long term, Millwall boss Rowett has admitted the 26-year-old’s future is up to himself.
But he will need to focus on his current task for now, after seeing competitor Kieron Freeman record an assist for Pompey against Crystal Palace’s Under-21s last night and has the quality to overtake him in the pecking order if he fails to bring his A-game.
In this case, Romeo’s relationship with key man Marcus Harness could be vital in retaining his place in the starting lineup for Saturday afternoon’s fixture against Wycombe Wanderers and beyond.