Why Michael Smith is so important to Rotherham United ... Boss Paul Warne's Advertiser column

Why Michael Smith is so important to Rotherham United ... Boss Paul Warne's Advertiser column

By Paul Davis | 17/02/2021

Why Michael Smith is so important to Rotherham United ... Boss Paul Warne's Advertiser column
Michael Smith


What a signing he has been. Without a doubt, bringing him here on a free transfer from Bury three years ago is one of the best bits of business I’ve ever done as a manager.

It’s not often I single out individuals in my squad but I need to talk about our striker. His contribution to Rotherham United has been colossal.

Normally, we do loads of research before we bring in a new player, but with Smudge it was the absolute opposite.

He came on as a substitute for Bury against us. He held up the ball on the halfway line once, he ran once and he ‘smoked’ Woody once.

I thought: ‘Wow, anyone who can smoke Woody is a player to look at.’ I also hammered Woody after the game and said he’d got beaten up by a Bury sub!

I liked Smudge because of his physicality. His appearance against us came in September and the following January we were trying to replace Kieffer Moore who’d been recalled by Ipswich Town

Guess who I thought of!

I remember Smudge’s first game at Oldham Athletic where our fans were onto him. I was thinking: ‘Wow, he has only been here a day.’

With hard work in the gym, he has physically changed himself. Under the tutelage of our head of player performance, Ross Burbeary, he has committed himself to being the best version of himself he can be.

His career highlight is playing in the Championship for us and he will never have any regrets looking back on his career. He makes the best decisions on his food, drink, training, everything.

We played the other night and he was in the next day squatting nearly 200 kilos. He is an absolute monster in that respect.

Smudge is a brilliant kid and can be hilarious. I texted him the other week because my daughter wanted to know why he kissed his hand when he scored a goal and why he had the number 22 written on it.

I said to my daughter: ‘I bet that is the number of the man he has to mark on set-pieces.’ She replied: ‘It won’t be, Dad. It will be something more magical.’ Oddly enough, I was right when he texted back and that tickled me.

He also said he kisses the back of his hand because it is how his daughter kisses him, which is quite sweet.

He is a really good guy and trains really hard. The one frustrating element for me — and we speak to him about it all the time — is that he is not selfish enough.

He definitely has confidence but at times he does unselfish things. He will run down the wing, lay the ball off for the full-back and not get into the box quickly enough because he wants to help the player he’s just passed to. We keep telling him to shoot and miss more.

We had a chance at home recently. He got clean through down the right but didn’t shoot. It was quite a way out and it was a wet night and I told him he should have pulled the trigger. His response was that he didn’t really think it had been on.

Then, virtually the same chance came at Middlesbrough and he hit the bottom of the post. I am saying: ‘Look, Mate, just shoot. Don’t worry about missing, just shoot.’

His goal threat has been really good this year and I’m delighted to see him scoring so often recently.

The physical output he puts into games is phenomenal; just ridiculous. His running stats are outrageous and he wins virtually every header when people are trying to smack him. He is a brilliant focal point.

He is an absolute joy to be with and I have never had a cross word with him. He is also accepting when he is not in the team. A little bit like with Woody, though, you cannot keep him out for long. You miss him too much.

Our team is built on the sort of players who are chipped out of marble. Smudge is definitely one of those.

I don’t think he realises just how good he is, although we keep telling him and showing him. It amazes me that no-one came in for him during the transfer window.

I speak to managers after games or through the week and they say: ‘We couldn’t deal with Smudge, his physicality was too much.’ I tell him that all the time.  I think he is 90 per cent confident but has not got that ten per cent uber-arrogance of someone who thinks they should play every minute of every game. They are the ones who might score an extra couple of goals here and there.

The nicest thing I can say about him is that he could marry my daughter. He is a really good, solid bloke.

Even if he is having a bad game, he still has some effect on it. That is a great attribute to have.


I’M pleased to say that our new wing-back, Ryan Giles, appears to be in better nick than his car.

It broke down one day last week and he couldn’t get in to training on time.

Ryan’s done well since his loan move from Wolves last month.

When you’re a wing-back you come in one of two forms.

