Neil Harris sacked. Comment

Last updated : 21 January 2021 By Paul Evans

It’s been confirmed this afternoon that City manager Neil Harris and his assistant David Livermore have left Cardiff City. Sometimes, announcements like this make me happy (Alan Durban for instance!}, but, almost always, it’s a sad occasion when a manager leaves..


In the large majority of cases, the man in charge goes because results are poor, so there is an unhappy fan base (and with six straight defeats, that’s the case here), but there’s also the human element. Almost without exception I’d guess, managers start their time at a club with the best of intentions and although relationships can turn sour, I firmly believe that professional pride as much as anything means that they keep on giving of their best and so there’s often an element of sympathy from me for someone who, often wrongly, has been judged to have failed.

I’m convinced Neil Harris kept on trying at City to the last and he definitely leaves with my best wishes and my sympathy – he certainly didn’t have the best of luck with injuries to important players at a time when he could least afford them.

I’d believed that our manager was in credit for much of this season for guiding us to an unlikely fifth place finish in 19/20. I came close to changing my mind though after the defeat at Coventry, but the four wins that followed obviously relieved the pressure on Harris – certainly, it seemed ludicrous to think he would be out of a job on 21 January in the days leading up to what was a fateful derby against the jacks a fortnight before Christmas.

City edged a win in their next game against Birmingham and since then it has been defeats all the way for them. However, even on Saturday against Norwich I clung to the hope that our manager could turn it around, but last night was something that had an air of finality to it – unlike some, I didn’t see evidence that the players had stopped trying for the manager, but it did look like the belief in what he was trying to do was not as strong as it had been.

I suppose the truth is that Neil Harris was going to have to do a very good job at Cardiff to be judged a success. Not a popular choice when he was named as Neil Warnock’s successor, he seemed an odd pick when you consider that, with many of the club’s supporters desiring a move away from the pragmatic, physical, set piece orientated long ball game that had been a feature of Cardiff sides since Russell Slade’s appointment, we chose the recently departed boss of Millwall, the Championship side with an approach which probably most matched City’s, as our next manager.

Harris came here talking of adopting the sort of new approach desired by those supporters I mentioned earlier, but his bizarre decision to stick with the quartet of “bread and butter” midfielders he was left by Warnock was one of the main reasons why evidence of a change of style was scant – there were good and sometimes quite entertaining displays when fixtures resumed after the first lockdown, but a heavy defeat in the League Cup at Northampton a week before the 20/21 Championship season began turned out to be an indicator of what was to come.

As City found home points hard to come by at the deserted Cardiff City Stadium, they were having to rely on away results to maintain a mid table place which had many supporters getting restless with the manager they were not too keen on and the pressure on him ramped up as away results began to falter.

Twelve points from twelve helped clearly, but Harris was fighting for his job before Luton were beaten 4-0 in late November and it’s usually the case that once things return to “normal” after a good run, the pressure returns – it was as if our manager had been wounded and was not able to make a full recovery.

I think Neil Harris was genuinely trying to bring through youngsters in a manner which his predecessor had never contemplated – the results weren’t spectacular (well, I suppose in a Cardiff City context, they were!), but there was a feeling that the years of inertia at the club’s Academy may be coming to an end.

Given the illness which has ruled Sol Bamba out of the running and the departure of David Livermore, it’s hard to see an obvious caretaker manager among the staff that are left, so does that mean that a new appointment will be made sooner rather than later?

I’m not sure about that because of the mixed signals coming out of the club. By the standards set by Mehmet Dalman’s top six by January edict early in the season, Neil Harris should have been sacked a few weeks ago, but on the other hand, City have been buying and putting in bids for players this window which, in no way, is the sort of behaviour you’d associate with a club on the brink of sacking their manager.

I may be wrong, but the signals being sent out by the club suggest that they have been caught on the hop somewhat and there has been a reluctance to make the change announced today. As for the vacancy, there’s an understandable clamour for Craig Bellamy, but I wonder if Paul Cook may have a chance – as someone who has had more than enough of “Warnockball” thank you, I hope it’s not Tony Pulis.

Finally, I remember hearing a conversation among journalists saying how much they liked Neil Harris’ honesty when answering questions pre match. I know what they mean, he also came over as intelligent and likeable with an ability to speak well on matters outside of football – I hope he finds another job if he wants to stay in management and thank him for taking us so close to the Play Off Final last year.