Neil Harris’ Millwall homecoming is a much-needed backwards step in their Championship relegation fight

3 min

At the start of the season, no-one could have envisaged Neil Harris would return to Millwall as manager – just over four years after resigning as Lions’ boss.

But as the 46-year-old gets set to return to the home dugout for the first time against Watford, the ‘new old boss’ will undoubtedly receive a warm homecoming befitting of a club legend.

It will be a moment of celebration in a campaign which has left Millwall fans exasperated as the side, who agonisingly missed out on the Play-Off places on the final day of last season, teeter on the brink of relegation.

Two wins from the final nine games not only cost Millwall a place in the end-of-season promotion lottery last season but ultimately lost Gary Rowett his job as the hangover from the final day Blackburn defeat spilled over into this campaign.

With Rowett’s three-year promotion plan left in tatters alongside an ageing squad and an indifferent start to this term, a change of direction and approach was sought with Joe Edwards taking the reins in November.

Edwards arrival came with mixed emotions, Millwall fans excited to embrace the vision of an exciting, attacking brand of football but also concerned it was the 37-year-old’s first major role in senior football.

READ MORE: How ‘Millwall on the Screen’ documentary challenges what it means to “support, or care, about the club”

And after losing 11 of 19 matches in charge, including a 2-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday, Edwards became the first Millwall manager to be sacked since March 2015 when Ian Holloway’s contract was terminated. 

While the timing of the dismissal is frustrating, less than three weeks after the January transfer window, it was clearly a project that wasn’t working with Harris’ appointment reinforcing a return to ‘The Millwall Way’ – a defensive set-up that stifles opposition and poses a threat on the counter. 

It’s a style that is not only suitable to the predicament Millwall find themselves in but one that already appears to be paying dividends – Millwall starting life under Harris with an impressive 2-1 win at Southampton having had less than 20% possession.

Harris’ appointment on an 18-month deal can be seen as a step backwards in order to go forwards and even if the worst case scenario of relegation happened, he already has previous experience of navigating a Millwall side out of League One. 

However, if Millwall are to survive, Harris will have to make The Den a fortress once again – the Lions currently second bottom in the home form table, accruing just 16 points from 17 games.

It’s in stark contrast to the previous two seasons where they claimed 39 points from 23 home games during the 2022/23 campaign (joint seventh best in the Championship) and 45 from 23 during 2021/22 – only bettered by promoted Fulham and AFC Bournemouth.

Harris isn’t a Millwall legend as both a player and manager for nothing though – he knows the DNA of both the club and fans inside out, so if anyone can quickly turn the tide in their favour, it’s him.

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