MILLWALL were more than willing to allow Sunderland to train at their training complex in preparation for last season's play-off battle with Crystal Palace.

But, despite being grateful to the club where he took his first steps in management, Black Cats boss Mick McCarthy will be in no mood to return any favours when the Lions make the trip to the Championship's North-East outpost this afternoon.

McCarthy insists he could not have wished for a better welcome from a club notorious for dishing out hostile receptions, when Sunderand used Millwall's facilities in May.

And McCarthy claims he has always maintained a fine working relationship with opposite number Dennis Wise, a man with a tough exterior whom you would expect to see throwing grenades against a rubber wall.

Millwall need to pick up three points from Wearside today to climb into the play-off zone but Sunderland know victory is a must on home soil after failing to record a win in their last outing against Derby at the Stadium of Light.

"I played and managed Millwall and it's a nice and handy place for a trip to Palace," said McCarthy, whose side failed to win any of their three encounters with Millwall last season, including an FA Cup semi-final defeat at Old Trafford.

"Everything was set up for us down there. The drinks, food and everything was spot on for us. I appreciated it and I thought it was a nice gesture.

"We have both made big changes to the squad since then. We got to the play-offs and they got to the Cup final. But it's not a question of revenge for them putting us out of the Cup, it's just that we want to win the game.

"The notion of revenge will have crossed a few minds but it will be a difficult game. They are difficult to break down.

"I have a lot of time for Dennis and he had a terrific first season in charge down there. I have a lot of time for him.

"As a player he was a great competitor and you know what you are going to get out of him. His teams play the same way."

With centre-back Gary Breen serving the second of a three game suspension and full-back George McCartney back from Northern Ireland duty with hamstring trouble, new signing Danny Collins may be thrust straight into action.

McCarthy does have other options but the Sunderland boss claims the arrival of defender Collins from Chester City in midweek has given his squad more balance.

"Danny is a left footer and gives us good pace," said McCarthy, whose side have not tasted defeat at home so far this season. "Danny can play left-back as well so that's useful and will be a good addition. We had good balance last season with Babb and we lost that when he went.

"But Danny's only young and my thoughts are to plan for a few seasons. He's another one who is young, ambitious and with a point to prove."

Midfielder Sean Thornton, attracting interest from Leeds United, is also back in McCarthy's plans for the time being at least. Themidfielder has apologised for his agent's claims that he wanted a move, but a groin injury should keep him out today.

McCarthy explained: "He came to see me and apologised for what's in the papers and has got his head down in training. If someone rang me to discuss a transfer I will discuss it.

"He told me he had nothing to with it. He will be ready for selection."

Strikers Marcus Stewart (thigh), Stephen Elliott (groin) and Michael Bridges are all battling for the front two positions with Simon Johnson and Chris Brown.

But McCarthy warned the supporters not to expect too much from Bridges just yet. He said; "I don't want to risk him unnecessarily he will be only involved if he's fit to play."

* Cardiff City are expected to complete the permanent signing of Sunderland's Darren Williams next week, when his loan deal expires.

The versatile Williams has been impressing for the Bluebirds at centre-back in the Championship and manager Lennie Lawrence is keen to sign him on a long term deal.

Read more about Sunderland here.