Neil Harris has called on everyone associated with Millwall to give everything towards the club’s survival bid, as Sky Bet Championship football returns to The Den in the shape of a contest with promotion-hunting West Bromwich Albion.
Baggies caretaker boss James Shan has picked up maximum points from three games at the helm for the visitors, with The Lions sitting one point above the drop zone.
“Games at this stage mean so much to so many teams,” Harris told millwallfc.co.uk.
“For us, of course we’re trying to pick up the points to get away from that bottom group, and West Brom are obviously going for promotion. This is the business end of the season – this is what football’s all about and it’s why we love the game. In recent years, we’ve been fortunate enough to be pushing higher up the division; this year, while we’d love to be higher up, we are where we are.
“You have to embrace the challenge, you have to accept that there are pressure games coming up, and as players you have to enjoy playing in them – improving and bringing the best out of yourselves. The players are in a great position, because they’re the ones who can get out on the pitch and just run and play with freedom. The staff, fans and board members are the ones who have to sit there and be a bit nervous.”
The manager explains the challenge to the players, and highlights the importance of continuing momentum from recent displays.
“I’m really looking forward to our next two home games. The last three games have seen outstanding performances, and if we carry those levels into the next games, we’ll pick points up.
“The challenge to the group is to repeat those performances again, which they should certainly be capable of. But then, we want to be even better individually and collectively, and take the points. You want to win games, and if it means eight wins from bad performances, then I would take that. It’s about results, but you have to build the steps and the momentum.
“If we look at our last three displays: Birmingham – we were outstanding and deserved the points. Brighton was a moral victory where we should have beaten a Premier League side, and then we faced a very good Leeds side. I wasn’t surprised by how good they were, but I enjoyed their level of performance – and we matched it all the way. It’s important as I say, that we carry on this momentum.”
Harris also calls on the Lions supporters to be at their most passionate as the campaign reaches its final furlong, giving examples of how the stands have acted as a 12th man for his side.
“The away fans at Birmingham were excellent and carried us through at times, the atmosphere for the game against Brighton was through the roof, and both sets of supporters at Leeds were really good – it was a great atmosphere to play in.
“They are the atmospheres we need until the end of the season, and if West Brom bring their large following it should bring the best out of our fans too. Don’t get me wrong – it’s up to the players to perform on the pitch and to get the fans off their seats, but we need their support too.
“So we have two really big games at The Den for us and for the fans, and I think we all appreciate the level we’re playing at and how talented the Championship is in the modern era. It’s completely different now, and we have to enjoy it.”
The boss continues in his praise of the fans, outlining their significance to the cause.
“You can’t explain what it’s like to be in front of our fans – at The Den in particular. Elland Road was great last week and I loved playing there too, because there is a big crowd that get right behind their team, and the Millwall fans always play their part in that.
“That is as close as it gets to being at The Den, so it is testament to the fans for the noise and backing they create in the cauldron of our stadium.
“For the fans, it’s their football club, and we’re just here playing our part. You do need to be in it together and help each other, but the message to the players is to make sure we do our bit on the pitch for these eight remaining games – especially the five at The Den. When we’ve got that special bond between the terraces and the pitch that I’ve strived so hard for, that’s what we need now more than ever.”
Harris concludes by giving an update concerning team news ahead of the Albion contest.
“There has been a bit of sickness in the group this week, so unfortunately it could be a bit of a last-minute team selection.
“But the boys have trained really well again this week. They know we played well at Leeds and whilst we were disappointed with the result, we’re looking forward to being back at The Den.”