Harris' policy crucial to Millwall fending off interest from big clubs in young stars

MILLWALL youth team boss Larry McAvoy believes the club’s current youth structure will help them hold on to some of their brightest stars.

McAvoy watched his powerful and vibrant side overwhelm Worthing 6-0 in the first round of the FA Youth Cup on Monday, when a number of scouts from other clubs were at The Den. Robert Strachan, an England underage centre-back, is attracting interest from Brighton.

Millwall have had talented young players poached by bigger clubs in the past, notably the highly rated attacker David Amoo who was a youth-team player with the Lions before he joined Liverpool in 2007 after the Premier League club had flexed their financial muscle.

Wingers Mason Saunders-Henry and Isaac Olaofe (scoring the third goal, above) caught the eye with a brace apiece in front of the watching Neil Harris this week, while strikers Matthew Day and Noel Leighton fired home two superb finishes from distance.

McAvoy acknowledges the threat of losing young players to bigger clubs is always there, but feels the progress of the likes of Ben Thompson and Fred Onyedinma highlights the clear path to the first team.

“Big clubs can offer more money,” McAvoy said. “We try to treat the boys right and try to make an environment that they don’t want to leave. They can see that they’re getting better and they’ve a first-team manager in place who will give young players a chance.

“This is my 13th season in terms of being here coaching, so I’ve gone through a lot of managers, Kenny Jackett back to Colin Lee.

“We’ve never had anyone in place who’s prepared to play young players like the gaffer is at the moment. So they know if they do well enough they’ll get a chance.

“Kenny Jackett was brilliant in terms of getting us into the Championship, he’s a great manager.

“But when we were in the Championship it’s probably a lot harder to put boys in.

“It’s a massive motivation, they can see there’s not a ceiling there. They can see there is genuine progression.

“Neil Harris was at the game with David Livermore and came down to say well done to the boys.

“I’ve been to FA Cup games the last two weeks where the first-team managers weren’t at the game.

“Tony Craig was there, it’s like a big family at the moment. Everybody is looking out for each other.”

Image source: ©Millwall FC

John Kelly