IT was the chair that was the problem.
Summer signing Ollie Rathbone had prepared himself for his initiation ceremony of singing in front of his new Rotherham United teammates.
He’d chosen his song and made sure he knew every word. He was ready to go.
Then the chair came out at the team hotel on the eve of the League One clash at Wigan Athletic last month.
“It was this foam thing,” the former Rochdale midfielder said. “The lads made me stand on it.
“I’d felt very comfortable about everything in the days leading up to it, but when it actually came round I’m thinking: ‘If I fall off here it’s going to be horrific.’”
He took a deep breath and launched into the opening verse of a Lady Gaga number.
The 24-year-old joined the Millers only four weeks ago but has already established himself in Paul Warne’s starting 11.
“It’s good, yeah,” he said. “I’d been at Rochdale for a long time and was kind of part of the furniture there.
“I’m really enjoying a new chapter, hearing new ideas, working with new people. I think I’m taking it in my stride. The training is tough but we had to work hard at Rochdale as well so I was well prepared for the regime when I came here.”
Rathbone was talking last Saturday in the AESSEAL New York Stadium media suite after another stand-out individual display, this time in the 2-0 derby win over Doncaster Rovers that left Rotherham only a point outside the play-off zone.
Bright-eyed, rapid-talking and keen to smile, he was an instant hit — the opposite of his moment in the limelight before the Wigan clash.
“All the new players had to get up and have a go,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d be allowed to use your phone for lyrics so I’d thought of a song I already knew all the words to.
“I went for Shallow by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga from the film, A Star Is Born. The words are pretty simple.
“But then all the other lads were using their phones and I could have gone for something else. Mine was a bit slow. It wasn’t great. To be honest, I think it was one of the worst.”
There has been nothing bad about him since then, however, and the ex-Manchester United trainee is warming to his fresh surroundings in South Yorkshire.
“It was weird coming to another club, to be honest,” he said. “I think I under-estimated the effect it would have on me.
“I was a main figure in the dressing room at Rochdale and then I came in as the new boy here not knowing anything.
“Richie Barker (assistant manager) would hold a team meeting where he’d go through stuff and everybody would know the answers. I was, like: ‘Whoa, what’s going on? I don’t know anything.’
“I sat down with Richie and talked through things and I think I’m getting the hang of things now.”
He’s come to Rotherham with one aim: “To get into the Championship. I don’t think that’s an unrealistic goal with this squad of players.”
Meanwhile, I was still feeling his pain. “I’d hate to sing in public,” I told him. “If I was a footballer I don’t think I’d ever change clubs.”
“That’s why I was at Rochdale for five years!” he shot back to laughs all round.
“I couldn’t really concentrate. I was just trying not to fall off the chair.
“I had nowhere to look and I couldn’t stare at my phone because I didn’t have it. I was just trying to avoid eye contact with anyone.”
On the field is where Rathbone has found his voice, and his fast feet and even sharper mind have had fans going gaga over his impact.
A star is born.