The ones they got and the ones that got away ... the full story of Rotherham United's summer transfer window

By Paul Davis | 09/09/2019

The ones they got and the ones that got away ... the full story of Rotherham United's summer transfer window
Paul Warne

DEADLINE day ... it was very different to last time.

On January 31, there were dashed hopes and late takeaway fish suppers at AESSEAL New York Stadium as last-gasp attempts to land a striker and a winger and striker crashed and burned.

At one point, as the clock ticked towards the 11pm deadline, manager Paul Warne, always using humour to deflect a crisis, was laid out full length on a plush New York carpet in half-mock, half-serious anguish.

The chips were much easier to digest than the news that a young German forward from a then-Premier-League club and West Bromwich Albion wide man Jonathan Leko weren't coming to South Yorkshire.

As the latest transfer window closed on Monday, it was all, to coin one of the Warne's latest buzz-words, far more “tranquille”.

It ended with a little flurry of action but a feeling of calm.

Rotherham had been prepared this summer. Targets had been meticulously selected and closely monitored. The Millers landed some, missed out on others, but always had alternatives and knew exactly who they were after.

In a new twist, the League One window shut almost a month after the one for clubs in the Premier League and the Championship. Warne liked that — a few more weeks to be even more considered.

“That change has been good,” the boss reflected. “It's allowed us to take our time and be a bit more assured on our signings, possibly.

“I haven't minded this window because it hasn't been such a panic. Some of the deals take longer than we'd like to complete but we've always been in control of what we're doing.”

Twelve players have come in, 18 have left. Carlton Morris was first through the door, on May 22, as Warne used his contacts at home-town club Norwich City to swing a season-long loan for the striker. One-hundred-and-three days passed before Jake Hastie's arrival from Glasgow Rangers brought the sealing of the dealing last Monday.

In between, a club-record fee for Plymouth Argyle centre-forward Freddie Ladapo was a statement about the Millers' intentions in a division where their budget is healthily competitive.

Money has also been spent on left-back Trevor Clarke, midfielder Jamie Lindsay and winger Chiedozie Ogbene.

The goalkeeping capture was a big one. Leicester City youngster Daniel Iversen had been pinpointed right at the start of the summer. Rotherham were prepared to wait and it's a good job they were because they had to.

The Foxes kept him in-house for a while but keeper coach Mike Pollitt had headed down the M1 to the Premier League side and his impressive presentation meant that a season-long loan was always likely to happen.

Curtis Tilt

Much earlier in the window, the Millers thought a deal for Curtis Tilt was done after they'd agreed a price of around £300,000 with Blackpool only for the Seasiders to change their mind when new owners came in.

The centre-half was offered bigger wages by a club in the south, but Warne sold the Millers, sold himself, sold his dream so well that the player would have chosen New York.

Needing an extra central defender, Rotherham submitted a similar bid for Marvin Ekpiteta yet Leyton Orient, with their rich American owner, felt no need to sell.

The Millers offered decent money to bring back former loanee Zak Vyner permanently but Bristol City weren't ready to let go for good and sent him on loan to Aberdeen instead.

Sheffield United's Ben Heneghan, who would go on to join Blackpool, wanted assurances about playing time that the manager wasn't prepared to give. You fight your way into a Warne team, not walk into it.

Bury's demise saw Rotherham finally fill the gap with Adam Thompson, a player they had always liked but who hadn't been available when their lists of targets were initially being drawn up.

Where in January there had been panic, now there was planning. Jamie Johnson was head of recruitment back then and was gone soon after the reinforcements that might have safeguarded the club's Championship status failed to materialise.

In his place came Rob Scott, a former Millers teammate of Warne. Scott, with a track record at Brentford and Watford, lives local, not in Johnson's Buckinghamshire. He's at games, at the training ground, at Warne's service within minutes.

“It's in Scotty's hands now,” said the manager, glad of the support, more than once this summer as deals were in the final stages of being concluded.

“Because me and Rob have been friends for years, he doesn't mind stepping on my toes and I don't mind stepping on his,” the boss added.

“There's no 'Okay, let me go away and think about that' when he or me has no intention of thinking about it. From both of us, it's more like 'Look, Mate, this is how it is. I don't want him'.

“It's an easier working relationship when it's like that. Geographically, it works better. He's also ridiculously well-organised.”

Scott's influence was felt in the signing of left-back Trevor Clarke from Shamrock Rovers. On the other flank, ex-Manchester-United youngster Matt Olosunde arrived and already looks capable of developing into a player who could one day command a seven-figure fee.

Midfielder Shaun MacDonald had been a wanted man in January but his club, Wigan Athletic, blocked the move. He arrived along with Newcastle United's Dan Barlaser.

