Millwall head coach Neil Harris pays tribute to Matija Sarkic after his death at 26

Neil Harris has paid a beautiful tribute to Matija Sarkic following the Millwall goalkeeper's tragic death at the weekend.

Sarkic, a Montenegro international, passed away in Budva on Saturday morning at the age of just 26. Tributes to Sarkic have poured in from across the football community in the wake of his passing and Harris, Millwall's head coach, has shared his own tribute.

Speaking on Millwall's official website, Harris said: "First thoughts have to go with Mati's parents and his brothers. They had a wonderful son and a wonderful brother who was a really caring, good man. Obviously getting the call at 7 o'clock in the morning first thing on the weekend, you know it's not going to be positive news. But you could never imagine the devastation in the moment that you find out that such a good man at such a tender age has lost his life.

"Words find it hard to explain how you feel. It makes it very emotional to me because I have a 22-year-old son myself, Mati was only a few years older. Any human being, any Millwall fan or anybody in life can relate to something like that. [It's] devastating news for the family, for our football club."

Andy Marshall, the club's goalkeeping coach, was the first person at the club to learn of Sarkic's passing. The pair were close with Marshall working with Sarkic at Aston Villa and Birmingham City before reuniting at Millwall last summer. He and Harris have both been in contact with Sarkic's family since Saturday.

Harris added: "[Marshall] was very close to the family. Mati's dad was not only a proud father but also a huge advisor in his career. I know he leant heavily on his brothers as well to follow their guidance. Andy was close to the family due to coaching him at a younger age and then at Villa and then onto us. Marsh was the one who took the initial call and had to deal with that moment before passing on to me. It was fantastic for us that we could share our thoughts and our emotions with [the family] and send our condolences. But obviously [it's a] very difficult moment for Andy as well."

Harris went on to highlight the number of wonderful tributes that have been paid to Sarkic online in the wake of his passing. Harris referenced Sarkic's tremendous work ethic and his "radiant smile" before outlining that the club are in discussions over tributes to Sarkic, which will take place "in the coming weeks and months".

The club have opened an online book of condolence for anyone wishing to pay their respects to Sarkic, while a tribute area has been opened for fans to leave flowers and memorabilia.

millwall head coach neil harris pays tribute to matija sarkic after his death at 26

Matija Sarkic on international duty for Montenegro

"What a bloke. There's no surprise that when you read obituaries on social media and people so close to him talk so fondly of him, they talk about his radiant smile and his human nature and his goodwill. I only worked with Mati for a three-month period. I was with him last Thursday at the training ground and he had a huge smile on his face, he was so excited about going to see the family in Montenegro that evening. Even then [he was] just radiant. He'd had a great summer, performed so well for his nation against Belgium and been to his brother's wedding, so proud.

"As a character at the training ground, every day he came in, win, lose or draw, smile on his face and just wanted to better. That was his thought process. His philosophy was, 'Right, play well or don't play well, how can he be better? How can he be the best version of himself?'. He was very driven and you could see that he had high aspirations for himself to keep moving forward. He wanted to build his caps up for his country but also perform really well for us and drag us forward.

"I can't praise him highly enough as a human being but also as a professional as well. It doesn't always feel right to talk sort of work in times like this, but I think in Mati's case it does, because he loved the game. He loved his job."

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