Millwall will survive in their Championship relegation fight – and it will be all down to Neil Harris

4 min

After consistently finishing in the top half of the Championship for the past four years, it’s safe to say this season has been a disaster for Millwall.

With just eight games remaining, the Lions find themselves in a relegation battle, lying 16th in the table and just four points above the dropzone.

Much of this season’s troubles can be traced back to something of an identity crisis, as tried-and-tested Gary Rowett was replaced with Joe Edwards in November – a move that was ultimately a short-lived failure.

While Edwards’ approach of an exciting, attacking brand of football was admirable, losing 11 of 19 matches was a concern that could not be ignored as the Lions slipped down the table.

With the 37-year-old becoming the first Millwall manager to be sacked since March 2015, the club’s hierarchy turned to a familiar old face in Neil Harris to get the side out of the mire.

Harris’ return to the club last month, just over four years after resigning as Lions’ boss, has so far been nothing short of genius, having seen the side claim an impressive 10 points from his opening four matches in charge.

An opening 2-1 away win at high-flying Southampton was followed by a homecoming victory over Watford, a point at Blackburn and a crucial, last-gasp home win over fellow strugglers Birmingham City.

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

The final game ahead of the international break, away to top-of-the-table Leeds United may have resulted in a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Elland Road but even that performance showed hints of the old, resilient and stubborn Millwall that appeared to have been lost under Edwards.

After the Leeds game, Harris didn’t even consider the thoughts of relegation in his post-match press conference – instead, referencing the club’s recent good form.

It was not done in a dismissive way, but more a display of confidence and a no fear approach that seeps down into the team, one that is together and revelling in the return to the underdog spirit of ‘The Millwall Way.’

Harris is very much Millwall through and through and as much as a fan of the club as a manager can be, which comes across in the way he speaks.

It’s very much ‘his’ team and there is a general feeling that the 46-year-old has unfinished business from his first spell in charge at The Den.

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

Within the space of a month, Harris has diffused any panic swirling around SE16 with points on the board and, just as crucially, a cushion of six teams between Millwall and the bottom three.

Based on the form of both Millwall and those teams below them, a projected final points total of 52 points (if the current return of 1.5 points per game continues) mean the likes of Huddersfield Town (22nd) and Birmingham City (21st) will need four wins from eight to even match that total.

While survival isn’t won on paper, a repeat of the 1995/96 campaign and the disastrous form which saw the side relegated on the final day having led the Old First Division just five months earlier, seems unlikely.

Going into the final eight games, Millwall are the most in-form side among the relegation candidates and, while there are no easy matches, four of their last eight are against teams in the same sort of position, or below them, in the table. 

The run-in opens with a home clash against promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion before crucial concurrent away games against Rotherham and Huddersfield should provide a platform for Championship safety.

Navigate these with minimum damage combined with games against mid-table sides Cardiff and Sunderland and Harris should be able to comfortably plan for another Championship season well before the final home game of the season against Plymouth.

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