ROTHERHAM United are drawing up a list of potential replacements for the quartet of players they fear will reject new contracts in the summer.
The Millers have made offers to four of their first-team squad, two of whom are known to be Matt Olosunde (left) and Clark Robertson, and all of them have said they would prefer to wait until the campaign is over before resolving the issue.
Manager Paul Warne, leading the club’s fight for Championship survival, has been working with head of recruitment Rob Scott to identify the men they want to bring to AESSEAL New York Stadium.
“It’s the old classic: the players are happier to talk about it at the end of the season,” the boss said. “People like putting it on the back burner. The lads have that right. But if they don’t want to talk about it now, it means we have to try to replace them.
“They know there is a risk that by the time they come back to me and want to re-sign I’ve found someone else.”
The deals of Olosunde and Robertson are due to expire but the other two, unnamed, players with terms on the table aren’t necessarily ones who are coming to the end of their contracts. There is the possibility that they could be key figures who Rotherham are keen to tie down for the long term.
Much could hinge on which division the Millers find themselves in next year. They begin their 12-match run-in next week three points off safety but with four games in hand on most of the sides around them.
Asked how talks are progressing, Warne replied: “The situation is sticky, I would suggest. All four players are players who have done well for us and who foresee their careers in the Championship.
“I believe they want to play in the Championship, earn as much money as they can and play in front of the biggest crowds they can. How can I blame them? I understand it from their point of view.
“I go down the route that none of those lads will choose to stay. Then if they do, great, I’ve got a decision to make. If they don’t, then hopefully I am further down the road to replacing them.
“It’s the same with every squad in the world: there’s always that natural erosion and re-selection.”
Rotherham, in the first week of the international break, are next in action on Good Friday (April 2) at Millwall before a home clash with Wycombe Wanderers on Easter Monday.
There is an outside chance that injured trio Robertson, Jamie Lindsay and Chiedozie Ogbene could be in the squad that travels to the New Den.
Their return to full training has been delayed slightly and all three are now scheduled to rejoin the main group on Sunday.
Centre-half Robertson (hamstring) and midfielder Lindsay (hamstring) have been out for four and six weeks respectively while winger Ogbene hasn’t played since September.
Left-back Joe Mattock isn’t far away from a comeback after having ankle surgery in December.
YOUNG Rotherham United hot-shot Jacob Gratton could be heading out of AESSEAL New York Stadium next season.
The Thurcroft teenager (below), one of the best prospects to emerge from the club’s youth set-up in years, has just returned to fitness after a year out following cruciate-knee-ligament surgery.
The Millers have already accelerated the progress of youngsters Josh Kayode and Jake Cooper with loan spells and now plan to do the same with the 19-year-old striker.
“Next year we will look to loan him out at a decent level,” manager Paul Warne said.
“This season, if Gratts hadn’t been injured, we’d have tried to get him out to somewhere like Gateshead in National League North. Then, if he’d done well, we’d have looked to move him up one or two levels in January with another loan.”
Rotherham insiders describe him as a better player and scorer than centre-forward Jerry Yates was at the same stage he was coming through the Millers ranks. Yates is now banging in goals for League One Blackpool and attracting Championship interest.
Gratton, who has been with the club since he was nine, signed a two-and-a-half-year contract in January 2020. He trains with the first team and is a hugely-popular member of the squad.
“He’s definitely part of us going forward,” Warne said. “He’s a goalscoring centre-forward who works his socks off. The lads think the world of him, as do I.”
The player made the bench for the Championship clash with Watford earlier this month when Covid had reduced the Millers’ numbers but isn’t considered ready for second-tier football yet.
With the coronavirus pandemic preventing a late loan in this campaign, he has received dispensation to play in Rotherham’s youth-team games.
“We don’t have an under-23s set-up here so the young pros have a pre-season with us and then we try to loan them out to get them game-time,” Warne said. “We’ll definitely be looking to do that with Gratts next year.
“Things can change in a heartbeat but, as things stand, next season will be a development year for him away from us.”