It sounded so good to hear a Yorkshire word spoken in a Geordie accent.
Dan Barlaser had just entered what appeared to be a deserted media suite at AESSEAL New York Stadium and was playing his part in front of a rolling camera.
He was coming ‘home’.
Rotherham United fans had taken the Newcastle United midfielder to their hearts during his promotion-winning loan spell last season.
If there was any transfer they and the club had wanted over the summer, this was the one.
The voice, that lovely, soft North-East voice, was just as we remembered. Only the recently-grown moustache and beard were different.
“Eyup,” he said to that unattended camera. “Any chance of anyone announcing a signing?”
Last season had begun slowly for the former England youth international. Supporters had their doubts and he was in and out of the team.
Soon though, as class told, the playmaker was in and in to stay. By the end of a campaign which saw a Championship place secured, the Millers loved Dan and Dan loved the Millers.
He went back to home-town club Newcastle in a last bid to make it there, to realise the 14-year-old dream he’d had since joining the Magpies as a kid.
Manager Steve Bruce liked him but, crucially for Rotherham, not enough to include him in his 25-man Premier League squad.
“He needs to go and play,” said the boss with the player’s best interests at heart. “It wouldn’t be right to put him back in the academy for another year.”
And so the Millers made their move.
Back in the media suite, Barlaser was enjoying his moment in the spotlight as Rotherham’s press team orchestrated a social-media signing-on ceremony with a difference.
The camera picked out the man Millers boss Paul Warne describes as his “quarterback” checking his phone and repeating a few of the hundreds upon hundreds of supporters’ beseeching posts on Twitter.
‘Come home, Barlaser.’
‘Waiting for Barlaser.’
He omitted the one from a fan pledging to have his private parts inked with a Dan tattoo if the deal went through.
Within 45 minutes of the video going live last Friday, it had attracted more than 4,500 views. By Monday, the figure was well past 22,000.
The 23-year-old was in the final 12 months of his Newcastle contract and he’s agreed a three-year deal at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
The fee is undisclosed but is not one which breaks the bank. The Magpies, though, are well aware of Barlaser’s potential, and have insisted on a large sell-on clause of around 40 per cent or more.
His new colours suit him
The player could have gone elsewhere. There was serious interest north and south of the border and at least one other Championship side were in for him.
However, Barlaser wanted Warne as much as Warne wanted him.
The Millers boss had been in regular contact but only to encourage him at St James’ Park, never to try to entice him away.
Barlaser appreciated that, just like he appreciated everything that Rotherham had done for him previously. Warne had made his mark on him, so had the coaching staff, so had his teammates, so had the fans.
The decision was his and there was only one place he was heading. He drove down the A1 last Thursday to complete the deal with his mother, father and girlfriend at his side.
Sometimes, little touches say big things about the kind of leader Warne is — the kind of things that make a player want to come back.
There were bouquets of flowers from the boss for mum Alison and partner Jade and he was gutted he was prevented from greeting them in person because he had a pre-arranged press conference that couldn’t be rescheduled.
“He’s an amazing kid,” Warne said. “He comes from a brilliant family.”
The manager made up for his absence by recording a private video and sending it to Barlaser to pass on to his loved ones.
In the media suite, meanwhile, Dan was gearing up for his final scene.
There was that Geordie inflection again: “Ah, I might as well do it meself.”
He walked to the camera and looked closely at the lens before heading back to his seat.
Then, with a thumbs-up, came the words we’d all longed to hear.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be back on a permanent basis. I can’t wait to get started. Up the Millers.”
I pity the tattooist.
DAN THE MAN ON HIS RETURN
“I’M delighted to be here permanently. Last year was an unbelievable year for me and the club.
“It went on for a while through the summer. Smudge (striker and fellow Geordie Michael Smith) and the gaffer had been trying to get me back.
“The gaffer has been a massive part in me coming back. Richie (number two Barker) and Hammy (coach Matt Hamshaw) as well. The gaffer is a top man and a top manager. I’m delighted to be working with him again.
“We played good football last season and got promoted to the Championship. When I knew I’d be leaving Newcastle, the Championship was where I wanted to be this year.
