“I’M thinking: ‘Bloody hell, what’s going on here?’”
Ryan Giles was expecting to be talking football matches, tactics, how he would fit into the Rotherham United masterplan.
Instead, his prospective new boss had just told him to go and fetch his dog.
Giles was on a Zoom call last month with Millers manager Warne, assistant boss Richie Barker and coach Matt Hamshaw ahead of a potential loan move from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“The first thing the gaffer asked me was if I had a dog with me,” the player recalls. “When I said I had, he asked if he could have a look at it.
“I went off to get it and I’m thinking: ‘Bloody hell, what’s going on here?’ Then he told me how much he loved dogs.”
A couple of days later, Giles pitched up at the Millers’ Roundwood complex with everything he needed for his first day’s training: boots, shin pads, cake.
It coincided with the left wing-back’s 21st birthday and he was wasting no time in making a good first impression on his new teammates.
“I went to Morrisons in the morning and bought loads of doughnuts and cakes,” he says. “It was a great start and helped me out massively! I got some right Brownie points off the lads.”
The Rotherham squad had already made a good first impression on him.
“The night before, I started receiving loads of messages on WhatsApp from numbers I didn’t have saved,” he says. “I’m thinking: ‘Bloody hell, what are all these?’
“It was video messages from all the staff introducing themselves one by one, which was nice, and then they put me into the players’ group chat. Straightaway, it was ‘Welcome, Ryan’, ‘Welcome, Mate’, ‘Looking forward to meeting you’. It was a nice touch and really made me feel at ease.”
A confident, engaging young man is friendly and talkative from the first second he answers my call. I’ve rung him at the Holiday Inn in Canklow and we’re speaking a few days after his arrival in South Yorkshire.
He says ‘bloody hell’ a lot, in an accent that has a Welsh tinge because of his upbringing in Shropshire close to the border.
The hotel is the base for him and girlfriend Alex, along with their eight-week-old Cockapoo pup, Milo, while they look for a house to rent in the area.
“They’ve been very good,” he says. “They’ve given us an executive room which is like a room in two parts. It’s nice.”
The Millers’ gain is Coventry City’s loss. Giles was with Mark Robins’ side for the first half of the season before Wolves’ recall and his own itchy feet led him to AESSEAL New York Stadium.
“I did really well at Coventry and was enjoying it but I just felt like a fresh start,” he says. “There was a bit of interest in me and Rotherham were one of the clubs.
“I wanted a new challenge, new faces, a place where I didn’t really know anyone and they were a perfect fit.”
The canine conversation clinched the deal. With Milo sitting on his lap, Giles liked what he heard and decided to join the Millers’ fight for Championship survival
“The gaffer, Richie and Hammy, they all seemed really good,” he says. “Despite where they were in the table, they had ambitions. They were very confident and I could see the gaffer believed in his players. The honesty was there and that’s what swayed me to think: ‘Yeah, I want to go and play for him’.”
And playing is what he intends to do.
“The obvious aim is to get as many minutes as I possibly can,” he says. “I want to have an effect on the side and contribute towards the team staying up.”
I ask him what his strengths are and he laughs self-consciously, bashful for the only time in our chat.
“I would say I’m quite quick,” he says. “I like to be very positive, to get on the front foot and get defenders on the back foot. I love to attack and put balls in the box.
“I want to defend as well as possible but I’ve always been more of an attacker, I’d say.”
An attacker, I’d say too.
It took him four minutes of his debut to score his first goal for the club at Middlesbrough and he followed that up with a scintillating second against Derby County two matches later.
“Bloody hell,” you could almost hear the Rams defenders saying as he split them asunder with a 50-yard run. “What’s going on here?’’