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.
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.
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.
“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?’.
“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’.
“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.”