Manchester United one week, Rotherham United the next for Tyler Blackett

Tyler Blackett makes his home debut against Preston North End on Tuesday. Picture by Kerrie BeddowsTyler Blackett makes his home debut against Preston North End on Tuesday. Picture by Kerrie Beddows
Tyler Blackett makes his home debut against Preston North End on Tuesday. Picture by Kerrie Beddows
How the new boy kept himself in trim before his move to the Millers.
 

TYLER Blackett used his Manchester United connections to make sure he could hit the ground running when a new team came calling for him.

The centre-half hadn’t played for more than three months after ending his season-long stay in America with MLS side FC Cincinnati in November.

The Millers picked up the 28-year-old as a free agent last week and were pleased to learn that, as well as undertaking his own solo sessions, he’d also spent time training at the club where his career had begun more than a decade ago

“He’s based in Manchester and had been working with United’s under-21s,” manager Matt Taylor said. “He wasn’t with them every single day but was doing enough to keep himself in some kind of shape.”

Rotherham accept the player — who made 11 Premier League appearances for the Red Devils before going on to have a four-year spell with Reading and a 12-month one with Nottingham Forest — will take a few weeks to get fully up to speed.

But they’re happy to have on board a proven defender who has nearly 150 second-tier outings to his name.

“Any professional player will tell you you can do all the road-running and treadmill running you like on your own but it’s the short, sharp movements that take a little bit longer to come back,” Taylor said.

“Generally in his career he’s been a good athlete. He moves well, covers the ground really well and has got real power. It’s about getting him back to that position.

“He’s a player of fantastic pedigree, a player who has played at the top level and has got Championship experience. He’s a player I’ve admired for a long time in terms of the control he can bring to any team.”

The Millers head into the fortnight-long international break this weekend and expect to see the best of their new boy after that.

“It gives us a rest from fixtures when we can really push Tyler physically to get him back to the levels he’ll need to be at to play consistently in the Championship,” Taylor said.

“We all know how demanding this league is and if you’re not quite right you’ll be exposed. We’ll be patient with him. He still young enough for a good part of his career to be spent at a good level.”

Blackett’s Millers deal wasn’t announced until last Wednesday but everything had been finalised well in advance and the player watched proceedings at AESSEAL New York Stadium as his new side saw off Queens Parks Ranger four days before his official unveiling.

“I’m pleased we got it done over that weekend,” Taylor said. “He got to witness a good display against QPR. Had we been battered he might not have signed for us!”

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MATT Taylor has raised the possibility of Tyler Blackett extending his Rotherham United stay beyond the end of this season.

The centre-half last week joined the club for their Championship survival run-in on a short-term deal that runs only until the close of the campaign.

An impressive second-tier performer in the past, the Manchester-born defender is looking to resurrect his career in England after spending a year playing in America.

He and the Millers might just find themselves liking each other enough to want to spend more time together, reckons Rotherham’s manager.

“It’s a huge opportunity for Tyler to get himself back in the minds and eyesight of a lot of Championship managers including myself,” Taylor said. “You never know what might happen in the future.”

Rotherham first tried to sign Blackett in the New Year transfer window but the player rejected their advances.

A move to Wigan Athletic then fell through and the Millers were finally able to land their man.

“He was on our target list leading into January,” Taylor said. “I had a conversation with him in relation to him coming to us.

“For whatever reason, that didn’t materialise. He didn’t sign for anyone else, though, and was still available.”

The player said family matters as he made his return from the United States were to blame for his initial refusal.

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“CALM on the ball. Great left foot.”

Then he laughed.

Tyler Blackett felt a touch self-conscious when he was asked to describe his qualities but didn’t shy away from what has made him such a decent performer at Championship level since he first played in the division nine seasons ago.

“Defensively, I’m pretty solid,” Rotherham United’s new signing added, which is welcome news about a centre-half! “I like to read the game well and clean up where I can.”

The player walked into a training complex full of faces he recognised when he first turned up for duty at Roundwood a week last Monday, two days before his arrival was made public.

“Ollie (Rathbone), I remember him when he was young at Manchester United,” he said. “I trained with him quite a few times.

“There was Tariqe (Fosu) from my time at Reading, Wes (Harding) and Shane (Ferguson) from Birmingham City, Jamie (Lindsay) from when I was with Celtic.

“There’s a good number of boys I am familiar with, which helps.”

After a season in America, Blackett is with Rotherham to help keep them in the Championship and to re-introduce himself to English football.

“To play and to push on, that’s my goal,” he said. “I want to show what I can still do. I’ve never had a relegation in my career and it’s not something I am looking to add to my CV.”

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THE STATS

2013/16, Manchester United

12 appearances

2013/14, Blackpool (loan)

Five apps

2014, Birmingham City (loan)

Eight apps

2015/16, Celtic (loan)

Seven apps

2016/2020, Reading

122 apps

2020/21, Nottingham Forest

16 apps

2021/22, FC Cincinnati

31 apps, one goal

2023, Rotherham United

Two apps

* The player has never scored in English football