BEN Thompson believes Neil Harris has turned around Millwall’s fortunes no matter what happens at Wembley on Sunday – but he wants to “top the season off” by claiming a place in the Championship.
Harris took over the Lions job at the end of last season with the club in disarray before completely remodelling the squad in the summer.
After a difficult start to the season, Millwall gradually began to develop a playing style characterised by an uncompromising and committed approach, and their form in 2016 propelled them up the table.
They confirmed their place in the final with a 4-2 aggregate semi-final win over a Bradford side that had already beaten them this season.
Millwall meet Barnsley this weekend, and Thompson highlighted how Harris has changed the whole mood in and around the club.
“As people have been saying, we’ve got our Millwall back,” Thompson said. “The club’s in a lot better shape than it was last year or the year before. There’s a better atmosphere, players get on with each other. The manager and the players have a good relationship and it’s been a great season no matter what happens.
“But we don’t want to go to Wembley and lose, we want to go and top the season off with a win. If we were to lose it wouldn’t affect the club, everyone would still be looking forward to next season.
“But everyone wants to go and win this.”
After Harris took on the job full-time, Thompson revealed he made a promise to the squad that has since become a reality.
Thompson explained: “In the meeting when he was first appointed full-time manager he talked us through everything and what he expected and what he wanted.
“He said he wanted us to experience a full Den and now I know why he wanted that, it was an unreal night against Bradford.
“I didn’t get to sleep after it, I got home and went to my room and watched the game back. It was surreal.”
Thompson was in the stands when Millwall defeated Swindon in the play-off final in 2010 and can’t wait for the experience of being on the pitch performing for up to 40,000 Lions fans.
“Even as a fan you’re nervous, as much as a player,” Thompson said. “Everything’s just a big buzz, the walk to the stadium, looking around the ground, getting your food at half-time.
“It was a great atmosphere then and will be even better as a player. I’ve said to people who’ve asked me about the atmosphere that it’s loud in the stands but on the pitch it’s a different story, it’s crazy.
“When it’s a big occasion like Wembley, it’s a different ball game. The atmosphere will affect some players as will the build-up. It’s about who turns up on the day and wants it the most.
He added: “The more senior players who have experienced it will help the younger players out and the players who haven’t played there before.
“I’ve spoken to them about Wembley. They’ve all said it’s the best place to play your football as long as you win. It’s a bad day if you don’t so everyone’s looking forward to going there – and we’re going to get a result.”