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Harris stresses importance of backroom staff

The boss continues to review 2017/18...

25 May 2018

"It's not just about who scored a goal on a Saturday afternoon."

Millwall boss Neil Harris has given an insight into the meticulous preparation that goes into planning a matchday in the Sky Bet Championship.

The Lions' successful and against-all-odds 2017/18 season begun at Nottingham Forest in early August and ended at The Den against Aston Villa in May, but the blocks for the campaign started to be built long before the first whistle at the City Ground - and are already in motion for 2018/19, too.

"The staff sat down to plan at the beginning of the season," the boss explained. "Ultimately, the responsibility falls to me to pick the tactics, the XI that go on the pitch, but we started planning early in pre-season, when we went to Portugal. There were a lot of staff meetings while we were away to plan the pattern of play we want with and without the football.

"We have those ideas but it's down to the players to execute the plan each week. It does change from time to time because of the personnel or systems you play against, you have to make special cases for certain players to stop them, but we set our stall out early to be hard to beat.

"We traditionally set out to play a 4-4-2. At times during the season we adjusted - Sheffield United at home certainly springs to mind, where we switched to 3-5-2 and came out on top. We changed to 4-3-3 in the first half at Brentford but it didn't quite work, so we went back to 4-4-2 in the second half and could've scored 12 goals.

"I will get things wrong in what we do, but the players need to be organised, structured and to always know what the plan is."

The groundwork and science behind The Lions' success is down to a number of the club's backroom staff.

"You look at all the coaching staff, particularly David Livermore and Adam Barrett, who put the training sessions together along with myself to keep the players fresh and to give the players what they need to be ready for a game, but to also recover.

"It's all guided around Laurence Bloom (Sports Scientist) and Paul Tanner (Head Physio), the key ingredients to what we do. There's also the stats that (Head Analyst) Dan McLoone puts together - how far players have run during a game, how many sprints they do and so on.

"It's not just about who scored a goal on a Saturday afternoon for us in preparation for the next game. It's about recovery times, it's about what sessions they need to do in the week, how long they need to train for, do they need to train at all? There's so much that goes into it behind the scenes that supporters don't get to see because of the environment that are really key."

Along with the club's staff, the manager also praised his squad's "desire" to play - sometimes depsite injury.

"The staff are key but it's the players' desire to play also. Some players haven't trained from Sunday-Thursday but knock on my door on Friday morning and say 'yes, I know I'm struggling but I want to play'. Fans don't see that, but players do it. There's been four or five players who we've virtually ruled out for a game on the Saturday but have put themselves forward to play, played 90 minutes and played very well."

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