Millwall manager: 'My players will go to bed dreaming of being the hero against Brighton'

NEIL Harris says his players will go to bed Saturday night dreaming of being the hero against Brighton in the next day’s FA Cup quarter-final.

Murray Wallace was the unexpected match-winner against Everton in the fourth round and AFC Wimbledon in the last 16, but the defender is out injured.

Millwall are underdogs against the Premier League side, as they look to reach the last four of the competition for the third time this century.

Harris scored in a 2-1 quarter-final win at Tranmere when Millwall reached the 2004 final at the Millennium Stadium.

And he is hoping that it will be one of his players that creates another memorable moment in the Seagulls clash as the Lions aim for a Wembley date.

“You remember the good times and things associated with the good times,” Harris said of his own playing days. “When we’ve won leagues or promotions. You remember parties afterwards, the changing room, the mentality and the spirit. You remember the bad times and try to draw on that disappointment.

“You remember cup runs, semi-finals, finals, play-off finals, Johnstone Paint Trophy finals. You remember the big games. And I say to the players that every big game needs a hero.

“There will be hundreds of journalists here at the weekend wanting an upset, wanting to write about an upset – no disrespect to Brighton – and against Everton we had Murray Wallace and it was all about Murray Wallace on the back pages of the newspapers.

“And that’s great for our club, great for Murray, great for the changing room. That’s a moment Murray won’t ever forget, his family won’t forget, and the lads that were involved won’t forget. They won’t forget who scored the goal.

“We are all involved in the game because we want to win, we want to be winners. And going into the cup game on Sunday, ultimately we want to win the game and I need a hero out of the changing room, somebody to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, whether that’s a goalkeeper, a centre-half scoring like Murray or a centre-forward getting a tap in.

“Somebody will come off the pitch on Sunday afternoon as the one everybody wants to talk to and I want that to be one of my players.

“Did we expect Murray Wallace to be hero against Everton and Wimbledon? No, probably not. With us I’m probably quite fortunate a lot of my players will go into the game wanting to be that person.

“The lads will go to bed dreaming about it. We’re not on TV every week, so it’s a big occasion with the cameras there. I’ve no fear about my players performing on the day. They play with freedom under me and they will go to bed dreaming about being that person the following day who gets the winner.

“In the [2004] quarter-final, me and Timmy [Cahill] scored at Tranmere, but that was more of a team effort. But when you look back at the photos and videos, it’s all about the semi-final, the goal against Sunderland at Old Trafford.

"The final was a great day, but that was about the club celebrating the day. The semi-final was our occasion. That was our final, knowing we could create history at this club by being in an FA Cup final. We played it like a final and the players will do that on Sunday.”

Murray Wallace got consecutive winners in the competition

Both sides have 35-year-old strikers that could have prominent roles this weekend. Harris has used Steve Morison off the bench more often this season, while Glenn Murray is still in prolific form in the Premier League.

“You are talking about players who have had very good careers and have probably been big influences at the clubs they have been at over the years,” Harris said. “Natural goal scorers, and you can’t underestimate, especially in the modern game, with society changed since we were young and people aren’t quite as outgoing and vocal as they used to be. You can’t underestimate that influence in the changing room and around the place. You certainly can’t underestimate that influence on the pitch and in big occasions.

“Glenn has done a great job. To score the goals he has scored in the Premier League over the last 20 months is phenomenal, probably surprised everybody and maybe even himself at times. He is a player who has always played with his heart and us, football people, will always appreciate and admire that.

“Steve has been the same. He has been great for me as a captain, great for me as a player, and his influence around the place is important. At this club in particular, you need Millwall voices, you need Millwall people to understand what it means to play here.

“You need people to understand the connection between the terraces and the changing room. I have never underestimated that. I know the importance of being a player in that changing room and now as a manager.

“Steve certainly bridges that gap between our fans and the players."

Harris recalled the end of his own playing career

“Mine came through injury at Southend. I wanted to play. When I left here for a second time to go to Southend, I knew at Championship level at 34 I was struggling to play week in week out.

"I wanted to go and play regularly. I loved it at Southend but after a period realised that, after a six-month injury, I was really going to struggle to get back to the levels that I wanted to compete at. Once you know you can’t compete, whether it’s week-in, week-out, whether it’s training standards, whether it’s injury or fatigue and not getting out of bed in the morning because you physically can’t, you sort of know.

"From what I see of Glenn and from what I see of Steve every day, neither of those boys are at that stage yet.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly