STUDENT NEIL STEPS IN TO TRY TO RESCUE HIS LIONS
MILLWALL hero Neil Harris has promised to give his all to help the Lions avoid the drop to League One – but stopped short of saying it was realistic.
The 37-year-old former striker has taken over as caretaker boss at the Den after Ian Holloway was axed.
Harris scored 138 goals during his playing days at Millwall and has been coaching the U21 side.
But with nine games left, the Lions are firmly in the relegation zone and have not won at home since October.
“There are no promises we’ll get out of trouble, but I’ll give it my all,” said Harris, who refused to be drawn on his long-term future.
“We’ve left it really open. We’ve not set a definite period on how long I’ll be in charge. We’ll assess it in the summer.
“Football is crazy sometimes. I’ve learnt so much from Olly in the last 12 months, but I find myself in this position because we’re struggling in the league.
“Results haven’t gone as we had planned, but there’s a lot to play for – a lot to be excited about.”
One area Harris admits he will be looking to improve is goals – prior to the weekend the Lions had managed just 31 in the Championship.
But Harris sees no reason to panic, and backed Lee Gregory to deliver.
“Gregory’s been unlucky he hasn’t got more goals,” he said. “There’s not a lot more he needs to do, I believe in him, there are a lot of similarities between him and myself when I first came here.”
MAYBE Neil Harris can pull off a miracle. Maybe Fulham or Rotherham will collapse. Maybe the men in blue shirts will overcome their crippling fear of The Den.
But let’s be honest – it is incredibly difficult to imagine Millwall as anything but a League One side next season. And that could be no bad thing. The Lions have been grinding to a halt for a couple of years now, treading water in a division where the biggest hitters get richer every year.
Like Barnsley before them, their resources allow only a frantic root around the lower leagues for untested prospects or ageing stalwarts that betterfinanced teams left behind.
The deep frustration of Millwall’s fans is understandable. As a (lapsed) Newcastle fan, I remember well the stagnation that followed Bobby Robson’s departure in 2004. Five years of inching down the table. Five years of miserable grinding. Every season over by February.
But with relegation to the Championship came reinvigoration. One win a month became five in a row. Players bereft of confidence started strutting around like Ronaldo. And fans used to grumbling remembered how it felt to watch a winning side.
Belief surged back. United’s first home game back in the top-flight was a 6-0 demolition of Aston Villa, a result unthinkable just two years earlier.
Of course, Millwall do not possess a fraction of Newcastle’s resources. But the power of momentum should not be underestimated.
Unlike Wigan, the Lions aren’t saddled with a monster wage bill. The transition to League One should be relatively painless. Rebuilding will take time, but at least they can do it in a division where competing for the best players isn’t a pipe dream.
And if they can start winning, they will return a far more dangerous beast.
That’s surely better than an annual, confidence-sapping slog to scrape 21st place?