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POTY Murray ‘Mountain’ Wallace is summit special – and his dedication to training saw him rope his partner in during lockdown

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The Shamen once sang that they could Move Any Mountain, but they clearly had never contested a 50-50 challenge with Murray Wallace at The Den.

The 29-year-old Scottish defender has been rock solid this season and was named Millwall Supporters’ Club Player of the Season last weekend.

Wallace has had an impact at both ends of the pitch. He has scored six goals this season including coming close to a first ever senior hat-trick in the EFL Cup against Cambridge.

Bart Bialkowski had won the award in the previous two seasons but had to settle for third on this occasion with right wing-back Danny McNamara voted runner up.

Wallace was signed by Neil Harris in the summer of 2018 from Scunthorpe United and has seen his popularity with the fans snowball, quietly, effectively and efficiently going about his job.

“I came to meet him [Harris] and discuss the move,” Wallace, who has played 143 times for the Lions,   told the South London Press. “He was quite honest. I think there was a bit of interest in Jake Cooper that year and he said he didn’t know if Jake was still going to be there.

“If not, he said that ideally I could slot in and be a decent replacement. But he also said he had seen me play as a left-back as well as a left-sided centre-back, so I was very much in his plans either way.

“That was key for me, knowing I had that opportunity to play straight away. I knew Millwall had enjoyed a great season before I joined and that it was going to be hard to break in initially after the team had performed so well.

“What I liked about him [Harris] was that he was honest and told you how it was. It is lovely to hear nice things, but if it is not the truth then quickly it wears off.

“It took a little while to settle in and get to my regular, consistent self. I feel honoured to get this award because it shows the fans really appreciate my performances and my hard work. This feels like a reward for that.”

Wallace’s fitness is one of his strengths and he even roped his partner Nicole, the pair tie the knot this summer, into his training during the first lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I don’t live too far from the training ground,” he explained. “I went there to do a run around the training pitch and it was getting a bit repetitive and tedious. I just missed playing a bit of football. I asked my missus if she minded coming along and chucking and crossing some balls into the box. I didn’t even know if she could kick the ball!

“I didn’t realise but there were some cameras at the training ground that caught her crossing some balls. That’s how word got out, I was too embarrassed after that to bring her back down again!”

One of Wallace’s goals this season has special significance – his 73rd-minute header from Scott Malone’s cross in the 2-1 win over Cardiff in February.

It was the first game that his son Rory, now 15 weeks old, had attended.

“I think he was asleep through it all, so he wouldn’t have taken too much in,” said Wallace. “It was nice to mark it that way. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

“I said to Nicole: ‘If I score, I’ve got to either do sucking the thumb or rock the baby’. But I just get too excited and run away to celebrate.

“The partners have a family box down to the left [in the Cold Blow Lane Stand], I did remember to run in his direction at least.”

It’s a sign of Wallace’s modesty and understated nature that he says he was “a little bit surprised” to win   his award.

“Bart has been putting in unbelievable performances week in and week out for the past three seasons,” said the Millwall defender.

“He had won the award the last two seasons, rightly so, and was in the running again this season. He performs at such a high level.

“And Danny has worked his way through the ranks, going out on loan a couple of times and every time coming back a better player. He is improving week in and week out with his maturity and reading of the game. Millwall have got a really bright future with him.”

Wallace has been capped four times by his country at U21 level but  a senior call-up has eluded him.

The former Rangers trainee has been playing his football south of the border since 2012.

“That [international recognition] would be amazing but I’ve never really heard any word from them,” said Wallace. “I’m always hopeful but if it is not meant to be then it’s not meant to be.

“I’ll keep working hard and fingers crossed that call comes one day.”

A gusto for grafting is a Wallace trademark. Where does that come from?

“It’s probably just from my upbringing,” he responded. “You get your rewards from working hard, nothing that is worth anything comes easy. You can’t go wrong with that approach.”

Millwall still have a chance to claim a play-off place going into the final day of the season, at a Bournemouth side who have hopefully partied hard since sealing their promotion on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest.

Only Fulham (46) have taken more points at home than the Lions (45) – although the Cherries can leapfrog them with a victory this weekend.

Wallace feels to even be in with a sniff of the top six is a big achievement. He said: “As a group we strive to improve on performances and results every season.

“We’re on 69 points, which is already seven better than the one before. In that respect it has been an improved season.”

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