Ex-Pompey man hoping Wembley can boost Championship career
It's the play-off occasion which will tomorrow earn the victor Premier League residence and at least Â£170m.
Yet for the season’s first Wembley winner, the outcome was priceless.
Jed Wallace effectively assured his Championship future after inspiring Millwall to a 1-0 triumph over Bradford in the League One final 10 days ago.
The former Pompey favourite has an uncertain ongoing presence at Wolves as he strives to prove his worth in the second tier of the Football League.
Encouragingly, the Lions are keen to recruit him on a permanent deal following another impressive loan spell.
By all accounts, there’s also other Championship interest in the 23-year-old who initially made his name at Fratton Park.
Wallace lined-up on the right-hand side of Neil Harris’ team in the play-off final settled by Steve Morrison in the 85th minute.
It represented a prized winners’ medal on his first appearance at the home of football.
Today, Huddersfield and Reading battle it out for Wembley supremacy to clinch a place in the Premier League next term.
Similarly, Wallace is hoping his triumph can lead to exciting times.
He told The News: ‘You’d have to say promotion at Wembley is the best way to do it, especially with a late goal!
‘I was on loan at Millwall the previous season and missed out on the play-offs because Wolves recalled me. The lads then lost in the final to Barnsley.
‘So to be part of those unbelievable scenes a year later was incredible, especially with a such a close-knit group.
‘I had loan offers to join two of what would prove to be three relegated Championship sides, but I needed to play and knew that would happen at Millwall.
‘As a player, all you need is an opportunity and I haven’t really had that at Wolves. As a result, it has been hard to get momentum and consistency.
‘I’ve always been rough around the edges, full of energy, never the best player but able to make things happen. I am not one that suits playing one in every 10 games,
‘My aim was by the end of this season ensuring I can play Championship football – hopefully that will now happen.
‘At the moment I am not sure what my future holds. I’ll be back at Wolves for pre-season training as usual.
‘But I’ve had a fantastic time at Millwall and the formation suits me better. We usually play a 4-4-2 with me on the right wing, our game based on defending and hitting on the counter attack, which really works for us.
‘At Pompey, the 3-5-2 also brought the best out in me, allowing me to run around and be out of position.
‘Mind you, I’m currently looking at my promotion medal, so I’m not too bothered about my personal stats!’
Since joining Wolves in May 2015 in a deal worth around £800,000, Wallace has endured periods of frustration.
The subsequent two seasons have yielded only 18 Championship appearances, with the bulk of his time spent on loan elsewhere.
Millwall offered regular first-team football during the second half of last term, with 14 appearances and one goal.
Such was the level of Wallace’s performances, he returned to Molineux to play four times before the season’s end.
This term, the midfielder turned out 13 times by mid-November, but fell out of favour before a January loan switch to Millwall.
Once more he thrived at The Den, playing a key role in their surge into sixth spot to clinch a play-off presence in the season’s showpiece finale.
And having seen off Scunthorpe 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final, a date with Bradford was booked.
Wallace added: ‘We are not the best team but you have to be good to beat us because we are so hard to play against.
‘It’s like Wycombe in League Two, they are difficult to beat but not the best.
‘If you have beaten them then you’ve done well.
‘For me, the best squads in League One were Sheffield United, Bolton, Bradford and ourselves, by a mile. We were hoping to get Fleetwood in the final – definitely not Bradford!
‘The thing about Millwall is it suits me, it is all about action, I get on top of people, I run at them.
‘At Wembley I had a quiet first half, but came alive in the second and should have scored with a one-on-one in the second half, only to fluff my lines.
‘Probably half my problem was I didn’t think about it, I rushed it a little and missed my bearings where the guy was. Then I came off in the 89th minute with cramp.
‘But we managed to win the game, which I will definitely take.
‘To feature at Wembley was class – and in a season in which I also played at St James’ Park, which was incredible.
‘Matt Ritchie left Bournemouth for Newcastle last summer and now I know why! I was in the Wolves team which played there in the EFL Cup in front of 34,735 fans.
‘The previous week we won there 2-0 in the Championship, in front of 52,117.’
On the Sunday morning following the Wembley triumph, Wallace joined members of the Millwall squad which flew to Marbella for celebrations.
For the winner of the 2015 The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season, that epitomises the best dressing room spirit he has ever experienced.
He said; ‘We kept it quite calm on Saturday night after the Wembley win as 10 of us were heading to Marbella the morning after.
‘There were also eight of the lads who went to Vegas together.
‘This is the best changing room I’ve ever come across, loads of the lads live together and hang around with each other.
‘When you see these teams sign seven players and four different nationalities it takes time for them to fit in, it’s only natural.
‘At Millwall there’s such an incredibly close-knit bunch.’