PAUL Warne looked the Scottish prospect in the eye and told him he couldn’t guarantee him a first-team place.
The Scottish prospect was okay with that.
Warne warned the midfielder he would have to work harder than he ever had in his life.
The midfielder was okay with that.
Warne informed the Ross County man he would start life on the bench until he was up to speed.
The Ross County man was okay with that.
Jamie Lindsay had passed the Warne Test and the Rotherham United manager duly signed him.
That was back in July. Four months on, Lindsay is a vital figure for the Millers and has started every League One match since forcing his way into the starting 11 in early September.
“I did my best to talk him out of signing,” his boss grins. “It’s a weird technique but it seems to work for me.
“He bought into coming here and fighting and proving his worth.”
With Lindsay at the centre of the action in the centre of the park, Rotherham have climbed to within two points of the play-off places. Sort out their home form and they’re real contenders for the top six.
Warne knew in the summer the importance of getting his recruitment right, particularly in midfield. Will Vaulks had gone, so too had Semi Ajayi, who had switched last season with such great effect from centre-half, Richie Towell was no more.
Narky, mobile, combative, ready to push an opponent twice if he gets pushed once, Lindsay is in the Vaulks mould.
He doesn’t have the long throw but does have more sharpness in his running. The winner of a 50:50 challenge between the two would be a 50:50 bet and both would put money on themselves.
The former Celtic youngster, who turned 24 last month, hasn’t just met Warne’s expectations since agreeing a three-year deal, he’s exceeded them.
“I mean this in the nicest possible way but when you bring in players in key positions it takes a long time for them to really get it,” the manager says.
“Players come in and they all want to play every week. I understand that. Sometimes, though, their role at the club at first isn’t to start games, it’s to be the best support act they can be and take their opportunities when they come.
“Over the last few weeks, the penny has definitely dropped. Jamie knows what we want from him out of possession.
“I still think we can get more from him in possession and I think he can be a goal threat because he’s got good feet. But I think he has a much greater understanding now than when he first came in of what we expect from him.
“In fact, I think he’s at a further stage than where I thought he would be.”
Linsday was good in his first few games, then stepped it up to very good before improving even further in the most recent away wins, at Ipswich Town and Gillingham, where he was nothing short of great.
Warne says. “His performance at Gillingham underlined his development since he came here. He covered virtually every blade of grass. He stopped their build-ups.”
The boss is okay with that.
From the moment he left Ross County after scoring nine goals in a season to help them reach the Scottish Premier League and arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium, Linsday has kept his new manager’s message in mind.
“When Jamie came in, I told him — like I did with Jake Hastie, Matt Olosunde and others — that it wouldn’t be a straight progression straight into the first team where everything works out perfectly and you stay in the team forever,” Warne says.
“That’s not how it works here. For his Scottish team, he played a more advanced role and scored goals and all that. Here, you have a massive part to play out of possession. The players in the middle of the park are really the driving force of the team.”
Lindsay never stops running, pressing, challenging, irritating. GPS data shows that he is consistently in the Millers’ top three for distance covered during a match along with Matt Crooks and Ben Wiles.
Warne likes what he has seen of his midfield man so far but wasn’t the first to see it. Head of recruitment Rob Scott, using the Scottish contacts and knowledge that helped persuade Rotherham to lure him from Watford earlier this year, was the Millers’ eyes north of the border.
“Jamie was one of Scotty’s,” Warne admits. “We had a big void in the middle of the park with losing Will and Semi.
“I’d always liked Dan Barlaser and managed to get him in from Newcastle United. I thought he could bring something different to what we had. He’s got great range of passing and control of the game.
“Scotty brought Jamie to my attention along with a few other players. Jamie seemed to encapsulate what we want from a midfielder.
“He’s a bit feisty, athletic and had an eye for goal in Scotland. All of those things married up quite well. I’m really pleased with him.”
The player is quick to bear his teeth on the pitch but off it is quick to smile.
His young family have moved to South Yorkshire with him and are settling into their new home in Doncaster.
“He’s a really nice kid,” Warne says. “He’s just had his second child. He’s a really good family man.
“He’s sound as a pound really. I don’t sign anyone I don’t like. It’s probably harder to get through the door here as a character than it is as a player.
“He’s really enthusiastic and a good learner. We have loads of meetings and he’s always attentive in those. He always wants to improve. He’s a good, all-round sort.”
Lindsay is still waiting for his first goal in English football but, otherwise, the player who cost the Millers around £200,000 from the Staggies, is making Vaulks’ absence less noticeable than many people feared might be the case.
Vaulks earned the club a handsome £2-million-plus fee when he departed for Cardiff City and Warne believes something similar could one day be in store for his new boy.
“Hopefully, Jamie sees it that if he has a couple of good seasons here with us, like Will and Semi did, he might go on to a higher level,” he says.
The boss would be okay with that.
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