FREDDIE Ladapo has 14 reasons why he’s hoping to be in the Rotherham United starting line-up this weekend.
The Millers’ record buy is the club’s top scorer this season but has found himself on the bench in recent weeks as Paul Warne’s men have climbed to the top of League One.
Rotherham have put together a stunning run of eight wins and a draw in their last ten league outings, generally starting with Michael Smith and Kyle Vassell up front and letting Freddie fire as a game-changing substitute at some stage in the second half.
Ladapo, a £400,000 summer signing from Plymouth Argyle, admits not being in the first 11 keeps him awake at night and says he will do all he can to win Warne’s favour.
“Not starting is more than frustrating,” said the 14-goal hitman as the Millers gear up for tomorrow’s trip to Accrington Stanley.
“You hope there are things you can do that will get you in the starting line-up. Obviously when you don’t see your name there ... well, nobody would be happy.
“I’ve been trying all season to make sure that I do enough to earn my right to start more games. Hopefully the people who are managing will see that.
“I don’t think many clubs will have their top scorer on the bench. It’s just up to me as a player to keep on proving that I’m worthy of getting that start.”
Ladapo, Smith and Vassell have all been among the goals as Rotherham have taken the division by storm since Christmas, leaving Warne with a difficult task when it comes to selecting his frontline.
“Good clubs are going to have three good strikers going for two places,” Ladapo acknowledged. “At good clubs you get strikers who have done good things at other places and where they are now. This is a big club and it’s what you have to expect.”
The former Argyle man, who turned 27 on February 1, was a regular starter at the beginning of the campaign before the form of Vassell saw him chosen to partner Smith up front.
Ladapo has struck five times as a sub, turning matches against Maidenhead United – in the FA Cup – MK Dons and Burton Albion in the Millers’ favour and helping to secure a draw last weekend against AFC Wimbledon.
“I’ve been coming on and scoring. This isn’t the first time,” he said after his flashing volley looked to have won the game against Wimbledon until the visitors to AESSEAL New York Stadium snatched a 93rd-minute equaliser.
“I can name several matches in which I’ve come on and changed the game or even started and scored or had a positive impact. As long as I keep on doing that it will stand me in good stead for my career.
“You want things to go the way you’d imagine them going. When it’s not going that way, it is disappointing. I lose sleep over a lot of things. It doesn’t help me not starting.
“But as long as I can be motivated by it rather than let it affect me in a bad way, I think that’s what I need to take out of it.”
Player and boss have spoken more than once as Ladapo suffers on the sidelines and the striker has pledged to keep himself in the right frame of mind to affect a game whenever he is called on.
“I’ve had several conversations with the gaffer about it,” he said. “Everyone has their own opinions on how they see things or how they want their system to go.
“I’ll just keep scoring! If it (selection) doesn’t come, I’ll just keep doing whatever I can do. Regardless of what is happening, you can only be positive and move forwards.
“You just have to be positive in life. There are a lot of worse things happening out there. As long as I remain positive and hard-working things will turn.”
With 13 matches left, Ladapo is in sight of beating his best ever goal tally for the season — the 19 he bagged last year as Plymouth slipped into League Two — and he’s determined to play as big a part in possible in the push to reach the Championship.
“I always look at the bigger picture. I think that’s what helps me,” he said. “There are 13 games left and, you never know, you might have a huge impact in eight of them.
“Whatever time I do get on the pitch, there’s always an impact I can have. There are always good things that can happen in those games.”
THREE INTO TWO ... WHAT WARNE SAYS
“It’s near-on impossible to keep all three of them happy. I think the centre-forwards have the biggest egos at a football club.
“I probably wouldn’t say that about Smudge (Michael Smith), but he is internally egotistical. He just doesn’t want to admit it. If you look at his WhatsApp picture, he is virtually naked so he is definitely egotistical.
“That is a hard part of the job. I think all three appreciate that the other players are good but they think that they’re the best.
“I remember speaking to Karl Robinson at Oxford United about it because he has a similar problem. I spoke to Knilly (Alan Knill) at Sheffield United about how they deal with it.
“No club has only one striker. Dealing with it is difficult but it’s part of the job.
“I get it. I understand why they all want to be in the side.”