“I know the lads here. I know what it’s about. I know how the club runs. The fans are great. There was nowhere else I was going to go really.
“A couple of days after the League One programme stopped, I got kicked out of the players’ WhatsApp group. It was a sad moment. I’m still not back in it now! Hopefully I’ll be back in soon.
“I’ve not looked at social media much but my mam and my girlfriend have been on it and saying: ‘Look at this.’
“I had a great 14 years at Newcastle. I can’t thank all the coaches I’ve worked with there enough. I had a year left on my deal and I just thought about the future, especially with what’s going on now with the pandemic, and wanted to get tied down with something. I’ve just bought a house.
“To play Championship football here, hopefully for the next three years, will be brilliant.
“I know what’s expected, on and off the pitch. I’ll give my all for everyone at the club. I’ve already started! All the players have to do a mile run and I did mine the day before my signing was announced.
“Last year I got five minutes 30 seconds and this year I beat it by 15 or 20 seconds. I think Ross (head of player performance Burbeary) was happy with it.
“I’m relishing the challenge of playing in the Championship. I think we’ve got a very good squad who can comfortably stay up. We need to try to keep the club in this division for as long as we can.
“There’s competition for places. That’s what you need in this division. There are 40-plus games still to play and there will be ups and downs and injuries. We all need to stick together and push for each other.”
PAUL WARNE'S BOND WITH STEVE BRUCE
THE warm relationship between Rotherham United boss Paul Warne and Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce helped swing the Dan Barlaser deal for the Millers.
There is a mutual respect between the pair dating back to the days when Warne had already been in the AESSEAL New York Stadium hot-seat for two years and Bruce took charge at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Rotherham manager paid an eloquent and touching tribute to the then-Owls chief at an awards ceremony in Sheffield after the Hillsborough boss had lost both his parents in quick succession.
While Millers head of recruitment Rob Scott dealt with the player’s agent, Carl Thomas, of the SEG group, in the pursuit of Barlaser, Warne opened communications with Bruce.
Paul Warne and Steve Bruce
“I spoke to their manager directly,” he said. “Sometimes you get the better story through the manager as opposed to any other avenue.
“He’s always been really good with me, really open and honest. I respected what he said.
“He said: ‘Look, Warney, just leave it a couple of weeks and see how the lad does.’
“I kept my head under the parapet until he gave me the green light to go for Dan.”
Following a superb loan season at New York, Barlaser has returned to the Magpies in a final bid to force his way into their Premier League thinking.
When Bruce decided not to include the 23-year-old in his 25-man squad, he was happy to open the door to the Millers.
“The relationship with Newcastle is really good,” Warne said. “When we originally took Dan — as we do with all our loan players — we gave the parent club loads of information.
“I think they were really happy with his development here last season.”
Other teams were keen on Barlaser but the Geordie always wanted to work with Warne again and Rotherham were his top choice.
WARNE ON HIS NEW PERMANENT SIGNING
“I’M really pleased. He had a big impact on the group here last season, on and off the pitch.
“He’s a massive character, a really positive kid. He did really well for us during his loan. He grew into the season. He was always a midfielder I wanted to bring back.
“We’ve got a good midfield five with Shaun MacDonald, Matt Crooks, Ben Wiles, Jamie Lindsay and Dan. We had five centre mids last year and it would be stupid to think we need less in the league above.
“The way Dan played for us last year, it was an easy fit. He got on brilliantly with the staff and vice versa.
“I just think he has a different dimension. He is a little bit different to the others. He’s got probably the best range of passing in the team and is very good on set-pieces.
“He definitely adds good competition for places. On top of that is the fact he’s an amazing kid. He comes from a brilliant family. I really like him.
“I kept in contact with him during the summer after he had gone back north. I wanted to see how he got on at Newcastle United. I knew it had always been his ambition first and foremost to make it at his home-town club.
“I never asked him once to come back in the first few months. I just wanted him to live his dream at Newcastle.
“As soon as I knew that that was over, we tried to pounce and take him before everyone else.”