‘It will be emotional’ – Neil Harris on return to The Den as boss – and expects fans to radiate positivity to players


Neil Harris is relishing his first match back in the Den dugout tomorrow as Millwall head coach.

The 46-year-old’s last home game as Lions boss in his previous spell was a derby defeat to QPR in September 2019.

Harris’ return to the Championship club last week – succeeding Joe Edwards – drew an immediate impact as the South Londoners, backed by nearly 3,000 travelling fans, won 2-1 at Southampton on Saturday.

Harris, the club’s all-time record goalscorer, is bound to get a rapturous reception at tomorrow’s match against Watford in SE16.

“I’ve had debuts at The Den – like when I first signed as a 20-year-old,” the Lions boss told the South London Press. “I returned in my second spell as a player and then had my first game as interim manager followed by my first game as permanent manager.

“I’ve had some unbelievable games that I’ve played and coached at The Den – in fantastic atmospheres and they were a huge success.

“It is a unique and special place, but you have to go about your business in the correct manner as a Millwall team – that’s my challenge to my players at the weekend. I want us to be a really strong, aggressive Millwall team.

“I will ask the players to do that and see if they can do it.

“It’s going to be a special day for me. I’m very, very excited by it. I need to make sure we control the emotion, because it’s going to be emotional for a lot of people.

“The fans are going to come and support me, get behind the players. I want everyone to turn up with a positivity to support the team. Then it is down to us to perform.

“My wife and my children will come. My mum and my sister will be there.

They were at all home games when I played and when I coached they were there as well. That won’t change. They have always followed my career and they’ll certainly look forward to the occasion on Saturday.

“Yes, it’s my first game back as head coach but it is about the team, the football club and the result. I’m really clear about what my job is in the short, medium and long term – I call the long term about six to 12 months at the moment.

“My job is to galvanise the football club and galvanise the fanbase to want to support their team.

“We made a really positive start at the weekend and I want to continue that. I want The Den rocking on Saturday. I want that fear factor in the opponent, because the noise is so strong, and also for them to carry us when that is needed.

“I want my players to embrace it. There won’t be any fear in my group at the weekend. They will go out and enjoy themselves – on the front foot. If you do that as a Millwall player, or a Millwall individual, then you’ve got one hell of a chance of winning a game of football at The Den.”

Japhet Tanganga scored his first senior goal in the victory over Southampton with Zian Flemming’s spot-kick restored the Lions’ lead after Che Adams had equalised.

But Harris was also quick to praise keeper Matija Sarkic for his late stop to deny Adam Armstrong.

“There is no difference between Zian Flemming’s penalty to Matty’s save – both are as important and help us win the game,” said Harris.

“They are big moments in a game that just build that belief and confidence in an individual. That then gives confidence to the group, which then gives confidence to the football club.

“Matty’s kicking was excellent and his decision-making was good.

“From when I walked into the building every player goes back to start at zero. I only picked the 11 who I thought could do the job. And I’ll do the same for this game.

“Every player will get the same confidence, support and guidance from me while they are here.

“My message to Matty was just to go out and play – be yourself. He did. That is the level of performance he has set after one game under me. I hope he can keep raising those standards game after game.”

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