Jed Wallace has admitted he had to fight back the tears after Millwall’s Championship finale – which could also end up being his last game in a Lions shirt.
The 28-year-old playmaker is out of contract at the end of June and enjoyed a rapturous reception from the club’s travelling fans at AFC Bournemouth last Saturday.
Wallace was clearly choked up as supporters chanted: “We want you to stay”.
Nottingham Forest had two bids knocked back for the former Portsmouth and Wolves player in January.
Millwall have offered Wallace a new contract.
The South London Press caught up with Wallace before he boarded the team coach to head back to the capital.
Asked about the full-time interaction with the fans, he said: “It was emotional. I’m a heart-on-my-sleeve type of guy.
“It was a special moment, that sort of stuff stays with you for years. I tried to soak it all in, and not cry.
“Millwall fans appreciate any player that gives their b****** every week. I’ve always done that. Whether I’ve taken a baggy touch, not beaten the first man on a cross or hit a shot wide then I’ve always given my all.
“That’s apparent in the whole group. We’re a hard-working group of players. They gave us a great reception at the end of the match, and rightly so.
“It feels very united at the moment and it needs to stay that way.”
Millwall will give Wallace the time he needs to assess his options. He has also been linked with Turkish club Besiktas.
Wallace has scored 42 goals and claimed 49 assists in 260 matches for the Lions.
Asked about his future, Wallace said: “I don’t really know at the moment.
“My focus has been to try and help us into that top six, which I’ve been trying to do for five years now at this level. We’ve not managed to achieve it – that’s disappointing – but we’ve had a right good go.
“The lads should be proud of themselves for the effort they put in.
“We’ll just have to see what happens in the next few weeks, I’ve loved every minute of my time at Millwall.
“Ultimately we probably played against a team and a club who are just a bit too good for us at the moment with the strength in depth they’ve got not even making the bench.
“I was keeping an eye on the results and then I saw Luton scored. We had to go for it. You’re playing a team with this much quality, we had a corner and 10 seconds later it is in our own net. That is this league for you.
“There are levels in this league. You can see where we’ve progressed. We’re playing the teams at the bottom of the table and we normally blow them out of the water, as you’ve seen recently against Hull, Peterborough and Barnsley – we’ve looked a level above those.
“These and Fulham are a level above the others. That’s understandable when you look at everything that goes into the teams they’ve got.”
“Our away form has probably cost us. But we’ve been great at home.
“The fans have been right behind us since Christmas. We’ve had a really good run but just fallen a bit short.
“I’m just proud to look back at what we’ve done this season and my time at Millwall so far. It might not be finished yet. I’m just enjoying every moment while I’m here.
“One hundred per cent [the future for Millwall is looking bright]. There’s no reason we can’t keep pushing. Millwall to be finishing above likes of West Brom and Stoke is no mean feat, so well done to everyone.
“We’ll try and push next season.”
Wallace, who had missed two matches in April due to a groin problem, had no complaints with being benched at the Vitality Stadium.
He replaced Mason Bennett in the 58th minute.
“I felt fine the last 10 days, I came off the bench [in the 3-0 victory over Peterborough] and the lads won,” said Wallace. “So we kept the same team, which is fine. At this point everyone should put their trust in the manager, he certainly knows what he is doing at this level.
“As long as he is here and the nucleus of the team stays together, I’m sure the good times at Millwall will carry on.
“It’s not often historically that Millwall have been at this level as long as they have. Credit to the chairman [John Berylson], Steve Kav [Kavanagh, chief executive], Neil [Harris, former manager] and now Gary – as well as the squad of players that have been here a few years. They have cemented themselves as a top Championship club, which isn’t easy.”
Wallace also had a chance to pay his respects to Millwall fans at the final home game against Peterborough United.
“It wasn’t a lap of honour, it was a lap of me chasing the kids around,” he said.
“Everyone was carrying one child and it was all nice. I had a three-year-old and a four-year-old legging it in different directions!”