Grant Ward could be at New York Stadium on Wednesday and Paul Warne has a message for Rotherham United fans

Grant Ward could be at New York Stadium on Wednesday and Paul Warne has a message for Rotherham United fans

By Paul Davis | 30/12/2019

Grant Ward could be at New York Stadium on Wednesday and Paul Warne has a message for Rotherham United fans
Grant Ward in his Millers days

PAUL Warne is calling on supporters not to abuse the player who rejected the chance to join Rotherham United when he heads to AESSEAL New York Stadium with his new club on New Year's Day.

Long-time target Grant Ward last week decided against a move to South Yorkshire in favour of signing for Blackpool even though the Millers were offering him a longer contract than the Seasiders.

Blackpool are the League One visitors to New York on Wednesday and Warne said: "I just hope that if Grant plays here fans don't feel the need to boo him."

Ward, who spent a year on loan at Rotherham in 2015/16, is fit again after more than 12 months on the sidelines following a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Blackpool have new wealthy owners and gave the free-agent winger an 18th-month contract with a 12-month option in the club's favour.

Millers boss Warne said: "We offered him a really good deal. He took a different deal and I can understand why. I'm not an idiot. I understand how the world works. There are no hard feelings from me at all.

"I was offering him a longer contract. You'll have to ask him why he turned it down. I know why but I'm not telling you."

Warne made no secret of his desire to land Ward but now wishes he'd not spoken as much publicly about his interest in the former Ipswich Town man.

When I interviewed the boss after the resounding 4-0 home win over Peterborough United that lifted Rotherham into third spot on Sunday, he told me: "I've always wanted to bring Grant here.

"It's probably my mistake that I deal with the media too much in regard to my signings. I should keep my mouth shut.

"There are loads of times when it happens like that: you nearly get a player but you don't.

"I am really open. The problem is, I sit in front of you and you ask if I'm linked to a certain player. I politely tell you that I like him, I like him, I like him, then it keeps coming in social media that I like him.

"Then someone somewhere else is going: 'Grant Ward, he's not bad. Rotherham like him. Let's have a look at him.'

"I'm not blaming you because it's your job to ask me those questions. But that's why it's hard for us managers to be completely candid because it can come back to bite you. I think it has bitten me a little bit on this occasion."

The Millers were ready to make the 25-year-old one of their top earners but the Seasiders harbour promotion ambitions of their own and it is thought they were prepared to pay him even more for his services.

"There are loads of clubs in this division who are going for it," Warne said. "We're obviously one of them. Blackpool, on the back of two defeats possibly, persuaded him in a different way.

"The lad has his own future and family to think about and he's chosen the deal that suits him. I mean this completely sincerely, good luck to the kid.

"I'm a fatalist. If he was meant to come here and do great for us then he would have. He has chosen to go to another club which is absolutely his right.

"He has no reason to come here. I hope he has a great career. Unfortunately, it's not going to be here."

Meanwhile, Rotherham have a selection dilemma at left-back following Joe Mattock's red card against Peterborough and an injury to the man most likely to replace him, centre-half Clark Robertson.

Mattock pushed his head into the face of Posh striker Ivan Toney and is now banned for the next three games.

"It's given us an issue at left-back," Warne acknowledged. "Obviously, Robbo would have been the first squeeze across to fill in there.

Robertson had to limp off in the 27th minute against Peterborough after damaging the groin that has troubled him for several weeks.

"He felt a lot of pain in his lower stomach," Warne said. "For the last couple of games he's felt great, but he feels he's back to square one, which is disappointing. I presume that will be him out for a period of time."

The left-back spot against Blackpool is likely to go to Matt Olosunde or Trevor Clarke.

Skipper Richard Wood, back in the side after injury problems of his own, said:  "We're going into the game full of confidence.

"We have to after a performance like the one against Peterborough. I'd call Peterborough a top-six team and we've come through the test with flying colours."