After more than two decades in playing and management, a hatful of goals and a couple of promotions, there hasn’t been too much for Neil Harris to fret about in his football career.
One of his moves as a player that still rankles with some, however, has recently become rather relevant. The newly-appointed Cardiff manager had a three-game loan spell at the South Wales club in 2004, but his time there was swiftly cut short so he could sign for Nottingham Forest.
Harris has spoken about the situation several times before but, as he prepares to take charge of Cardiff for the first time at Charlton on Saturday – live on Sky Sports Football – he feels it is a good, fresh opportunity to clear the air.
“There are only a couple of things I regret in my footballing career from a very young age, and it’s certainly not meant as a lack of respect to Nottingham Forest or my time there,” Harris told the Sky Sports EFL Podcast this week. “But I made the decision based on my family instead of staying in Cardiff.
“I loved being here and had hit the ground running, and in hindsight I should have stayed, but I made the decision at the time for various reasons, not for footballing reasons as much as anything.
“I do look back now and think, ‘what if?’. And that is certainly one of the reasons why I was so keen to come. I do feel like I’ve got some unfinished business here. I have some really fond memories from playing at the old Ninian Park, it was a passionate atmosphere and I want to recreate that at the new stadium.”
LISTEN to the full interview with Neil Harris on the Sky Sports EFL Podcast
Somewhat ironically, his only goal for Cardiff came in December 2004 against Sheffield United – then managed by Neil Warnock. Warnock is the man Harris replaces in the Bluebirds dugout, and knows he will be a tough act to follow.
Many have already drawn comparisons between Warnock’s playing style and the one utilised by Millwall, but Harris is swift to dismiss them.
“I don’t think anyone is similar to Neil Warnock,” he joked. “He is a legend in himself and I’m not comparing myself to him at all.
“My footballing philosophy as the Millwall manager might be different to me as a Cardiff manager. We are not going to go from being Cardiff City to Manchester City! That is not my thought process at all.
“But what doesn’t change is my team will mirror me in a sense of my work ethic, desire and passion to succeed. To work extremely hard, be disciplined and organised and want to score goals.”
Charlton vs Cardiff
November 23, 2019, 12:00pm
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“It is a good group of players here that have achieved and can still achieve. Following on from Neil is going to be a challenge in itself because of the guy he is and what he has achieved there, but it’s seven weeks since I left Millwall, I’ve recharged the batteries, taken stock and learned from various people within the game, and I’m ready for another challenge.
“Cardiff City is a wonderful club and they have been very successful in their recent history. I have the opportunity to challenge myself and try and get the club back up the league table and towards the top six.”
Harris’ legacy as a Millwall legend is more than secure. He spent a total of 10 years there as a player over two spells, he is the club’s top scorer in their history, and won promotion to the Championship twice, as a player in 2010 then as a manager in 2017.
It was tough for him to call time on a job at a club he adored and where he was adored, but he clearly felt it was the right time to take a break and grab a fresh opportunity. He feels reinvigorated now.
“Four-and-a-half years is a long time, especially in your first job,” he admits. “I had a wonderful time, it’s a great football club with great people and a really passionate fan base, and it will always be very close to my heart. We had some fantastic times, but I just felt it was the right time to go.