BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Neil Harris is not betting against Millwall legend Tim Cahill putting himself in exalted World Cup company by scoring at a fourth World Cup finals.
The experienced striker, 38, is part of Australia’s World Cup squad – along with Lions team-mate James Meredith – and is set to play some part against France in their Group C opener on Saturday.
Only three players have scored in four successive finals tournaments – Brazilian icon Pele and German duo Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose.
Cahill has netted in his previous three and will aim to add another tournament to the list with Australia also facing Denmark and Peru in Russia.
Millwall manager Harris said: “Would you put it past him? I certainly wouldn’t. Timmy is a massive part of the squad, his leadership and experience are vital.
“He’s got the ability to pop up with a goal, whether that is as a starter or as a sub. To have Timmy in the squad is certainly beneficial to the Australia national side.”
Left-back Meredith, 30, did not feature in the Socceroos’ final warm-up game – a 2-1 victory over Hungary on Saturday.
“It’s a shame because I was hoping he would get some minutes,” said Harris. “I’ve talked to him and I know he is training really hard.
“It was a magnificent achievement to make the squad and travel.
“Representing your nation at a World Cup and playing against a side of the calibre of France is great.
“They are in a group which gives them the potential to try and get second place, I know that’s their aim. They’ll try and get at least four points to get out of the group.
“It’s not just about these boys being involved on a match day – it is the build-up with the press and media attention back home and across the whole of Asia.
“To be part of that group is a great lifeskill. Timmy has done it many times and it is a learning curve for Mezza, it will set him in good stead for the rest of his career and a future in coaching.”
Meredith was released by Derby in 2007 and opted to join non-league York City after a switch to Shrewsbury Town failed to work out.
His form over five seasons at Bradford promoted Millwall to snap him up on a free last summer.
Harris said: “Just because it has come later for James doesn’t mean he appreciates it any more than Timmy.
“Mezza’s story [dropping into non-league football following his release by Derby] is one that shows players in Australia, Asia or England that if it doesn’t happen straight away then stick at it. Sometimes you have to fight your way back.
“Every time a player goes away on international duty they tend to come back better – very seldom have I sent them return disappointed, angry or in bad form. It is a real positive for us.
“Mezza will come back in July, later than the other players, in a really great frame of mind, fresh and ready to go.
“Shaun Williams, who made his debut for Ireland, will also come back in a great position.
“I fully support international duty, it just adds another string to the bow of players.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.