NEIL HARRIS admitted it hasn’t been easy for Tony Craig this season – but stressed the club captain is a “spiritual leader” and his presence in the squad is crucial.
Craig made his first league appearance of the season when he came on in the 89th minute to help see out the game against Birmingham last Saturday.
Craig, 32, made 57 appearances in all competitions last season, but the arrival in the summer of James Meredith saw him lose his first-team spot at left-back.
Jake Cooper is also ahead of Craig for a centre-back place, meaning he has been limited to just two EFL Cup starts this campaign.
Harris revealed he has spoken to Craig about his fringe role this season, and emphasised he is still an important leader for the Lions.
“I’ve had some good conversations with him. He’s the club captain, he’s the leader in the dressing room but sometimes it’s hard to lead when you’re not in the team,” Harris said. “That’s something Tony has had to deal with and experience for the first time.
“He’s trying his damnedest for the football club. I’ve been in that position myself and it’s not easy at times. He’s doing it well.
“He’s had to be patient, as have a few of the other players like Jake and Ryan [Tunnicliffe].
“Tony has found himself in a similar situation, where he has players in front of him that have done really well.
“We’ve brought on a third centre-half quite a lot this season in games and it’s been effective for us. Tony gives you something different, he makes demands from those around him and leads when he’s on the pitch and he’ll attack the ball.
“It was a great position for me to be in, 2-0 up with five minutes to go and being able to bring the club captain on to see the game out. It was a reminder to everyone that Tony Craig is still a part of it and will be a part of it over the course of the season and in the future.
“He’s a Millwall icon and spiritual leader and this football club needs people like Tony Craig, Steve Morison in this season and in the future. They need to lead younger players, they need to lead new players that come into the club.
“If you don’t have that then notoriously that’s when Millwall teams have struggled, when they haven’t had that leadership.”
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