'100 per cent? What's that?' ... Rotherham United's in-form captain, Sean Morrison, on growing older

ACHES and pains, bumps and bruises, nagging knocks to weary limbs ... Sean Morrison has grown used to them.

The Rotherham United skipper reckons it's seven years since he last walked out on to a pitch with a totally clean bill of health.

The centre-half has been the Millers' most influential outfield player in recent weeks but he turned 33 earlier this month and with age has come an acceptance that his body will never be quite what it used to be.

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“It's almost impossible to be anywhere near 100 per cent as you get a little bit older,” he said. “Unless you're very fortunate, once you break that 25 age bracket you're probably never going to hit that 100 per cent mark again.

Rotherham United captain Sean Morrison in action against Sunderland. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United captain Sean Morrison in action against Sunderland. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United captain Sean Morrison in action against Sunderland. Picture: Jim Brailsford

“It's about managing yourself as effectively as possible. There will be games where you feel good, the best you've felt in weeks, and then that will be followed by feeling not that great the next week. It's peaks and troughs.

“I had my first surgery, an ankle operation, at 24/25. You have the problems that come after that. You have the rehab, which is a long process, then the games on top.

“It's just an accumulation. I'm very fortunate to still be playing Championship football now. I'm loving it. I'm feeling back in a good place.”

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Sadly, his team are in anything but a good place as they prop up the division, eight points adrift of survival.

No-one will be more important to Rotherham's mission to pull off an unlikely safety feat than the man whose career stretches beyond 450 matches, nearly 300 of which came in a near-decade-long spell with Cardiff City that included a season in the Premier League in 2017/18.

He arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium in the January transfer window last year after a knee injury had robbed him of any game-time in his last year and a half in South Wales.

Quad damage suffered within weeks of his move north cost him another four months and it was only as Christmas approached that the Morrison of old began to re-emerge.

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New boss Leam Richardson brought him on as a substitute at Plymouth Argyle on December 16 and has played him in every minute since.

“I'm getting closer to my top form,” the defender said. “I've been feeling pretty good for the last few weeks.

“I have to build up through the week to get to the Saturday match as best as I possibly can. Now it's about keeping doing that for the next three months until the end of the season.”

His body may have buckled during his long ordeal but his resolve never did.

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“No, I never doubted myself,” he said. “The amount of work I'd put in when I was injured at Cardiff, I always knew that was going to give me the best opportunity to play well again.

“I never wanted to leave any stone unturned, I didn't want to get to the end of the rehab and for it to all fall down. I put in a lot of effort and I had to make a lot of sacrifices.

“Fortunately, the manager (Matt Taylor) who was here previously gave me an opportunity to come back for another year.

“I owe a lot to him because a lot of managers probably wouldn't have done so with the injury I picked up in January/February last year.

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“I knew I wasn't going to play a lot at the start of this season. It was all about building and building ready for when I came in.”

Now he's in, he doesn't plan on going back out, knowing he has a captain's role to play, on and off the pitch, at a tough time.

“For me, it's about keeping the group together, keeping a happy environment,” he said. “The gaffer will take care of all the football stuff. We all have to have the same focus and goals. If we start differing from that, that's where problems occur.”

As he gears up for Saturday's visit of Southampton, he's not sure where all the years have gone, how the young buck of the Bluebirds has turned into the elder statesman of Rotherham.

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“The transition just happens,” he said. “One day you look back and think: 'God, how have I got this far when I was going through some tough periods?’”

He's ready for the aches and pains, the bumps and bruises this weekend.

Not feeling 100 per cent. But, then, a player of his quality doesn't have to.