The dressing-room reaction to Rotherham United striker Freddie Ladapo's transfer request

The dressing-room reaction to Rotherham United striker Freddie Ladapo's transfer request

By Paul Davis | 14/01/2022

The dressing-room reaction to Rotherham United striker Freddie Ladapo's transfer request
Freddie Ladapo

ROTHERHAM United players aren’t turning their backs on Freddie Ladapo despite the record signing deciding he no longer wants to be at the club.

Manager Paul Warne says the squad have accepted the presence of the 28-year-old after his decision to ask for a move in this month’s transfer window.

“I know that the lads chat so they’ll all be aware that Freddie is keen to play somewhere else,” the boss said. “While he’s here, they are all friendly with him and they all want him to do well.

“He’s entitled to play where he wants to, Different people take different actions. I’m not saying that he’s right or wrong. He took this action. The dressing room, in my opinion, is okay with him.”

Warne praised the approach of Ladapo since he submitted his request on the second day of the month and doesn’t anticipate a drop in standards if the striker is chosen to play between now and the end of January.

“Freddie’s attitude has been spot on,” he said. “I’ve never questioned his attitude. I haven’t noticed any change in him and neither would I expect to. I expect him to train hard and then play a part where I see it fit to allow him to play.

“He’s our player and footballers are professional. He will want to do well. If selected to play a part against Fleetwood, this weekend, he will want to play well because he’s in the shop window.

“Freddie is a really determined, self-motivated player. He is obsessed with his performances. A player wouldn’t be like that and then think: ‘Do you know what, I’m not going to train hard this week.’ I don’t expect him to be a problem.”

Warne left the centre-forward on the bench for last Saturday’ FA Cup shoot-out exit at QPR, choosing to bring on five other substitutes instead.

“In fairness to Freddie, he was on the side of the pitch cheering on the penalties,” the manager said. “I don’t think there’s any ill feeling.”

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TONY STEWART'S VIEW IF LADAPO STAYS

FREDDIE Ladapo will be eager to shine for Rotherham United if he doesn’t get the move he is seeking in the January transfer window, believes chairman Tony Stewart.

The striker has signalled his intention to leave AESSEAL New York Stadium this month by tendering a transfer request.

However, he will be going nowhere unless another club reach the Millers’ valuation of their record signing.

Stewart is confident Ladapo will keep his standards high in the event of no move materialising in a bid to attract suitors in the summer.

“I’d expect him to knuckle down and give his best if he’s still here after January,” the club’s owner said. “Footballers, by and large, tend to be professional.

“He’s in the showroom at Rotherham until some comes along. The more he performs in the showroom, the more chance he has of going to a sizeable club.

“He’d be cutting off his nose to spite his face if he didn’t perform to the level that would attract people out there to come in and buy him.

“He’s no mug. He knows if he wants to go to another club that he’s got to play well enough to impress scouts.”

If Ladapo — who was kept on the bench for last Saturday’s FA Cup thriller at Championship QPR — does depart, the League One Millers will seek to sign a new striker.

Stewart is convinced Paul Warne’s promotion-chasing squad already have enough quality to prosper without their 12-goal frontman.

“We have a very strong squad,” he said. “Paul brought on five subs at QPR last weekend. Was it better? It certainly wasn’t worse.

“Every player is capable of playing in the first team. There is no ripple if one of them come out of the side.”

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DIFFICULT CALL

PAUL Warne had a heavy heart as he broke the news to chairman Tony Stewart that striker Freddie Ladapo wanted to quit Rotherham United.

The centre-forward’s agent informed Warne of his client’s intentions a week last Sunday and the manager immediately contacted the Millers owner.

“It wasn’t the nicest call to make because, like me, the chairman likes to think all the players are happy and want to do well,” the boss said.

“The chairman said to me: ‘Let’s wait and see what comes in then.’”

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THE DAVID RAWSON FAN COLUMN

"ROTHERHAM United can confirm that striker Freddie Ladapo has handed in a transfer request." That sparse sentence concludes the first steps in a dance that will see one of our first-choice forwards leave, if not this month then surely in the summer.

