‘Millwall DNA is in my blood’ – Neil Harris on being “a different coach’ after making Den return this week


Neil Harris’ unbreakable bond with Millwall meant that he was never going to turn down the chance of a return to The Den – even if their Championship status is perilous.

The Lions’ all-time record goalscorer, 46, was appointed as head coach on Wednesday after Joe Edwards was sacked after just 19 matches at the helm.

Harris won promotion as Millwall manager from League One in 2017 and they went close to reaching the Championship play-offs the following season after a 17-game unbeaten run.

The former striker also brought in some of the best value-for-money signings in the club’s recent history during his tenure – with the likes of Jake Cooper, Shaun Hutchinson, Ryan Leonard, Tom Bradshaw, George Saville and Bart Bialkowski all still on the playing staff.

“Millwall DNA is in my blood,” Harris told the South London Press. “I have been employed by the football club for 17 years.

“I see my job, when I recruit the players, to recognise if they have the attributes to play for the football club. Will fans want to see those players on the pitch?

Gillingham v AFC Wimbledon SkyBet League Two, MEMS Priestfield Stadium, 25 February 2023
Picture : Keith Gillard

“You can’t get every one of those right but my job is to get the majority right. I don’t just need to coach them how I want them to play  – it’s what is expected from a Millwall player, to be loved by the fanbase and have longevity.

“When I walked in on Thursday I saw six, seven or eight players I gave debuts to – maybe more than that – which is a real positive.

“I’m the same person who left almost five years ago but I’m a different manager or head coach. I’ve learned a lot – tactically and technically. The players that I signed, and gave debuts to, they will be different players as well. I understand that and have to appreciate their attributes – what they can’t do also – and mould that into a team.

“I also look forward to working with the players that have been signed since I left and helping them become better players.”

Harris starts life back in the Millwall dugout at Southampton tomorrow.

Picture: Paul Edwards

But rectifying their poor home form – they have six matches left in SE16 – will be imperative to staying clear of the bottom three.

“The Den is everything pivotal to Millwall Football Club,” said Harris. “It always has been and always will be – whether that is the new Den or the old Den.

“It is a ferocious place to play and an intimidating environment when the home team are on it and the fans  and players are connected.

“It’s my job to bring that together again – as I had in four-and-a-half seasons as a manager.

“We need that. The players need he support – but we also have to appreciate it is down to me and the team to give them something to cheer about.

“I know the fanbase is going to be excited – I’m not making any promises about what we will achieve over the next two months or the next 15 months. It is about building – and needing to build quickly.

“It is about me reproducing the Millwall identity because that is what the fanbase want to see.

“I know what that is and I’ve just got to get the message to the players quickly.

“I want the fans to come and enjoy it again – to look forward to watching their team and meeting their mates before they come to the game. I want them to bring their families and have a connection to individual players – to enjoy and be excited by watching them.

“When we are in the tough games and have our backs to the walls, it is the fans that get the team through it and encourage us to grind out a result.”


The former Chelsea and Everton coach has won four of his opening 19 matches in all competitions with 11 defeats. A win percentage of 21.

Amassed 196 games in charge and was the Championship’s second-longest serving boss when he stepped down in October. His win percentage was 38.8.

First to win promotion as a player and boss of the Lions and had 245 games at the helm – discounting his three previously as caretaker. Collected 102 victories and left with win percentage of 41.6.

By the time he was sacked in March 2015 the South London club were eight points adrift of safety in the Championship – win percentage of 22.6 from his 62 matches.

Took Millwall to an FA Cup semi-final and won promotion via the League One play-offs in 2010 – win percentage of 42.3 from his 307 games.

His West Ham links already made this a terribly misjudged appointment. Lasted just 24 matches and had a win percentage of 25.

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