Millwall’s Harris explains delay in Cooper deal

NEIL Harris revealed Jake Cooper told him back in April he wanted to join the club on a permanent deal.

Millwall completed the signing of Cooper last week, over a month after agreeing a fee with Reading for the 22-year-old centre-back, who spent the second half of last season on loan with the Lions.

Millwall wanted to seal Cooper’s transfer early in the summer, but the Royals changed CEO in July with Ron Gourlay replacing Nigel Howe, who took up the role of vice-chairman.

That delayed negotiations but Harris said Cooper was always the top central-defensive target.

“The original fee was agreed a while ago, but the goal posts were moved,” Harris explained. “Jake told me in April that his future lay here, that he wanted to be here. Even when I left him out of the starting XI at Wembley he still wanted to be here.

“It took a lot of toing and froing with Reading, they changed personnel in their backroom staff over the course of June, start of July which made it difficult to conclude a deal. The goal posts were moved, which wasn’t a problem, it happens in football.

“We had to be patient and I’ve had great support from my chairman over the summer in paying good fees for Jake, Jed [Wallace] and George [Saville]. I’m very thankful for that.

“It took a little bit longer than anticipated but Jake was always the number one target and he was desperate to come. He was one I was really keen to sign because there aren’t many 6ft 6ins left-footed centre-halves available and I thought for us to have real balance in our defence we needed a left-footer.”

Meanwhile, Harris dismissed reports that the club were targeting a move for Mark Beevers, who joined Phil Parkinson’s Bolton after his deal with Millwall expired last summer.

“I’m surprised it took that long to materialise because I have been very public in saying I was after a left-sided centre-half,” Harris said. “So it was no surprise.

“I’ve got a really good relationship with Mark, I still speak to him and so do some of the lads in the dressing room. No surprise with the link but surprised it took all summer to come.

“There’s nothing in it whatsoever. I haven’t spoken to Parky at all regarding the player. I think it’s people putting two and two together and making five. Jake was always the first choice, the only real target we went for.

“It was getting a bit close time-wise but we got there in the end.”

Image: Millwall FC 

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John Kelly