THE most exciting thing was, he never looked like missing.
The winger in the purple shirt took aim against Sunderland and fired.
Everything was perfect: the control, the body shape, the intent, the execution. Goal!
Three in three games for Jake Hastie as Rotherham United fought back for a League One 1-1 draw last autumn.
The Millers looked to have found a player in the young Scot who had joined them on a season-long loan from Glasgow Rangers.
Who would have known that night in the North East, as the 20-year-old lit up the Stadium of Light, that there would be no more high spots for the former Motherwell prospect?
From that thrilling evening, Hastie’s performances waned. Less influence led to less game-time, culminating in his early return to Ibrox this week.
The left-footer’s ability isn’t in doubt. Leeds United wanted him last January when he was emerging at Fir Park and Rangers beat off competition from clubs in England to sign him at the end of last season.
At Rotherham, though, he flattered to deceive. Blessed with pace and poise, he could look dangerous on the ball but too often took too long to get in crosses or ran down blind alleys.
Of equal concern was his lack of work out of possession, with teammates finding themselves more exposed than they were used to when the opposition attacked.
Paul Warne, whose demands for all-out effort are well chronicled, rammed home the message but, to the manager’s disappointment, it never truly registered.
That wasn’t down to an attitude problem from a shy wee boy, more a frustrating inability to grasp what was required of him.
Warne always says there are better managers and coaches than him out there. However, he does pride himself on him and his staff being able to improve a player.
It will hurt him that a young talent goes back to Scotland no better than when he arrived.
Back on transfer deadline day in early September, Hastie had seemed like an excellent signing.
Warne had Facetimed him in Glasgow to sell him the Millers dream. “Do you want me to speak to your parents?” the manager asked.
Unknown to the boss, Hastie’s mum had already been listening in and had liked everything she’d heard.
The youngster lived in Wickersley in a small apartment block populated by several of his Millers teammates.
Even with company on tap, it must have been difficult to be so young and so far from home without any real previous experience of coping on your own.
Hastie’s moment of Sunderland glory came on September 17 and capped his third successive start.
He would remain in the team up to and including the 2-1 October 19 defeat at home to Oxford United but there would be only two more league starting roles after that: the 3-2 win at MK Dons on November 23 and December 14’s 2-2 draw at Southend United.
There were 16 appearances in all and no more strikes after the initial three-goal burst that saw him score at Doncaster Rovers on his debut and against Bolton Wanderers on his home bow before levelling so emphatically at the Black Cats in the following match.
As the Millers’ promotion momentum was growing he wasn’t even seeing action as a substitute in the final few weeks and his last outing came as a 69th-minute replacement for Ben Wiles in the 2-1 home win over Blackpool on New Year’s Day.
Staying at AESSEAL New York would have done him no good, nor Rotherham or Rangers.
The Scottish giants, with this month’s transfer window in its last week, agreed to take him back even though he is unlikely to threaten their first team and can’t go on loan anywhere else.
He had played twice for them before heading to South Yorkshire and FIFA rules don’t allow a player to turn out for more than two clubs in a single season.
Tuesday’s announcement was a sad finish to a loan spell that had once promised so much.
Peterborough United away last Saturday was the last time Hastie was part of a Millers squad.
When the visitors were chasing the game, trying to keep hold of top spot, in need of more thrust out wide, Warne brought on right-footed Julien Lamy on the left and left Hastie where he spent too much of his time with Rotherham.
On the bench.
WARNE ON JAKE
“It was a mutual decision between us and Rangers for Jake to go back to them.
“It didn’t work out for him here as well as we would have liked. That is partly down to me and partly down to him.
“If he wasn’t going to play a big part for us going forward it made sense for him to go back, train with them, play with their under-23s and get himself in a really good positive position for his manager to see him. Everyone is a winner then.
“Sometimes a loan works and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t try to loan players and then not use them. I have used all my other loanees.
“I wish Jake all the best and I hope he has a great career. It’s just that the way we play probably didn’t suit him.”
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