Steve Evans reveals how Rotherham United beat promotion rivals in battle for Jonson Clarke-Harris

Rotherham United new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris. Picture: Kerrie BeddowsRotherham United new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris. Picture: Kerrie Beddows
Rotherham United new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris. Picture: Kerrie Beddows
​​STEVE Evans has revealed how groundwork paid off as Rotherham United jumped to the front of the queue in the face of competition from a host of other clubs to land prized hot-shot Jonson Clarke-Harris.

The striker, twice League One's top scorer in the past, became the first of the Millers' ten summer signings when he moved to S60 within a fortnight of last season ending following his departure from Peterborough United.

Evans took the Rotherham hot-seat in April after leaving Stevenage but had been in regular contact with Clarke-Harris for months beforehand in the hope of one day landing the prolific centre-forward.

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“I had been talking to him for about six or eight months,” the boss said. “I couldn't have taken him to Stevenage because he wouldn't have come.

Rotherham United new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris. Picture: Kerrie BeddowsRotherham United new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris. Picture: Kerrie Beddows
Rotherham United new boy Jonson Clarke-Harris. Picture: Kerrie Beddows

“When I was announced as Rotherham United manager, one of the first messages I got was from Jonson saying: ‘Can we meet?’”

The 29-year-old hitman wasn't short of suitors but he favoured a two-year deal at New York where he felt he had unfinished business after a previous move there a decade ago didn't work out.

“There was significant Championship interest in him and, let me tell you, there wasn't a club who will finish in the top six in League One next season that didn't meet with him,” Evans said.

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Back in his first spell in charge of the Millers in 2014, Evans had made Clarke-Harris the club's record signing when he took the player, then a raw youngster, from Oldham Athletic for a £300,000-plus fee.

The frontman's time at New York didn't work out but he went on to ignite his career at Bristol Rovers and then caught fire with Peterborough after Posh had paid £1.2 million for his services.

He bagged 33 goals in his first season to shoot Darren Ferguson's side to promotion, scored 12 in the Championship as they came straight back down and then racked up another 29 the following year.

Last term, when Peterborough had made it clear he would be leaving and weren't starting him regularly, he still managed to hit the target in League One 13 times.

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He is set to spearhead Rotherham's attack as they seek to make an instant return to the second tier.

“Jonson is a scorer,” Evans said. “He's big, he's strong, he's physical. We did very well, with the support of our chairman, to land him.”

Meanwhile, the manager has sung the praises of another summer arrival who shunned the advances of other teams to make New York his home.

Experienced midfielder/winger Alex MacDonald signed a one-year deal after parting company with Stevenage and is still going strong at the age of 34.

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“Our supporters will like what they see,” Evans said. “He's got great ability and he's got energy. He's like a little Duracell battery - when you put it in a little toy, away it goes.

“Alex is a multi-talented boy. He can play in a number of positions. I'll be very surprised if he starts 30 games but he'll start 15 or 20 and will play in different positions.

“He demonstrated he wanted to come here and Rob (Scott, director of football recruitment) made it happen fairly quickly.”