By Richard Cawley
Neil Harris has admitted he would be disappointed if Millwall did not make the Championship play-offs – but that it would be no reflection on the achievements of his team this season.
The Lions made it 15 league matches unbeaten with a 2-0 victory over Bristol City on Saturday.
It leaves them a point behind Middlesbrough – who they still have to face away – and next up is a trip to struggling Bolton. Wanderers won automatic promotion last season from League One, the Lions just squeaking into the play-offs – but now the South Londoners are 26 points ahead of Phil Parkinson’s side.
Asked if he would be disappointed if Millwall did not make it into the top-six, Harris replied: “Yeah, of course – because I love winning. But it’s a different feeling. Middlesbrough, Derby, Bristol City and Brentford think they should be in the play-offs. Villa and Fulham fans expect themselves to win promotion. We don’t expect anything.
“All I expect from my players is a desire and work ethic – if that carries us far enough then it carries us far enough.
“What I do know is that if we did get in there, then we’d be a tough team to stop because it would be our third year in a row.
“I was there on Tuesday and they were very unlucky to lose the game.
“We don’t care who we play, we just roll onto the next game. I’ve got a dressing room who are loving what they are doing.
“We have got everything to gain and very little to lose. We’ve had a terrific season, we’re in a great position and we have ruffled the feathers of a lot of big clubs and we’re enjoying it. I’m enjoying managing the group.
“We look at Bolton on Tuesday, it now becomes the biggest game because if we get three points then we really are in business.
“Bolton attack it in a different way, they need the points because they have got Barnsley breathing down their necks.
“Right from the minutes’ applause the fans were outstanding. They appreciate the way we play, they buy into the way I want to do it. We’re not always going to have the ball. They don’t want to see 60 back passes and 60 square balls between centre-backs in a game – they want to see it go forward. And if you want to see it go forward then you’re not going to have the ball at times.
“The chemistry between the fanbase and the pitch today was evident.
“I spoke to Tony Craig, my ex-captain who left in January for Bristol Rovers. He said ‘Chopper, the difference between League One and the Championship is massive’. It got me thinking, it took us a while to adapt. But when we did adapt, weweren’t consistent enough.
“It took us the first three or four months to adapt in small steps. Now we have the consistency. The gulfs between the divisions are huge, absolutely huge – at all levels now.
“We’re surprising a lot of teams now.”
Millwall’s 2000-01 Second Division title-winning squad were at The Den as part of the Dockers Day celebrations.
Harris said: “Good players sitting in the stand, wasn’t there? I saw them before the game and I’ll see them again afterwards. They’d have enjoyed that performance. It was great that Mark McGhee, my old manager was there to see that. I’m sure he’ll have been proud of me.
“They’ll certainly have been proud to see Timmy [Cahill] on the pitch.”
Asked if the current crop could be heralded in the same way, Harris replied: “Quite possibly. For what we achieved last year sets them on a pedestal already, to a certain degree – winning promotion at Wembley and getting to the FA Cup quarter-final.
‘People take note of success. We’re succeeding at the moment way and above what we anticipated and we’re hungry for more.”
“I don’t think there is expectation. All the fans expect – like me – is for the players to give their all. All I say to the players is ‘you play to the best of your ability with the positive attitude and work ethic I demand’, that’s all I can ask of them. If we get beaten, we get beaten – it has been a long time since we have.”
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