By Jack Cook
Neil Harris says his predecessor as Cardiff City manager was a tough act to follow as Neil Warnock makes his return on Saturday.
The Bluebirds will be looking for their first home win of the season when they face Middlesbrough who won impressively at Bristol City in midweek.
It has been almost a year since Harris succeeded Warnock but he has only the highest praises for the managerial veteran
“Firstly, what Neil achieved here is class, it would have been very rewarding for him and his staff,” said Harris of Warnock who took City back to the Premier League.
“They had a good time and we certainly look forward in welcoming him back.
“Character-wise I think you have to be a big character to follow Neil into a job because he such a personality and a lovable figure but also the success the club has had.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge for me when I came in and I came to the club for that challenge and make myself a better manager over a period of time.
“I certainly feel like I’ve developed a lot at Cardiff City and am certainly enjoying my time here. I feel like we are developing as a group.”
City go into the game looking to build momentum after the 1-1 draw at home against Bournemouth thanks to Harry Wilson’s first goal for the club.
Bournemouth could have won the game if it wasn’t for Alex Smithies in goal with his amazing save to earn a point for the bluebirds.
“I’ve seen Alex make a lot of saves like that over the years,” added Harris. “I think top goalkeepers make top saves at important times in games and we’ve got a top goalkeeper in Alex.
“We have signed a young prodigy in Dillon Phillips who is also exceptionally talented.
“Alex for me is one of the top keepers at this level and will make saves like that during the course of the season and it was a key moment in the game I think it was still 1-0 at the time, so it was a big save.”
Warnock’s side go into this game in the better form being one point ahead of Cardiff in the table and are unbeaten in five games.
City will be without left-back Greg Cunningham but could see the return of Jordi Osei-Tutu and Joe Bennett.
Harris revealed: “Greg will be out for four to six weeks. We certainly won’t see Greg this side of the international break.
“Jordi and Bennett have been on the grass today and we could have the possibility of one or both of them being available and possibly neither, we will have to see how they react because of their injuries.”
There is also talks of fans’ favourite Lee Tomlin returning soon after his suspension and injury with Harris talking about he will fit into the side he reckons is now brimming with attacking potential.
“Tomlin is getting closer but not for tomorrow,” said Harris. “We’ve talked loads about Tomlin and how important he is to me and the team, he’s massive for us.
“Having quality options in the team and off the bench is vital. Tomlin has on-going battles and will have throughout the rest of his career.
“It’s getting him fit as possible to be on the pitch as he is such a great character to have in the group and a great player to have on the pitch.
“When you bring in another player like Lee Tomlin back into the group and you have the likes of Harry Wilson, Sheyi Ojo, Junior Hoilett, Josh Murphy, Gavin Whyte you are really talking about options and ultimately we want to be successful and you need loads of options.
“I now feel we’ve got that in. You add two strikers to an attacking eight players I’ve got, only being able to play four of them at any one time.
“It’s important to have that strength in depth.”
City have won their last four games against Middlesbrough only conceding one goal in the process, that coming in the last game between the sides at the Riverside Stadium.
Warnock will look to take the spoils on his first return as a rival manager by leaving with all three points, but he hasn’t won away at Cardiff since 2006.