NEIL Harris said he didn't regret his decision to take the captain’s armband from Steve Morison and give it to Tony Craig before last year’s play-off final defeat.
Harris said after Saturday’s play-off final win against Bradford that “it’s probably the time now to address that situation”, when Byron Webster was injured in the warm-up and Craig was a late inclusion in the starting XI.
Morison, who had been set to lead the team out at Wembley, spoke of his anger and frustration over the decision before the start of this season.
Millwall lost the final 3-1 to Barnsley, with many Lions supporters feeling Morison should have worn the armband despite club captain Craig being in the side.
Morison was Millwall’s match-winner a year on, and Craig lifted the play-off final trophy to ensure it was the perfect end to the season after the disappointment in 2016.
Harris said there was a “gut feeling” in the squad that it was going to be their season after they secured a play-off place on the final day and then won at Scunthorpe in the second leg of the semi-final.
He also spoke in more detail for the first time about the late changes he made before last year’s final.
“I think it’s probably the time now to address that situation last year,” Harris said. “It was difficult for all of us, the dressing room never really recovered from the injuries leading up to the game, the change in leadership.
“Would I have done it differently? No, not at all, it was the right decision – Tony Craig is the captain of the football club.
“But we didn’t perform, certainly in the first 20 minutes when we found ourselves two goals behind. But what a great build-up to today: Being out after 85 minutes against Bristol Rovers; being written off after the first leg against Scunthorpe and then being out of the tie after 44 minutes away in the second leg.
“To come back and constantly find a way, to beat Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester in the FA Cup, to perform like that after a difficult first half, all credit goes to my players.
“Some thank yous go to a lot of people. The chairman and the board have been outstanding to support me and my players.
“And to keep the squad together in the summer, there were some difficult decisions and the chairman stood strong for me to be able to keep this group of players.
“Everyone forgets that we had a four-week summer and we came back flying, we were brilliant in August. September was a disaster, I had to give them extra time off, we couldn’t win a game or keep a clan sheet.
“But we kept going and kept hanging in there. I knew I had to personnel and leaders to achieve long-term.
“The spirit in the camp, the camaraderie is phenomenal. It’s not a surprise that the group I played in in 2001 won promotion. The group I played in in 2004 reached the FA Cup final. The group in 2009-2010 won promotion. This is the same if not better.
“Bradford were better than us first-half. But we stood strong and had that belief.
“There was a gut feeling in my group that this was going to be our year.”
For much of the first hour it looked like it was going to be Bradford’s day, but Jordan Archer made one of his best saves of the season to deny Billy Clarke before Morison struck five minutes from time.
“Jordan would be the first to admit that he’s not had the season that he hoped or we all hoped,” Harris said. “Along with a lot of us he’s been criticised this year.
“It’s tough for young players coming back from a play-off defeat. The second season is tough, it’s no coincidence everybody says the same thing.
“First season it’s the crest of a wave, second season it’s difficult to produce. When there are key moments in the game, Jordan makes a great save, Shaun Hutchinson showed his value as a Millwall centre-half, and then Steve Morison [scores] at the end.”
Image: Millwall FC