Ian Holloway has been suitably impressed by the way Millwall’s players have looked after themselves during the summer after the squad returned for pre-season training.

The boss was speaking from the club’s training ground this lunchtime ahead of Sunday’s departure for a training camp to Portugal.

Not everyone will be on the plane and Holloway is challenging the youngsters who will take their place to stake a claim by getting in his good books.

He said: “I’ve been delighted with the levels of fitness so far. The way we ended the season has given everybody a lift.

“They’ve gone away with some belief about themselves, they’ve worked really hard and I am absolutely delighted with the times they’ve posted.

“We are ahead of schedule, which is great, and now we move on to Portugal.

“I will be taking a lot of the young lads to give them a bit of a chance.

“We are a little bit short on numbers because Carlos Edwards, David Forde and Danny Shittu aren’t quite there yet, but I can leave them back and take the kids and see what they want to show me.”

The Bromley training ground has benefited from a welcome makeover and Holloway believes it will pay dividends both now and during the coming campaign.

He explained: “If you have a good pre-season you will have a decent season, if you have a bad one it normally follows suit that you have a bad season so it is absolutely for every single player that the club and myself plan things we take out as much risk of them getting injured as we can do.

“That’s why the pitches are looking so good on the training ground.

“We ripped them up five weeks before the end of last season so we used The Den to train in order to get the training ground as good as it now is.

“We did some stuff this morning and the level of what I want is great because the pitches are better and they’ve got a bit of a buzz off it.

“It is really important you make the best of what you’ve got and we’ve managed to do that by making some sacrifices last year.”

The fixture list has thrown up an opening day Den encounter with old foe Leeds United and Holloway knows how important it is to begin on a high.

“I want a good start, it is really important to get off to a good start.

“If you can do that it is down to your organisation, your planning and getting your players buying in to what you are doing.

“Leeds at home on the first day is great but remember we have to play everybody twice whenever it comes up.

“I’m just delighted we are playing at this level again to be perfectly blunt with you.”

Having only joined the club in January following the dismissal of Steve Lomas, this will be Holloway’s first full season at the club.

And the manager is still feeling relieved it will be in the Championship as opposed to League One following Millwall’s gallant escape act in April which saw them beat the drop.

He said: “It took a big risk coming here when we were where we were trying to change a mindset in the middle of the season.

“The last time I did that was at Leicester and we didn’t change it and ended up getting relegated.

“For me it was a big decision to make and I’m really glad I made it.

“I’m glad it turned out the way it did because for us to go down would have been horrendous.

“I would have still faced that challenge had it happened but I’m delighted that we are not.

“We’ve got international breaks now as well which means you get a little breather.

“That’s what I’m used to planning so I’m delighted for the lads and the fans that we can have another season in this Championship and try and end up in the other end of the table because that’s where we want to be.”

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