22nd June 2013
Neil Harris began his career with Great Wakering Rovers and went with manager Ben Embery to Maldon Town in 1994, then joined Millwall for £30,000 in 1998 having caught the eye while playing for Cambridge City. He scored 18 goals in his first full season with the club in 1998-99, 18 the following season and won the Division One Golden Boot award for his 25 goal haul in the 2000-2001 season.
However in 2001 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, successfully fought off the illness and returned to action a year later. Neil left the New Den in 2004, first joining Cardiff City on loan, before a permanent move to Nottingham Forest, but after three frustrating season's at the City Ground he signed for Gillingham on loan before returning to Millwall in January 2007. In February 2008 he was told he would not be offered a new contract and did not feature in boss Kenny Jackett's first-team plans, but he broke back into the side and helped keep the club in League One. He became the Lion's all time leading scorer on 13 January 2009 when he broke Teddy Sheringham's previous 111 goal record and ultimately reached 138 goals.
In July 2011 he became Southend's first signing of the close season on a three-year deal. He had a year left on his contract at the Den, but had made just 10 starts in 2010/11, scoring three goals. He told the official site "Would I have gone anywhere else? No, I don't think so. It is a lifelong dream to play here."
He appeared in 32 of the 56 games that season, but only played 90 minutes on 12 occasions, despite which he scored 10 goals. The following season he damaged his knee ligament in September and spent four months on the sidelines before making his comeback, but picked up more niggles and missed another month before returning to action. After his 42nd and final appearance in March against AFC Wimbledon he needed an operation on his right knee to re-structure his medial ligaments.
On 21 June 2013 he confirmed his retirement from football ahead of an anticipated return to Millwall as a coach under new manager Steve Lomas saying "I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Southend United and realised a boyhood dream by playing for the club I used to watch from the North Bank". His impact on Southend United went far beyond his playing statistics as his enthusiasm and professionalism acted as a motivation to the entire squad during his time at the club and he will be missed.
Article by Robin
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