15 May 2009
Should Millwall make it to Wembley after tonight's playoff clash with Leeds, Neil Harris' winner at the Den during Saturday's first leg could be the most valuable goal of his ten-year Lions career.
After being introduced as a first half substitute, fans’ favourite Chopper roused his side, led by example and lifted the crowd - something he will hope to do once again at the fiery Elland Road.
The record goal scorer has adopted the role of leading and guiding the young players in the squad - and he feels they will give everything they have got to be victorious.
We have spoken about important and memorable goals, but was Saturday's the most valuable to the club?
It will certainly be right up there. It was a vitally important goal. It was a big result, not just for the tie, but for the club. It was a massive goal in the sense that it gave everyone a lift, it gave the club a lift.
There were massive things being made last week about Millwall and the playoffs and having not won a single game, and not doing this and not doing that - but this is all put to bed now.
Next it will be, well you've won a game but you've never got through a semi-final and that is our next challenge.
But it's typical at Millwall for everybody to start knocking us when we start doing well - but you start to get used to that over the years.
What was it like to set a packed Den off with your goal?
It was fantastic. I always knew I would get a chance. Very rarely does a game go past that I don't fancy myself to get a good chance. There are other games where you don't feel it coming, but that Gaz is getting chances, Gaz is getting the breaks.
It was an immense feeling. I knew how important it was to take a lead up to Leeds and to give us the advantage going up there, to boost the players ahead of Thursday.
But the feeling when ball went in, it lifted everybody in the ground and I think it has given everybody that little bit more belief that we have a real chance. Was it about time to put an end to Millwall's horrific playoff record?
I had said all week that what has happened in the past is irrelevant to these players, to this team and this squad. Obviously it is part of the club's history, but now it's a different group of players and different opposition.
It was different playing Leeds - a big rival of late. It was a different scenario to the likes of Wigan and the Brightons, Derbys in the sense that we had the first leg at home. The fans and the level of support on Saturday is something I have got used to over the years, but was something that the new lads and the younger lads had not experienced before.
And were they ready for that, or did you have to tell them?
To be honest, I let them get on with it. Sometimes I say to the younger players, 'there will be a cracking atmosphere today' or 'this is a big one' and 'don't let the game go past you'. But on Saturday, it was a time to sink or swim for the players.
But personally, I was really looking forward to the game and I was excited about the game. I can't say that I have been excited about a playoff game before, but that comes with experience.
There is still plenty of work to do. Is the harder tie still to come?
Well, it puts us in stronger position at the half-way stage than we were before. We are effectively 1-0 up in the first minute at Elland Road. If you had said that on Saturday morning or said that the start of the season that we would face Leeds over two legs to get to the final of the playoff and we would be 1-0 after the first leg - we would have bitten your hand off.
We are delighted with the win, but have to keep our feet on the floor and there is a lot of hard work still to be done.
Will the pressure get to Leeds the longer they go without a goal?
It will. We have not spoken about our game plan, but we can only play one way at Millwall and that's giving 100 per cent in one direction. Get stuck in, work as hard as you can, stick together as a team and we get our rewards. The times when we have not done that, we have got beaten, so we know we have to play like that, to our maximum. If we do, we are confident that we will get a positive result.
How big would Wembley be for the club and young players?
You play all year to get promoted, that's the aim. Once you are in the playoffs, you want to get promoted and the carrot dangling in front of you is to play at Wembley. Once you get to Wembley, you start thinking about promotion again.
Every single player in the league, which is full of very English players and very English clubs, wants to play at Wembley. It would be a massive reward for the club and its fans.
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