“CHIEO, Chieo, Chieo.”
It’s become a familiar refrain during Rotherham United’s march to the top of League One.
Flying winger Chiedozie Ogbene has taken to life with the Millers and the Millers have taken to him.
There is a close connection between team and supporters these days and the 22-year-old enjoys maybe the warmest bond of all the players with the fans.
“They’re good people trying to help me,” says the summer signing as he gears up for the clash at Lincoln City tonight. “They just want the best for me and the club.
“They turn up every week to support us. They stuck with us when it was a bumpy ride earlier in the season. When they’re excited I want to celebrate with them.
“When it was ugly they were still there with us. They deserve everything they’re getting now. It’s a boost to hear the ‘Chieo’ chants. Especially when you’re very tired!”
The Imps match pits the team with the fifth best home record against the side boasting the second best away figures.
Rotherham are three points clear at the summit but Ogbene is taking nothing for granted as Paul Warne’s men eye a second third-tier promotion in three seasons.
“We have 15 matches left,” he says. “We’re taking it game by game and trying not to waste any opportunities. Every day in every training session we all work hard.
“The manager keeps us motivated and determined to push. We know how good the other teams are.”
Ogbene is rapid, really rapid; probably the fastest player in the division. He terrorises opponents when he’s in full flight and has worked hard and productively on his crossing with coach Matt Hamshaw since his switch from Brentford.
By his lightning standards, he dawdled to his first Millers goal, taking 20 games to get off the mark, in the 3-0 home win over Bristol Rovers, and is aiming to really step up the pace.
“Scoring my first goal was a confidence boost,” he says. “I’m shooting more in the right positions now.
“When you haven’t scored before you tend to keep things simple, but my confidence is up now and I feel I’m making the right decisions in shooting positions, trying to keep the ball low. I know when to shoot and when to cross.
“I feel like I’m in a good place right now. The management team have helped me a lot to be this kind of player. I have set myself a target for the end of the season. I want to get to double digits in assists and try to get a couple more goals.”
All three of Rotherham’s strikers have benefited from the Chieo supply line this term. The wide man has set up goals for Michael Smith, Kyle Vassell and Freddie Ladapo and it was his cross that gave Ladapo the opportunity to clinch a 3-2 victory over Burton with a sweet left-foot strike at AESSEAL New York Stadium last Saturday.
“You can tell that Freddie is hungry and wants to play,” Ogbene says. “He’s a good player, very alert in the box. When I put the ball in the box I knew he would be there.
“That’s the kind of strikers we have at the club in Freddie, Smudge and Vass: they’re all very hungry and alive in the box.”
After a start to their campaign where they were strong away but stuttered at home, Rotherham are League One’s form team and head to Sincil Bank seeking an eighth win in nine league outings.
“I believe we can stay top,” Ogbene says. “I said when things were ugly that when we click we will be a dangerous team, a tough team to stop. We’re showing that now and we’ve also strengthened our squad in the transfer window.
“I have no fear. I think we can go on and win almost every game. We will have some obstacles but we have learned how to overcome them early in matches and finish strongly.”
Meanwhile, those supporters who have taken the former Bees man to their hearts have an important role this evening when the Millers will be cheered on by a sold-out away contingent.
Rotherham have a point to prove at Sincil Bank after losing 2-0 at New York against the Imps back in August and slipping to a 3-0 away defeat in the EFL Trophy in November.
“Last time we played there they caused us a lot of trouble,” Ogbene says. “We’re confident, we’re training well, we’re analysing teams and we’re finding ways to penetrate the opposition’s weaknesses.
“We will go there and be disciplined. They are good at home. We will have to be patient and try to break at the right time. I think the ability in the team will be enough.
“I feel that that full away end will make a big difference. The team have a good relationship with the fans.
“The importance of fans is huge. At 2-2 against Burton they drove us on. They get behind us and, honestly, we feel it and it gives us an extra ten per cent.”
Over to you, Millers followers.
“Chieo, Chieo, Chieo.”
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