Brighton interim manager Mikey Harris was shocked to have been given the role after the sacking of Melissa Phillips.

There was shock across the WSL after the American was relieved of her duties on Thursday evening.

Harris, who comes up to the women’s team after having a role in the men’s academy, is surprised to be where he is but is keen to help turn things around.

“It's been a huge change. A huge surprise. The club have been amazing.

“Late yesterday afternoon when we were talking about players going out on loan for the U21s men's team that I work with and doing last minute deals for deadline day, I was very kindly asked by David and Mike to lead the team during this period.

“Obviously, I'm privileged to be asked to steer the ship through what is clearly a challenging time. But it's something that I'm really looking forward and really excited about.

“We've got a massive game against Manchester United on Sunday and we're going to do our best to prepare the players to perform in that game.

“There's some brilliant staff who I know and some staff who I need to get to know. But I'm sure that we can do the club proud on Sunday.”

While there is delight for Harris, there is disappointment for Phillips, and the interim manager had sympathy for her.

“Of course, it's never nice when someone loses their job, particularly someone like Mel who I have a lot of respect for personally.

“Unfortunately, it is the industry that we work in and a part of the job, so to speak.

“I wish Mel well, and now I'm just excited and looking forward to working with the girls and, hopefully, progressing the team forward however long I'm in the role.”

Brighton are now on the search for their fourth permanent manager in just over a year.

Hope Powell, Jens Scheuer and now Phillips have been given their marching orders by the club.

Fans will no doubt be worried and have plenty of questions for the board, but Harris has encouraged them to get behind the team.

“I think that if you're a fan of your football club, then you're a fan through whatever the circumstances are.

“This club as a whole has an unbelievable history in recent years of where we started and where we are currently, both on the men's and the women's sides.

“I think it's just exciting to be a part of that, whether you're a member of staff or a fan.

“My message to the fans would be to get behind the players and the staff. We've got an unbelievable game against Manchester United on Sunday.

“We've got two Cup games this week so we could progress in two cup competitions. I appreciate that change is always difficult. It's also inevitable in football and in life. That's my experience.”

Player doubts

Not only is it a change for the fans, but it’s also a big change for the players.

The Seagulls brought in a lot of players over the summer and in January, many of whom came for the project Phillips is building.

Now the American has gone, many will ponder over their futures at the AMEX.

Harris knows it’s a difficult time and is hoping to help the players out as much as he can.

“Initially today, we've had a conversation where I've met the players. I think the benefit of the game being away on Sunday is that we'll be on the coach for a long time.

“So, I explained to them that I potentially need to sit down with every player one-to-one to hear how they're feeling and how I can support them.

“That's a role that drives me as a person - helping people be the best version of themselves.

“This is a great opportunity to do that, using that travel time to help them get into the right frame of mind for Sunday.

“Let's not beat around the bush, footballers are usually happy when they're playing and they're not always happy when they aren't.

“So, there'll be mixed emotions around the change.

“I think change in any walk of life is always hard at first, but it's how we deal with it and move through it over the next couple of days going into Manchester United game and then beyond for however long this adventure lasts.”

Baptism of fire

It certainly it isn’t an easy start to life in the dugout for Harris, as he takes his Albion side north to face Manchester United.

Last time they both faced off, it finished 2-2 with United scoring in the final few minutes of second half added time.

It’s difficult to predict what kind of Brighton team will show up on Sunday, but Harris is certainly looking forward to the challenge.

“It's a brilliant fixture. If you can't be excited and get yourself up for Man United away, then I'm not sure you should be involved in football, to be honest.

“For me, it's a great challenge and opportunity. We did well against them earlier in the season and we'll be really confident going into the game and we'll give it our absolute best.”

About the author
Sion Misra
Football journalist based in Wales. Brighton and Cymru fan