Midfielder Shaun Williams has expressed his shock at Neil Harris’ departure from Millwall – admitting he thought it was a wind-up.
The Lions announced last Thursday that the 42-year-old had resigned as manager.
Williams, 32, said: “We only found out when it was released on Thursday evening.
“One of the lads put a screenshot of the news on our group chat and I thought it was a p***take. I thought someone was messing. I had to go and check.
“None of us got a sniff of what was actually going on.
“I spoke to him Thursday night – we had a good chat on the phone – and then I spoke to him on Friday when he was here [to say his goodbyes]. It was weird seeing him when he wasn’t the manager anymore.
“It was a strange feeling on Friday. He seemed at ease with his decision. He just wanted the best for the club.”
Harris packed plenty into his four-and-a-half years in the Den hotseat. Two League One play-off finals at Wembley – the second successful against Bradford City – and finishing eighth in the Championship.
There were also the two FA Cup quarter-finals, the standout one being in 2016-17 with the peak moment in that run a 1-0 victory over reigning Premier League champions Leicester City.
“Incredible,” was Williams’ initial one-word response when asked about Harris’ time in charge.
“The things you have mentioned there are all massive achievements, especially being his first job.
“You forget he was only a manager for four-and-a-half years, so all that he has achieved is unbelievable success in my eyes, because there aren’t many who do that straight away. He was a legend at the club already.
“I think his decision for leaving is that he wanted the club to progress, he wanted the best for it and the players. He was just a fantastic fella.”
Williams reckons one of Harris’ biggest strengths was his man-management.
“I’ve had family issues throughout his time here and he has never once not picked up the phone,” he said.
“He has always been there to help. You hear stories of where you are in every single day and if you need to take your child to an appointment then you wouldn’t be allowed. But the gaffer always gave you that, he has kids himself and realises what it is like.
“He was a nice person.”
The question of who follows Harris will become clearer in the coming days.
Caretaker boss Adam Barrett kicked off with a victory on Saturday as Leeds’ awful record at The Den continued.
“Whoever comes in – or if Adam stays – they’ll have their own philosophies,” said Williams. “Everyone has got to buy into that, because football goes on.
“You can’t dwell on the past – you’ve got to keep moving with the future.
“I know whoever does get it then everybody will be behind them. It will be no different.
“Neil recruited really well – great personalities in the dressing room. Everyone gets on well. We’re all striving in the same direction.”
Williams is in the final year of his Millwall contract. He has started six of their opening 11 matches with three of his four 90-minute appearances coming right at the start of the campaign.
He played the full game at Huddersfield but was an unused sub for Harris’ final fixture – the 1-1 draw at Luton Town.
“I’m not getting any younger. When I spoke to the gaffer at the start of the season he said that minutes may be limited.
“I feel like I’ve done okay. I’d rather have played more consecutive games, but the Fulham game is the only one we’ve lost that I’ve played in.
“It’s about me trying to help the team. I’ve played nearly 250 games for the club. My experience alone will help the lads through it.”
PICTURE BY BRIAN TONKS