New life, new home and new optimism for Rotherham United striker Sam Nombe

NO more hotel life for Sam Nombe, he's finally moved into a place he can call his own.
Sam Nombe celebrates his first goal for Rotherham United, against Ipswich Town in the Championship. Picture: Jim BrailsfordSam Nombe celebrates his first goal for Rotherham United, against Ipswich Town in the Championship. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Sam Nombe celebrates his first goal for Rotherham United, against Ipswich Town in the Championship. Picture: Jim Brailsford

It's one of the reasons why he's just bagged his first Rotherham United goal and suddenly shown flashes of looking like a player who might be capable of justifying his £1-million-plus price tag.

The striker arrived in late August, moving up a division from League One Exeter City for the opportunity to test himself in the Championship.

However, he found game-time hard to come by and had spent most of the time on the bench until he opened his account with a turn of pace and a poacher's finish in the 2-2 draw at AESSEAL New York Stadium against high-flying Ipswich Town on November 7 just after his 25th birthday.

“It's difficult to come to a new club when the season has already started,” he said. “You've got to learn about the players quickly, learn about everyone else, get that rhythm going as quickly as I can.

“There are also external factors. You've got to find a place to live, you've got other things to deal with. Once you get all of that sorted, you can build on that and focus more on your training, which I've been doing more of. I've been feeling more and more energetic and fresh in training.”

The Millers more than doubled their transfer record to bring the former MK Dons youngster to South Yorkshire, spending more than seven figures on a player for the first time in their history.

The wait to open his account bothered the Croydon-born frontman but being the club's most expensive acquisition is something he's embraced rather than shied away from.

“I don't mind the pressure, I don't mind being uncomfortable,” he said. “I took this challenge because I want to improve, I want to go forward.

“I'm here to stamp my mark in things, impose my game at this level and show I'm a capable Championship player. I chose that challenge.

“I knew I might not play regularly to start with. I understood the process, I understood that I had to come into an environment where I had to learn everybody's names properly. Obviously, I know them now, but I didn't the first time I showed up at Roundwood. I was asking: ‘Who's this? Who's that?’

“Now I've got the weight of the first goal off my shoulders I can kick on even more.”

Nombe isn't a stranger to the second tier, having had an unproductive 12-match loan spell there with Luton Town three years ago while he was still a raw prospect with MK.

He has a point to prove in the division and so do the 22nd-placed Millers as they look to defy the bookmakers' odds and show they're capable of emulating last season's survival feat.

“I didn't do as well as I wanted to last time,” he said. “There's were probably a few people saying I couldn't play at this level so I'm just trying to prove them wrong.

“I know my responsibilities, what I need to do for the team: not just score but also provide a platform for the team that we can build off.”

Of course, it's not just the sceptics the attacker needs to impress. Soon he'll have a new manager to try to win over following the departure of the man who brought him to New York: his former boss at Exeter, Matt Taylor.

Before being sacked a week last Monday, Taylor had seen signs of the centre-forward, who scored 17 times last term in the Grecians' League Two promotion campaign, beginning to come to terms with his new surroundings.

“The goal changes the way people see him and the way he feels about himself, the then-boss said. He's got to keep on putting himself forward.

“His personality has started to show through recently. It's infectious; all-in, all-action.”

That fourth-minute goal against the second-placed Tractor Boys when Nombe slid in between two defenders to convert Fred Onyedinma's low cross gave player and team a spark they needed.

“It was just positioning really,” the scorer said. “I give credit to Fred for the ball. I found myself in the right space.”

Meanwhile, Chez Nombe is now a residence in a leafy suburb in Sheffield, where he has a few other Millers players for neighbours. “I'm all settled up here now,” he said. “I'm pleased about that.”

Things are looking good at work too: "The boys have been very welcoming. It's a great club to be at."

The new boy, starting to feel at home in more ways than one.