MICHAEL Appleton has a lengthy love-hate relationship with The Den, but he is looking forward to visiting with all of the pressure on Millwall.
It is nearly two decades since he was sent off for violent conduct while playing for Preston North End, while the Lions also knocked his Blackburn Rovers side out of the FA Cup quarter-final in 2013.
Appleton’s experience with Oxford United is more positive, winning 2-0 win in Bermondsey last season in the first leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area final.
The head coach is relishing another chance to sample the unique atmosphere tomorrow, where he is backing United’s players to have cooler heads than him in 1998.
“I was getting kicked, I got frustrated and I used my fist instead of my feet,” Appleton said.
“I don’t condone that and I don’t expect one of my players to do that, but I learnt the hard way.
“It’s an intimidating place, probably more so for the staff than the players.
“I’ve been called a lot of things in my time but every single time I go to the Den they absolutely top it.
“They come up with something I’ve not heard before, which brings a smile to my face.
“They’re quite creative.”
With 180 minutes of the season remaining, Millwall occupy the final play-off spot in Sky Bet League One.
But their grip on sixth place is far from secure and anything other than a win will open the door for Southend United, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers.
Appleton said: “We’re not playing for anything other than the three points, which is enough in my eyes.
“But the reality is all the pressure is on them.They need the points more than we do.
“They need to guarantee themselves a play-off spot and if they don’t do that and it goes to the last game they won’t fancy a trip to Bristol Rovers if they get a good result on Saturday.
“If we play with a bit of freedom we’re trouble for any team.
“They beat us here (2-1) earlier in the season but I thought we played really well on the day.
“We were bitterly disappointed and hopefully we can return the favour on Saturday.”
United’s own top-six hopes may have been extinguished earlier this month, but a win would guarantee they end up in the top ten.
It is an accolade Appleton rates highly as he guides the club to what is already certain to be their highest finish since relegation from the second tier in 1998/99.
“That would be very big,” he said.
“If you think about where we’ve come from, we’ve progressed every single year.
“Mid-table first season, then promotion and then at least a mid-table finish this year, but to be in the top ten would be huge on the back of two very good cup runs as well.”