Dan Barlaser

This time it was Warne and coach Matt Hamshaw conducting a presentation, given to head of youth Shola Ameobi, which was strong enough to convince the Magpies and their young midfielder to forego a Championship suitor in favour of a season at New York.

Never under-estimate the power of Warne's personality when it comes to recruitment. Players want to play for him.

Dru Yearwood was a target. Southend United weren't selling for the fee the Millers were offering. Linsday came in from Ross County instead as Scott delivered on his promise to find bargains north of the border and across the Irish Sea.

Morris was in early and so was Ladapo at £400,000 with add-ons. Warne wanted pace, he wanted power. Inevitably, there had been too much defending for his liking in the Championship and now he was preparing to unleash his pent-up attacking frustrations on the third tier.

Conor Washington's wages had been too high for the Millers as he left the Blades while Stoke City youngster Tyrese Campbell had been of interest. Ladapo looked to be heading to Portsmouth, who had agreed a fee with Plymouth, but it was Rotherham who got him.

Warne needed wingers. Jon Taylor and Ryan Williams had left to be let down by broken Championship promises, Joe Newell had just fancied a fresh start somewhere else. Anthony Forde might have stayed, but dithered when there were new-deal deadlines and found that by the time he was prepared to commit Rotherham had moved on.

The wide men came late. Warne, going with a 4-3-3 formation but knowing he needed a plan B, had looked for a long time and not really seen what he wanted.

The boss thought a return for old boy Grant Ward was in the bag when personal terms were virtually agreed, only for the free agent to decide to continue his recovery from knee surgery and hold out for an offer from the Championship.

He was keen on Ryan Hedges, even texting the Barnsley man from his holiday base in Croatia, but Hedges' move to Aberdeen was already a long way down the line.

Chiedozie Ogbene

Ogbene was brought in from Brentford last week and had been on the radar all summer. The young flyer, spotted playing in Ireland by Scott several years ago, was so keen on a move north that he even doorstepped Warne at AFC Wimbledon before the Millers' opening-day clash to make his presence felt.

With a bunch of other clubs also in the queue, the Millers did well to wrap up a loan for a flank prospect as tasty as Hastie.

The summer's largest smile and one of its biggest disappointments — through no fault of his own — have come from another, winger Julien Lamy, who signed a one-year deal after being introduced to Rotherham by an agent the Millers like and respect.

The French teenager has been sidelined almost from day one by a leg injury but is now back in training.

His smile is still there. So, in a broader sense, is Warne's

“I'm happy with what I've got,” the manager said. “I've got a small squad but it's a competitive one, so that's fine.”

New York fish and chips weren't on the menu last Monday. Warne was relaxed, although Tranmere Rovers' last-minute equaliser two days earlier was still gnawing at him.

He was at the training ground before going off to give a talk to academy players and their parents and then heading home to his own family.

All tres tranquille.

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THE NEW BOYS SO FAR

Daniel Iversen, goalkeeper

It's early days but I'll be surprised if there are many better goalkeepers in League One this season. Strong in every area.

Matt Olosunde, right-back

Had never played a league match before his arrival at Rotherham but has started every game for the Millers. Quality. A threat going forward and has that wonderful gift for a defender of problem-solving pace.

Adam Thompson, centre-half

Hasn't featured so far after being one of the last summer arrivals.

Trevor Clarke, left-back

Injured in a private game on his first day as a Miller and not expected to be fit until next month.

Shaun MacDonald, midfielder

Hasn't been a regular starter. Doesn't give the ball away. An experienced head whose calmness helps teammates.

Dan Barlaser, midfielder

Capable of perfect passing — and wide range of perfect passing — but can be caught in possession. Lovely set-piece delivery.

Jamie Lindsay, midfielder

Signs he's going to be a good player for Rotherham, although he has yet to start a league game. A competitor who looks to make his presence felt. Has an eye for the right run, whether he's making it or spotting it. Shouldn't be too long before he scores or assists.

Julien Lamy, winger

Limped out of the opening pre-season friendly and is just approaching full fitness.

Chiedozie Ogbene, winger

One game, one very good first impression. Pace to burn and his crosses almost created two goals.

Jake Hastie, winger

Has yet to play. Looked lively in training in midweek.

Carlton Morris, striker

Has yet to force his way into the starting line-up but his chance might not be far off. Offers pace and mobility and he has a good touch for a big man.

Freddie Ladapo, striker

Hasn't produced in every game but his danger is obvious. A quick, jinking runner who will miss more than his share of chances. But he creates those openings with his directness and unpredictability. The Millers need to get him running at goal more.


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