Rotherham United in advanced talks with three players as club plans for life without Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe

Rotherham United in advanced talks with three players as club plans for life without Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe

By David Beddows | 17/06/2022

Rotherham United in advanced talks with three players as club plans for life without Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe

 

ROTHERHAM United are preparing for life without Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe and could have new players through the door next week.

Top scorer Smith and central defender Ihiekwe look set to leave AESSEAL New York Stadium despite the offer of new and improved terms.

Hull City are believed to be a front runner for Smith's signature and Ihiekwe has been heavily linked with Derby County.

While manager Paul Warne hasn't shut the door on either of them staying, the task of finding replacements is under way and ideally he'd like some new faces in before the squad report back for pre-season training next Thursday.

He has had video calls with three targets over the last week — two of them defenders and one a striker — and the early signs are promising.

“At this point in time we are quite a long way down conversations with three players,” said Warne.

“They have made the right noises they want to come and we are quite a way into the financial talks with them.

“The positive side of me hopes we can have at least three more new faces in for the start of pre-season, but it could all flick in a heartbeat and I could lose them.”

Warne admits that Smith and Ihiekwe leave huge holes to fill.

“We are losing both on free transfers, which isn't great either,” he said. “If we do replace them we are competing with other clubs in our division to get the replacements in.

“Trying to get better players than Smudge and Icky on our budget, you have to be creative and work really hard.

“If it was easy to replace them both I’d have done it five weeks ago. It's a task all clubs have when their better players leave.”

Warne wants around eight new signings ready for another crack at the Championship and as well as attack-minded players, the defence is also a concern.

At the moment he has only Richard Wood, Wes Harding and young Jake Hull along the back line.

Numbers are thin but with six full weeks to go until the start of the season, he won't be panicking.

“I am not going to sign players just to fill spaces, no chance,” he added. “We need the right quality of player.

“We start back next Thursday and regrettably it could be the smallest squad which returns for us.

“The off-season for us will look more different than it has ever looked. That's how it feels and that's what I'm prepared for, not to get stressed because we haven't signed anyone.”

Warne dismissed reports linking the Millers with Brighton and Hove Albion defender Alex Cochrane but confirmed his ongoing interest in striker Tom Eaves.