By Richard Cawley
Neil Harris celebrated three years in charge of Millwall on Saturday and admitted: “There are plenty of ways we can still improve.”
The 40-year-old – the Lions’ all-time record goalscorer – took caretaker charge on March 10 2015 as the South London club’s hopes of staying in the Championship were all but over.
Since then Harris has led Millwall to two League One play-off finals – going up in May – as well as the last eight of the FA Cup last season. This term they have easily clinched safety in the Championship, despite operating on one of the smallest budgets in the division, with an 11-game unbeaten run building hope of gatecrashing the play-offs.
“The three years have been a whirlwind,” said Harris, who missed out on February’s Manager of the Month to Neil Warnock. “Highs and lows, I’d say many more highs than lows.
“I look at us as very much still a work in progress. When I took over we had to completely transform the squad – we did it in the first summer transfer window. We had 19 players out of contract, young and old.
“We made some real tough, important calls and gave players a pathway to come through. Those players did not look back.
“We set our stall out early, what we were going to do. I wanted a hungry Millwall side that epitomised the football club and fanbase – everything it stands for.
“The success we have had along the way is testament to the squad we have built.
“Yes, we are not the most fluent of football sides – we don’t play the most pure of games. But we play like a Millwall team. That was the aim when I took over – to build a Millwall team that was sustainable within budgets and that the fans could be proud of. We’ve certainly got that at the moment.
“I still think we can be better. I still think there are elements of our game and football club that I would like to improve. But we have always done it with small steps. We’ve never run before we can walk.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the three years working with the chairman [John Berylson] and two excellent CEOs. Andy Ambler was great for me as young manager coming through, I could lean on his experience. Now I’ve got Steve Kavanagh, who is a fantastic man and really supportive.
“The chairman has been here a long time. He is probably one of the most stable chairmen in football. He has had highs and lows but at the moment is thoroughly enjoying his role.
“My aim, as much as it is getting results, is to make sure the chairman enjoys his time at the football club. The fans are turning out in huge numbers – the best crowds we have for a lot of years to watch their team home and away.
“The chairman is in England every few weeks to watch.”