Defender Michael Ihiekwe on wedding plans, promotion hopes and coming to the end of his Rotherham United contract

Defender Michael Ihiekwe on wedding plans, promotion hopes and coming to the end of his Rotherham United contract

By Paul Davis | 21/03/2022

Defender Michael Ihiekwe on wedding plans, promotion hopes and coming to the end of his Rotherham United contract
Michael Ihiekwe

HE still isn’t married.

For more than two years Michael Ihiekwe has been planning to tie the knot with partner Rosie.

Twice the date has been set and twice the coronavirus pandemic has intervened.

The Rotherham United centre-half has his fingers crossed that it’s third time lucky in the summer.

“Last year we had it booked but we were never that optimistic because of all the Covid restrictions,” he says.

“I’m feeling a bit more hopeful about it this time. It’s all arranged — same place, just a different date.”

Before then, he has the little matter of a promotion push to keep him occupied

The Millers occupy top spot in League One and have only eight games to negotiate as they bid for a third rise to the Championship in five seasons.

“I’m feeling good about it,” says Ihiekwe, standing pitchside at Adams Park last Saturday after Rotherham had righted the wrongs of a shock home loss to ten-man MK Dons a week earlier by grinding out a 0-0 draw against play-off contenders Wycombe Wanderers.

“We’ve put ourselves in a brilliant position. We were upset about the MK match and how that went. We’ve been brilliant this season and you can’t get too down over one game, just like we can’t get too elated over a win.

“It’s in our hands. We just have to stay focused.”

The result got Rotherham back on track ahead of two successive home matches and the chance to move further ahead of third-placed MK in the battle to finish in one of the two automatic-promotion places.

Success would add some spice to his forthcoming nuptials. “June 8,” he grins. “It could be some party if we’ve gone up.”

The Millers have been clean-sheet specialists this season and the ‘nil’ against the Chairboys’ name was league shut-out number 21 for Paul Warne’s men

“We were due one because we hadn’t had one for ten days!” the 29-year-old says. “I’m a defender and my job is to help to stop the ball going in our net.

“We knew it was going to be a physical game and that we had to be up for it at the back.”

The Scouser has experience of what it takes to make the leap to the second tier.

He’s been with Rotherham for nearly five years, making more than 170 appearances, and was a regular starter in manager Warne’s promotion side of 2018 and the one of 2020 when he was chosen for the PFA League One Team of the Year.

“What’s the key to the run-in? Consistency,” he says. “We have to keep doing what’s got us to this point. It’s important not to look too far ahead.

“That’s something we’ve done really well this season: staying in the moment and thinking only of the task immediately in front of us. The next game is always the most important one.”

Eight matches to go ...

“You can’t always control the result, but you can control your performance,” Ihiekwe says.

“It can be difficult at times with all the games and feeling ‘leggy’ or whatever but at this point whether you’re tired or not doesn’t matter.

“We’re in an amazing position and potentially we could have an unbelievable season. That’s all the motivation you need.”

He wants a top-two spot for the Millers. A play-off place won’t suffice.

The bride, not the bridesmaid.

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MICHAEL Ihiekwe has put negotiations about a new Rotherham United deal on hold until the close of the campaign

The central defender, who is coming to the end of his contract, doesn’t want to consider his future while the Millers are bidding to reach the Championship.

“Talks will wait until the end of the season,” he says. “We’ve got so much to focus on that now isn’t the right time to be discussing contracts.

“Getting promoted is the aim and I don’t want to be distracted by anything else.

“You can’t be selfish in this situation; it’s about the team.”

Rotherham have no option to extend Ihiekwe’s contract so the player will become a free agent in the summer unless a new deal is agreed.