Millwall boss Harris reveals what attribute made Jimmy Abdou the “first name on Lions teamsheet”

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

Neil Harris reckons Jimmy Abdou was one of the best decision-makers he worked with at Millwall.

The 34-year-old has headed back to hometown club Martigues this summer but is rewarded for a decade of service to the Lions with a testimonial match against VfL Bochum today.

Harris was a team-mate of Abdou’s but more recently was in charge of the South London club.

He brought the midfielder back into his starting line up for the crunch game at Bristol Rovers in April 2017 – Millwall would have missed out on the League One play-offs if they had not triumphed at The Memorial Stadium.

Abdou performed his duties with the minimum of fuss and then kept his place for the next three fixtures, culminating in the 1-0 win over Bradford City at Wembley.

The Frenchman, capped 16 times by Comoros, had hardly featured earlier in the 2016-17 campaign.

“He wasn’t one who banged the door down,” said Harris. “He just went about his training regime with total respect and character.

“The best reference I can give him? He’s a great man. He is a huge family man with good values. He is certainly one of the best professionals I have played with during my career. He was a player who was an unsung hero – but who I loved playing with.

“He is probably the player who made the best decisions without the ball that I came across in my career – when to press and when not to press.

“Kenny [Jackett] used to say to him: ‘You might be marking two players today but there is only one football and one Jimmy Abdou. He could mark two players at the same time. Not just because of his decision making but also his legs and heart he provided.

“I remember his goal in the play-off semi-final at Leeds United [in May 2009] which got us to Wembley. That was a huge turning point in the tie. He had that experience of big games.

“We had faltered a little at home to Oxford [in the penultimate match of the 2016-17 season] and I felt I needed to go with older, senior lads at Bristol Rovers to get the job done.

“I asked Jimmy: ‘How do you feel? Are you ready to play?’ He said: ‘No problem – I’m always ready’. He didn’t put a foot wrong for four games. That was the mark of his professionalism and hunger to succeed. It shows the value he had in the dressing room.

“He wore the kit with pride and always gave 100 per cent. Jimmy made the most of his capabilities. He wanted to play with passion, energy and the mentality of a winner – everything that fans love to see in a player.

“He was not the most talented footballer on the pitch but for a hell of a lot of his career he would be the first name on the teamsheet.

“Under Kenny, Ollie [Ian Holloway], Steve [Lomas] and myself, Jimmy was an integral part of how the team played.

“If you talk to a dozen midfield players who were here and asked who was the best you played alongside then they’d say Jimmy Abdou.

“He allowed everyone else to do what they wanted to do. Jimmy had the attributes that every manager wants – living up to the motto that the team came first. He won Player of the Year here twice and that is a huge achievement.

“He led by example, not always by voice.”

PICTURES BY BRIAN TONKS


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