Millwall boss on the qualities he first noticed in Lions record signing at Southend

MILLWALL’S record buy Ryan Leonard is in the frame to make his debut against Leeds on Saturday – with Neil Harris outlining what he will bring to the side.

Harris signed his former team-mate Leonard as a replacement for George Saville who left for Middlesbrough on deadline day.

Lions boss Harris and Leonard played for Paul Sturrock’s Southend in the 2011-12 season when they finished fourth in League Two before losing to Crewe in the play-off semi-finals.



The Shrimpers finished 11th the following season, Harris’ last as a professional footballer.

Leonard, 26, made 265 appearances for Southend and scored 27 goals before moving to Sheffield United last January.

The midfielder is match fit after playing four times for the Blades this season, and Harris recalled the qualities he first noticed when they played together.



“When he was a young player coming through he was about athleticism, energy, good temperament and a willingness to want to be better all the time,” Harris said. “He was a really impressive young pro and he has developed as a player. He has a lot of versatility in his play.

“The way we play and what we expect from our midfield players, he offers so much. Is he going to come into our team and score 10 or 15 goals? Time will tell. We’re not bringing him in to be a player he’s not, we’re bringing him in for his attributes.

“He’s a box-to-box energy player who’s comfortable on the ball as well. He has a good range of passing and he’s good in both penalty areas, defensively and attacking.

“He has a lot of the specifics we look for in midfield players and I think he will be a good partner for all of our midfielders.”

Meanwhile, it was a productive international break for Millwall’s Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland contingent, but their involvement with their countries hampers preparation ahead of the clash with Leeds.

Aiden O’Brien scored on his international debut for Ireland in a 1-1 friendly draw against Poland on Tuesday night, after Shaun Williams had scored on his competitive international debut in Wales in the previous game.

That pair, along with Shane Ferguson and Conor McLaughlin, are not arriving back in London until today, and the four players will not join full training until Friday.

Mahlon Romeo, who was away with Antigua & Barbuda, and Scotland’s Jordan Archer were back earlier this week.

Harris said: "It’s not ideal going into Saturday, but it’s probably less ideal for West Brom and Birmingham playing Friday night.

“We have to take every small grace. The chance for them to go work with their national teams is great and we support them.”

Image: Millwall FC

John Kelly

(@jkelly1882)