Better at the back or in midfield? Hakeem Odoffin was asked about his best position for Rotherham United

HAKEEM Odoffin always knew that as a midfielder he'd make a good centre-half!

The 25-year-old has had plenty of fine moments in the engine room of Rotherham United's team over the last season and a half in the Championship.

But it's since he's answered an emergency call to cover in central defence during the club's injury crisis that he's found his true Millers calling.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Just how impressive he's been in that capacity has taken some people by surprise, but not ‘Haks’ himself after playing there from time to time for Scottish side Hamilton Academical before his move to AESSEAL New York Stadium in 2021.

Rotherham United player Hakeem Odoffin. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United player Hakeem Odoffin. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United player Hakeem Odoffin. Picture: Jim Brailsford

“It's more than just a position where I can fill in,” said the man who is poised to once again be in a three-man rearguard at Middlesbrough on Saturday. “It's a role I feel I can thrive in. I'm more than comfortable playing there.

“I don't see it as playing out of position, I just feel like I'm playing somewhere that feels natural. It's a positive because I don't have to think twice or over-think anything. I feel like I'm growing into it as well.”

Odoffin was moved to the back by then-manager Matt Taylor in November and has been kept there by Taylor's successor, Leam Richardson, who has started the former Wolverhampton Wanderers trainee in every game of his reign so far.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Bottom-placed Rotherham are well off the survival pace with 19 matches left but have noticeably tightened up defensively since the new boss's December 11 arrival.

The player is hoping Richardson will have even more of an impact now that the fixture schedule has eased to one game a week until next month, allowing more midweek work to be done at the Millers' Roundwood base.

“He's had a really good effect,” Odoffin said. “When he first came in we had a lot of games so it was hard for us to get on the training pitch and for him to implement what he wanted to.

“He's now implementing new ideas. It's about putting the finishing touches to things when we're in possession. We've shown we can build up the pitch. It's on us to be sharper in the final third. We have to take responsibility, as players, and put chances away.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We're being a little bit more structured, more durable, a little bit harder to beat, which is a good basis to have.

“The important thing is to get as many points on the board as possible. We need to turn the draws into wins and the defeats into draws."Odoffin, as a midfielder, famously scored the goal against this weekend's opponents that sealed the Millers' second-tier survival in a 1-0 New York victory last May.

But it could be in defence where his future lies.

“I don't know which I prefer, it's tough to say,” he said. “I will say, I'm enjoying the position I'm in.

“It's a position, I think, where I can showcase what it is I'm good at: putting in challenges, that kind of thing. At the end of the day, I like to defend.

“I also like stepping out with the ball. Playing in a three and being on the outside, I'm able to step out a bit. I feel like I can be influential.”