Matt Olosunde is essentially a full-back who can play wing-back. He can attack but his main job in his head probably is to defend.

Ryan is a winger who is a wing-back whose main job is to attack.

Both have their benefits and both have their flaws. We’ve got to try to help them both be the overall package.

Ryan was one of two January arrivals. Midfielder Lewis Wing came in from Middlesbrough and he, too, has impressed.

I think the lads were excited to see the new signings arrive.

They could see we could just do with a bit of strengthening. We couldn’t fill a bench at one stage, not even with two keepers on it.

You have to bring in players who are better than what you’ve got to push the standards up.

The lads all like to see us sign someone as long as the new boy doesn’t play in their position!

Not only did we bring in a couple of bodies, we also had players coming back from injury last month.

Clark Robertson and Shaun MacDonald returned from injuries and having them available again is a massive boost.

If someone had said to me before January that I could sign someone of Robbo’s versatility and ability and someone of Macca’s experience, I would have absolutely snapped their hand off.


THE goalkeeper debate is no doubt raging again among fans.

Jamal Blackman had been in really good form and self-isolation came at a bad time for him. Viktor Johansson has come in and done very well.

They’re both good keepers and, in fairness, Josh Vickers, our number three, is as well.

If he had to play the next game I would have no problem with that. Regularly he is the best keeper in training.

We’re blessed in the goalkeeper department. Keepers are fundamental to any success you have. There are moments in games where you need them to pull you out of the mire.

It was good last weekend to catch up with Dan Iversen who played for us in the net during our League One promotion campaign last season.

He’s with Preston now and I know he wasn’t happy that it took us less than 20 seconds to score against him.

Dan has everything you want in a keeper. He’s brave, he comes for stuff, he has good game-intelligence, his distribution is good and, most importantly, he makes saves at crucial times.

Most of the keepers in the Championship can do most of those things but it’s the saves that keep their team in a game that sets the best ones apart.

He was excellent for us and played a massive part in us going up.

He’s an amazing kid, a really nice lad, so laid-back.  He’s from Denmark and we used to give him time off for international breaks. He’d go home and go fishing with his dad.

He’s a really chilled-out, good human and I think his career will go from strength to strength. I believe he will end up playing at the top level.


NO-ONE was more relieved that me when our game with Derby County went ahead last Wednesday 24 hours after being postponed because the New York Stadium surface was waterlogged

We wanted the game on the Tuesday but the pitch was ridiculously unplayable.

I have been here for every Rotherham game since the stadium was built and there has never been surface water at any match before.

There had been a lot of snow earlier in the day and a lot of people put in a lot of hard work to try to get the game on. I thank all the volunteers and grounds staff for that.

The flood levels were quite high and then the rain came down and there was no chance of playing.

We had to find out whether the paramedics could come, the officials could come, the stewards could come and once we got all those green lights it was a no-brainer to put the game on a day later.

It was much better for us than having to put it back to April because we don’t know if another game is going to have to be rearranged at some stage and then we would be playing Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday, which would be a disaster.


WE climbed out of the bottom three last weekend and that was a just reward for some of our recent results.

If we manage to stay in the Championship this season I think it would be a bigger achievement than either of our two League One promotions since I’ve been manager.

It is a cliche to say every game is a cup final but that is how we have to address every match from now to the end of the campaign.

We are just trying to get the best team out for every game and then hoping for a performance.

We are all dreaming of a good end to the season but nobody is getting carried away.

All we are doing at the moment is just giving ourselves a chance and staying around it.


I DID my best to stay awake for the live Super Bowl coverage last Sunday but I didn’t make it to the end.

I’d had a couple of beers earlier in the evening. Schoolboy error.

Maybe if I’d been allowed to have people round to my house to watch it with me I’d have seen it through, but it was just me, my missus and my dog.

Mrs W was nodding early and the dog is always keen to go to bed because he knows he gets a treat for settling down.

I love my American football and what a guy Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady is. Seven Super Bowl wins and still performing at the highest level even though he’s 43.

It makes me think I hung up my own boots too early at 39.

Every day since I retired, I’ve missed playing.

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