Neil Harris insists he is so happy his move to boyhood idols Liverpool fell through

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The Den boss hopes to boost his status with the Lions even further by winning League One play-off final against Bradford

NEIL HARRIS is Mr Millwall — but not many know he nearly became Mr Liverpool.

Yet the Lions boss says he is now pleased his dream move to his boyhood idols did not come off, or he would never have become a Den legend.

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Neil Harris can become an even bigger Millwall hero if they KO Bradford

His boys make the short trip to Wembley tomorrow to take on Bradford in the League One play-off final.


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It is the  Londoners’ second successive appearance in the showpiece and shows Harris is as adept as a Millwall manager as he was as a player.

The ex-striker, 39, is still the club’s all-time highest scorer after being plucked from non-League Cambridge City for just £30,000 in March 1998.

But it could have been  different had then Kop boss Roy Evans not rejected the chance to sign him.

Neil Harris hit 138 goals in two spells with Millwall as a renowned poacher

News Group Newspapers Ltd

Neil Harris hit 138 goals in two spells with Millwall as a renowned poacher

Harris, who had supported Liverpool and local club Southend while growing up in Essex, said: “I had two trials at Liverpool and both went well.

“The first time I trained really well and scored a hat-trick in a practice game at Melwood. I then played in a reserve match when we got spanked 4-1 by Villa.

“Liverpool said they could not judge me on that so I went back up there a month later and scored in a reserve game against Blackburn, when Neil Ruddock was sent off for the worst tackle I’ve ever seen on a football pitch.

“I thought I had done well but then I got a call from them saying they were not going to do anything as Roy Evans didn’t think I was  better than he had there.

Neil Harris was Millwall idol as a player and is now replicating that reputation as a manager

PA:Press Association

Neil Harris was a Millwall idol as a player and is replicating that as a manager

“I thought, ‘Well, I am not going to be’ as the strikers he had there at the time were Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen!”

But Liverpool’s loss was Millwall’s gain as a few weeks later the part-time goal machine was offered a pro deal at the Lions.

He said: “I could look back and go, ‘What if?’ but I look back and think, ‘What if I had  gone there, not played and dropped back down again?’.

Michael Owen was one of two strike legends at Anfield when Neil Harris was on trial

Reuters

Michael Owen was one of two strike legends at Anfield when Neil Harris trialled

Neil harris was told he was no better than the strikers Liverpool already had - not surprising as Robbie Fowler was the strikepartner for Michael Owen

PA:Press Association

Neil Harris was told he was no better than the frontmen Liverpool already had – not surprising as prolific Robbie Fowler was the strikepartner for Michael Owen

“So what a godsend coming to Millwall was. It was meant to be  and I wouldn’t change it now for the world.”

Harris scored 138 goals in two spells with the Lions to overtake Teddy Sheringham as their best-ever marksman.

And it is just over two years since he was made manager on a permanent basis.



Having guided the Lions to the play-off final in his first full season in charge 12 months ago — when they lost 3-1 to Barnsley  — he has got them back to Wembley  for what will, remarkably, be their FIFTH appearance at the new stadium in just eight years.

It is a far cry from when rookie  Harris was part of the 1999  team that made Millwall’s only post-War appearance at the old Wembley in their  Auto Windscreens Shield final defeat to Wigan.

He recalled: “We beat Walsall in the semi-final and  had a few beers on the bus on the way back.

“When we got back to south London in the early hours, our old kitman, Roy, said to the boys, ‘Come on, let’s have a drink in my local’.

Neil Harris is preparing for arguably the biggest match of his managerial career so far

News Group Newspapers Ltd

Neil Harris is preparing for arguably the biggest match of his managerial career

“So he took us to this pub in The Blue in Bermondsey. When we got outside it was all dark and we were all thinking it was shut. Then he gave a little tap on the window, the doors flew open and there were about 300 Millwall fans inside having a party.

“That was a big night for me in my Millwall career and my understanding of this fantastic club.

Not one player was asked for a photo or an autograph.

“I learnt then this club does not care for egos.”

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