LEWIS Price wasn’t having it. This wasn’t the Rotherham United way.
A new arrival had just run out at the club’s Roundwood training complex and smashed a ball as far as he could in the expectation that somebody else would be bringing it back.
Price, the understudy goalkeeper, one of manager Paul Warne’s most trusted men, saw what had happened and stepped in ...
The 36-year-old’s departure from the Millers was announced last week, an under-23s coaching role at hometown side AFC Bournemouth and the chance to be with his family in the South again tempting enough for him to hang up his boots.
The gap he leaves is much greater than expected of a player who was content to be a squad man and rarely featured in the first team after his switch from Sheffield Wednesday.
He appeared only 29 times in four years but it was off the pitch where he truly made his mark.
Warne, who won two League One promotions with Price in his matchday 18, said: “From a fan’s point of view, I can see people looking at it and thinking: ‘Well, he never played anyway.’ But for the people who have been in and around the club, Pricey played a massive part here.
“Every member of my staff, every player, they all have a say, they all have an opinion I listen to and all have an input. Everything that everyone does at this football club matters.
“Pricey had a huge input into the players and the behaviour around the place. He clipped people’s wings when they were out of order.
“I put a lot of our success on the pitch down to the players on the periphery. Pricey was definitely one of those who played a big part in our culture here.
“He’s a great pro, an unbelievable pro. He’s a really good player. He’s had a good career.”
A natural athlete, Price could hold his own in fitness tests with his outfield teammates.
Physiotherapist Stephen Gilpin, much younger and no mean runner, once good-naturedly challenged him to a hill race and watched him disappear into the distance, while the keeper’s power output on the exercise bike was off the scale.
He is a big man, around six feet four inches tall, and the muscularity to match the height makes for an imposing figure.
That’s why the new boy wilted in the face of his physical presence and air of authority on his first day at Roundwood.
“I remember, we signed a player once.” Warne said. “The player came in on day one and the balls were all set out. He came across and just whacked one as far as he could.
“Pricey went: ‘Hang on a sec, we don’t do that here. Go and get your own ball.’ He made the player run off and fetch it back.”
Price was a relaxed, confident presence within the camp, underpinned by good manners and good standards. His hotel room on away days and tours was notoriously tidy, and he was funny, very funny. Captain Richard Wood says he will miss his quick mind and tongue more than anything.
His seniority and example extended far beyond his playing contribution. “He was someone who I think people looked up to,” Warne said.
The last day as a player was a dark one for Price and the Millers. There had been fewer than 150 league outings spread among 11 clubs but 16-and-a-half years of his life were over.
“He is someone who is, fundamentally, a good man, a really good bloke,” Warne said. “They’re the people you miss. He is a good lad and he will be sorely missed.
“When he said goodbye to the lads ... it’s quite upsetting really because it’s the end of his playing career. It’s a big chapter of his life that’s over. He’s really sad that it’s finished.
“It’s a bit like when your kid goes to university. All the mums and dads think they’ll be all right and then they drop their kid off and when they’re driving home they can’t see through their tears.
“I bet when he left the training ground for the very last time he was pretty upset. I thanked him for everything he had done and told all the lads to keep in contact with him.”
This season, Price had slipped to third in the rankings, behind Jamal Blackman and Viktor Johansson, and had become a training-ground keeper spared the obligation to travel to away matches.
The Millers had been aware for a while that the Bournemouth opportunity was in the offing and that’s why Price’s name was conspicuous by its absence in the 24-man squad they submitted to the EFL last month.
He leaves with everyone’s respect and best wishes, including those of the player who learned a quick and valuable first-day lesson about what it means to be one of Warne’s Millers.
Lewis Price: the man who enforced the Rotherham way, the man who did much to forge it.
PAUL Warne was ready to raise a glass to Lewis Price’s contribution to Rotherham United until he was left feeling underwhelmed by the departing goalkeeper’s ‘thank you’ gift.
The player ended his four-year Millers stint to become a coach at AFC Bournemouth and presented Warne with a bottle of red wine before heading to the south coast.
“One bottle,” grinned the manager. “Now, I would suggest that one bottle between nine or ten staff isn’t that generous.
“I’m just saying it. I don’t know what you think.
“Someone comes into my office and I’m like: ‘Yep, you can have a teaspoon. The other physio, you can have a tablespoon. Richie (assistant boss Barker), you can have half a thimble.’
“Then I’ll take it home and say to my wife: ‘Here you are. I’ve treated you to a bottle of wine, Sweetheart. ‘You’ve got half a glass and I’ve got a cube.’”
HONEST boss Paul Warne has informed Josh Vickers he is down the queue after signing the goalkeeper for Rotherham United.
The Millers gave the former Lincoln City man a season-long contract this week after back-up shot-stopper Lewis Price left to become a coach at AFC Bournemouth.
Twenty-four-year-old Vickers, who had trained with Rotherham in the summer, was a free agent so could be brought in outside of the transfer window.
He will be understudy to Chelsea loanee Jamal Blackman, currently back at parent club Chelsea for treatment, and youngster Viktor Johansson.
“I have told him that he is third in the pecking order,” said Warne. “I haven’t lied to him. I love Jamal — I think he has done really well — and I think Viktor will have a great career at the club.”
However, the manager hasn’t ruled out Vickers, who was a regular in the Imps’ League One side last year, staking a claim for a place in his Championship matchday squad.
“The other week, Jamal had a bad ankle,” Warne said. “Viktor could have played, Josh could have been on the bench and anything could have happened.
“I am not saying Josh is going to play straight away but if next week he had to go in goal I would be absolutely fine with that.
“It is good for us. It is good competition. If it pushes the goalkeeping department on to make the top one even better, then it is win-win for us.”
Vickers worked out at the Millers’ Roundwood complex in pre-season after leaving Sincil Bank but there was no contract offer at the time as the club already had Price and were chasing Blackman and Johansson.
Warne made contact again once it became clear that Price was ready to hang up his boots to take the Bournemouth offer.
“There was never a deal for Josh because I had my goalkeeping department boxed off,” the boss said.
“When Pricey left, it was an absolute no-brainer for me to bring Josh in. It is the healthiest goalkeeping department I have had.
“Josh hadn’t got himself a number-one role at a club that he wanted so he was available.”