*That* laugh was back at Roundwood but hard times are ahead for Rotherham United's Cameron Humphreys

Rotherham United centre-half Cameron Humphreys. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United centre-half Cameron Humphreys. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United centre-half Cameron Humphreys. Picture: Jim Brailsford
CAMERON Humphreys' distinctive laugh rang out and lifted Matt Taylor's heart.

The centre-half had popped into Rotherham United's Roundwood base and was making light of his injury situation.

But his manager knows that a daunting experience lies ahead for the 25-year-old as he embarks on a rehabilitation programme that is expected to stretch well into the New Year.

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Taylor has missed Humphreys' engaging high-pitched peel almost as much as he's missed his talent since the player suffered a hamstring tear five weeks ago that was so severe it had to be operated on.

“Cam was in today,” said the boss in the middle of last week. “You can hear his laugh from everywhere. It's a lovely thing.

“He was in good spirits but there will be times in the next six months - however long it may be - of this recovery process where he has to go through the mill a little bit.”

Taylor's empathy was evident: “Footballers, rightly or wrongly, get a really bad press at times, but this is someone who has just suffered a horrendous injury and had surgery.

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“He's trying to stay as upbeat as he possibly can. You're such an active being when you're a footballer and that's been taken away from him.”

The one-time Manchester City prospect had become a key man for the Millers since joining them in the summer of 2022 during the closing stages of Paul Warne's tenure.

Taylor recognised the composure, the quality touch, the ease on the ball, the bite in the tackle that his predecessor had and played him throughout last term's Championship survival campaign.

Humphreys carried his high standards into this term until he went down, clutching his damaged muscle, as he gave chase on the stroke of half-time to Preston North End striker Milutin Osmajic on September 23 at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

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Up until that point, he had played every minute of every league match of the new campaign but everyone inside the ground, seeing him lying prostrate on the turf, knew there would be no more minutes in the near future.

It happened on his 50th appearance for the club.

The injury needs rest before the player is back at Roundwood on a daily basis to work on his rehab and Taylor is aware that the battle in front of the former England youth international may be in his head as much as it is in his body.

“The other aspect is the mental side of it,” the boss said. “There's something you love doing, and your body's primed to do, and now Cam won't do that for a long time.

“We'll support him through it. He might need a little bit of time with his loved ones where he goes on holiday and gets a bit of sun.

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“It's great that he seems to be in a decent frame of mind at the moment. The surgery went well, from what I've been told, and the scar is healing well.”

Humphreys signed a three-year deal with Rotherham and the Millers, knowing that there could be interest from bigger teams in one of their top performers in the January transfer window, had been planning to instigate new-deal talks.

That will be on hold for now.

Meanwhile, amid the Roundwood banter as the defender reacquainted himself with teammates and staff, his manager made a sad observation.

“The thing that struck me was how his muscles have already worn away,” Taylor said. “He's lost his muscle in his quad and his calf.

“You know what Cam's like, he's got big, strong legs. Well, he's got almost skinny legs now. You don't always realise how much it takes out of them physically.”

Suddenly the laughter was on hold.