"Yeah, I came close to staying. There were points in the negotiations where I thought it might happen" ... Michael Ihiekwe talks to the Advertiser about leaving Rotherham United for Sheffield Wednesday

"Yeah, I came close to staying. There were points in the negotiations where I thought it might happen" ... Michael Ihiekwe talks to the Advertiser about leaving Rotherham United for Sheffield Wednesday

By Paul Davis | 28/06/2022

'Yeah, I came close to staying. There were points in the negotiations where I thought it might happen' ... Michael Ihiekwe talks to the Advertiser about leaving Rotherham United for Sheffield Wednesday
Michael Ihiekwe

 

LONG-SERVING Michael Ihiekwe last week turned down a new contract with Rotherham United to join South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday.

He swapped AESSEAL New York Stadium for Hillsborough on the same day as teammate Michael Smith in a double switch that stirred up fury in Millers fans.

The centre-half, a winner of three League One promotions and the Papa John's Trophy with Rotherham, spoke to the Advertiser about his decision.

 

Five years is a long time to be at one club. How do you feel about leaving?

There's an element of sadness there. In any walk of life, when you've been somewhere for that long there's going to be sad feelings about going. I've made friends who I'll always keep in contact with. That includes players and staff. It's football ... I'll move on and Rotherham will be fine without me. It's on to the next challenge for me now.

 

You enjoyed plenty of success with the Millers:

I did. My time there came with its hiccups as well. We got promoted from League One in my first season but then I went out on loan to Accrington Stanley. It wasn't all plain sailing but I think that helped to build me as a person and as a player. It's been a really good five years and I'll look back on them with a lot of joy.

 

Did you ever see yourself signing a new deal and remaining at New York Stadium?

Yeah, I came close to staying. There were points in the negotiations where I thought it might happen. I'm 29 and at this stage of my career I had to take my time with the decision and speak to everyone around me - my family and missus and all that stuff. It wasn't something I could just do in a couple of days. I appreciate Rotherham making me the offer they did but, ultimately, I had to do what was best for my family.

 

Many Millers supporters won't forgive you for moving to Hillsborough:

Listen, I'm a football fan myself. I'm a big Liverpool follower. I 'get' where the Rotherham fans are coming from, I fully understand it. You can't control how people are going to think or feel about you. All I can say is that I didn't take my decision lightly. I had to have a long, long think about it. It was based on doing right by my family.

 

Several clubs were interested in you. Why were Wednesday your final choice?

The size of the club is huge. I know that from being around the area. The fan base is massive. As I said earlier, it came down to me being 29 and doing the best for my family. That's it really.

 

You joined Wednesday only a day after Rotherham boss Paul Warne had publicly stated he was optimistic you would sign a new contract. That has led to a lot of speculation that you left after agreeing to stay. Can you clear that up for everybody?

As I've mentioned, there were points where I was close to staying. The offer I took in the end was the best one for my family and myself. Football moves quickly. I had to make a decision and it wasn't one taken lightly. 

 

Does it bother you that you'll be missing out on Championship football with Rotherham next season and staying in League One?

I'm very much hoping I'll be back in the Championship the following year. That's the aim. Sheffield Wednesday have huge potential. I've joined a squad capable of winning promotion.

 

How do you feel about Rotherham now?

I fully appreciate everything they have done for me. The manager and staff have been amazing and I've loved being part of a fantastic group. I was already 24 when I joined but, in a way, I've gone from a boy to a man there. Rotherham will always be part of me. I won't just cut people off. I'll always have respect for the club and my old teammates. A lot of faces have come and gone in my five years there. What the manager has always done is bring in good people and players.