There was a hint of surprise when Neil Harris resigned as Millwall manager back in October. The 42-year-old oversaw some great years at the club, which included their promotion back to the Championship from League One, and two separate runs to the FA Cup quarter-finals. But after a disappointing start to the season, Harris felt it was the right time to vacate his role.
He has since taken the Cardiff City job after the departure of Neil Warnock from the south Wales club. The Bluebirds are struggling somewhat this season after their relegation from the Premier League, currently sitting 10th in the Championship table. Many Cardiff fans may have been hoping for a push towards an immediate return to the top flight, but they are currently outsiders in the latest promotion odds on the English Championship.
With the table so tight, a good run of form will give Cardiff a better chance of at least challenging for the playoffs. But is Neil Harris the man to lead the club to a promotion challenge?
Expectations will naturally be higher at Cardiff than they would have been at Millwall for Neil Harris. After enjoying another taste of Premier League football last season, Cardiff fans will be keen for a swift return to the top flight, and pressure will be on Harris to deliver that straight away.
The problem is, there are numerous clubs in the Championship whose fans hold similar expectations of success. With so many tough competitors, winning promotion is immensely difficult, but this is where the quality of the manager can make a difference.
Harris has experience of gaining promotion with Millwall, having won the League One playoffs in 2017, but getting out of the Championship is a different kettle of fish. There will be pressure on Harris straight away to guide Millwall towards the upper reaches of the Championship, and he will have to adapt fast to his new surroundings.
Harris’ only other coaching experience was at Millwall, a club where he also spent a large part of his playing career over two different spells. It will be interesting to see how he fares at a club with which he does not have the same affiliation.
He was revered at The Den by fans who remembered well the service he gave as a player, and that gave Harris some extra leverage when the team did suffer a poor run of results. He was able to enjoy a long spell as Millwall boss which lasted over four years, and this was down to both his qualities as a coach and his special relationship with the club.
At Cardiff, there will be no sentimentality if he doesn’t perform or if the team goes on a bad run. The close nature of the Championship table means that a poor spell of form could cost Cardiff dearly. Harris will be keen to prove he has the coaching skills to avoid that.
Ready for the fight
His spell at Millwall allowed Harris to gain vital experience as a manager, and he has shown that he has the ability to be successful in both league and cup. He is still a young coach and will be relishing this chance to show his true mettle at a club where expectations are so high.
He is not a man to shy away from the limelight, and Cardiff fans can be assured that they have a manager who will fight tooth and nail to lead the club as high up the table as possible. Harris worked wonders at Millwall throughout his time in charge, so don’t be surprised to see Cardiff fighting for promotion when the end of the season rolls around.