STAR winger Chiedozie Ogbene is poised for a January return for Rotherham United — ahead of schedule after undergoing knee surgery last October.
The 23-year-old’s quickfire recovery is a huge boost for the second-bottom Millers in their fight for Championship survival and their squad will be swelled even further as three more injured players also make their comebacks.
Ogbene and fellow winger Kieran Sadlier should be in full training and competing for a first-team place by the end of the month while midfielder Shaun MacDonald and centre-half Clark Robertson will rejoin the main group on Monday.
Rotherham have missed Ogbene more than any other player and manager Paul Warne, whose side are in FA Cup third-round action at Premier League Everton on Saturday, is delighted at the prospect of having the flying wide man at his disposal again.
“I think Chieo and Sads will train with the squad before the turn of the month,” he said.
“Chieo, obviously, catches the eye with his speed. He’s an exciting player. In a tight Championship game where there’s only a goal in it, his kind of pace is a definite weapon. It’s the same with Sads and his set-pieces — they’re very good. I’ll be well pleased to have them both back.”
MacDonald and Robertson are back after the weekend and could, conceivably, play a part at Derby County the following Saturday.
“In an ideal world where they weren’t needed immediately, we’d like to give them two weeks on the grass with the squad,” Warne said. “If we were to give them a 30-minute cameo, we might be able to snip that prep to a week.
“Macca was unbelievable before he got injured while Robbo will be great in a three at the back and can also fill in at left-back. He was great there against Norwich City (October 17) and hasn’t played since, unfortunately.”
Ogbene has been out with meniscus damage since early October and wasn’t expected to rejoin the group until February.
Sadlier hurt his ankle in November, Robertson (foot fracture) has been sidelined for nearly three months and MacDonald hasn’t played since the end of October after breaking his leg.
The quartet’s return will leave left-back Joe Mattock (ankle) as the club’s only long-term injury victim.
Meanwhile, the Millers are monitoring Freddie Ladapo in the build-up to the Everton clash as the striker has a sore groin.
“He’s not going to be able to do a great deal on the grass this week,” Warne said.
With all five of the players hit by coronavirus back in the camp, Rotherham are heading to Goodison Park determined to attack opponents who are in seventh spot in the top flight.
“Everton are doing really well in the Premier League and the standard in that division this year has been something else,” Warne said. “We’ll take the match for what it is: it’s a competitive game where anything can happen. If both teams play at their best then I’ve got a funny feeling that they might win, but you just never know.
“When you play against a Premier League team, you want your players and your fans and your board to enjoy it. There’s nothing enjoyable about not crossing the halfway line.
“We won’t set up all defensively and park the bus.
“We want to go there and express ourselves.”
The postponed home games against Derby County and Cardiff City have been rearranged for Tuesday February 2 and Tuesday February 9 respectively, both 7pm kick-offs.
FRENCH striker Armand Gnanduillet is among Rotherham United’s targets in the January transfer window.
The ex-Blackpool forward is looking to return to English football after an unsuccessful stint in Turkey and the Advertiser understands there has been contact between the Championship Millers and the 28-year-old’s agent.
Rotherham are interested in other attackers and, at this stage, there is no guarantee a deal will be done for the six-foot-four-inch frontman.
Armand Gnaduillet. Picture by the Blackpool Gazette
“He’s available, that is for sure,” Warne said. “We need a goalscoring striker in this league.
“He is obviously a player I know because his exploits in League One last season were really good. He is someone who is definitely on our list.”
Several clubs are keen on a free agent who hit the target 18 times in 36 outings for Blackpool in 2019/20, although most of the interest is thought to be from teams below the second tier.
The former Chesterfield man, a scorer at AESSEAL New York Stadium on January 1 last year when the Millers won 2-1, made 15 appearances for Turkish side Altay, mainly from the bench, after leaving the Tangerines in the summer.
There has yet to be any Millers movement in the window, but several of Warne’s squad are wanted men.
“There have been enquiries about some of my players,” the boss confirmed. “There is rumoured interest in a couple of our lads who are in the team every week.
“We’ve had quite a lot of League One interest in the lads on the periphery of the first team.”
Warne has defended the late postponement of last Saturday’s New York clash with Cardiff City when show fell heavily before the scheduled 3pm kick-off.
“I was disappointed we didn’t play but at the time it was the right decision,” he said. “The snow was absolutely hammering down at about 1.50pm and the forecast was it would keep snowing until 4pm.
“Me and Neil (Cardiff manager Harris) went on the pitch with the ref, had a candid chat and kicked a ball about. It was slippy underfoot. What neither of us wanted was the game to start, one team take the lead after ten minutes and then the other start going: ‘It’s too dangerous this.’
“The forecast also said that the pitch would freeze at 4pm, so it seemed a sensible decision not to put any of the players at risk.”