Ladapo is a difficult player to weigh up, capable of doing difficult things with ease and making easy things look difficult, sometimes in the space of a few seconds. It's impossible to guess what's coming next: a deft flick of the foot that instantly tames a wild pass and creates opportunity, or a muddled deflection off a shin pad that gives up possession just where you don't want to lose it? The unpredictability means that you can't build a team around him; but equally, you can't easily afford to leave him out.

Players like that require a kind of indulgence of what they've definitely not done, in hope of encouraging what they might yet do. Especially players with Ladapo's nonchalance, his air of knowing precisely what's required, but not being quite certain whether he's going to choose to do it. One consequence of pushing for a move away, particularly in such a formal, public manner, is likely to be less general tolerance for the times when the touch isn't good, or the graft isn't forthcoming.

Worse, agitating for a transfer smashes the illusion that football is something more than another bit of commercial entertainment. The bargain that underpins it all is that players don't draw attention to the hard-headed, clear-eyed reality that being a footballer is their job, that they have a limited time to achieve their potential and that they'd be daft not to be on the constant look-out for better opportunities elsewhere.

In return, supporters invest their performances with a sense of meaning beyond what actually happens, moment to moment, on the pitch. That meaning is what makes the game magical. And that magic is what the football industry commercialises to make being a footballer such a potentially lucrative occupation.

It's a noble bargain, at its root, because everyone wants it to be true. Everyone wants to believe that the players they're watching on the pitch care as much as they do for the club. And so long as you don't look too hard, it feels like it's true, which is all that really matters.

It's a bargain, too, that's fundamental to the culture of this Rotherham United team. Our relentless style of play needs individuals to sacrifice for the good of the team. Recruiting "good human beings" helps create a squad committed to a purpose beyond their own individual aims.

As a result, whether Ladapo's transfer request is or is not in keeping with him as an individual, it's way out of character for this group of players. In an era where the agent network is woven into the fabric of football, why the need for the thudding formality of a transfer request? If you can't have an open and honest conversation with this manager, who could you talk to? It all feels a bit crude – and it might matter.

At best, it's an overdone gesture, a battering ram on an unlocked door, and an unnecessary distraction. At worst, it's a deliberately disruptive move, a selfish bit of cultural vandalism. Either way, it's a shame. When the situation would have benefitted from the effortless class of Ladapo's famous finish at Hillsborough, we got a clumsy mistimed swing at goal from three yards out. As when it happens in a match, we can only wince frustratedly - and hope we don't regret the consequences.

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THE STATS

FREDDIE Ladapo scores goals in League One at a faster rate than almost any other player.

In his debut Millers season in 2019/20, he scored 14 times in the league in 1,858 minutes on the pitch — a goal every 133 minutes. Only Peterborough United’s Ivan Toney had a better goals-per-minute ratio.

In the 2021/22 campaign so far, his nine league goals have come in 1,301 minutes — one every 163 minutes. Only three players have better ratios: teammate Michael Smith, Sunderland’s Ross Stewart and Morecambe’s Cole Stockton.

In his sole season in the Championship, in 2020/21, his nine goals in 2,101 minutes came at a rate of one every 233  — a decent record for a player in side that were relegated.

MILLERS CAREER

2019/20, League One:

39 appearances in all competitions, 17 goals

2020/21, Championship:

43 apps, nine goals

202122, League One:

29 apps, 12 goals

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TIMELINE

Sat Jan 1: Ladapo starts the 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers that takes Rotherham back to the top of League One and is substituted in the second half.

Sun Jan 2: The striker hands in a transfer request.

Tue Jan 4: He comes on as a second-half replacement and scores in the 4-2 EFL Trophy win at Crewe Alexandra.

Thu Jan 6: News of his request is leaked.

Sat Jan 8: Ladapo is an unused sub as the Millers go out of the FA Cup in a penalty shoot-out at Championship QPR.

Tue Jan 11: He trains as usual with the first team and manager Warne praises the attitude he has shown since his request.

Wed Jan 12: Warne reveals there have been no bids for the centre-forward.



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