The lovely moment at Roundwood when Rotherham United's Shane Ferguson stepped back out on to the grass

THE whitest legs in football trotted out on to the turf at Roundwood and Rotherham United's players broke out into an impromptu round of applause.
Shane Ferguson scores for Rotherham United at Watford last season. Picture: Jim BrailsfordShane Ferguson scores for Rotherham United at Watford last season. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Shane Ferguson scores for Rotherham United at Watford last season. Picture: Jim Brailsford

Shane Ferguson is from good old Irish stock in Derry and his skin famously lacks a bit of colour.

The winger is also a very popular figure in the Millers camp and his emergence from the treatment room at the club's HQ into an early-autumn downpour early last Tuesday following nine months of injury problems cut through the heavy rain.

“He got a standing ovation from everyone on the training pitch,” manager Matt Taylor revealed.

For now, the Northern Ireland international winger will work out under the supervision of the club's physios away from the main group, but last Tuesday represented a significant development for the twinkle-toed attacker who has yet to kick a ball in anger this season.

Small steps back on to the grass, one big step in his fightback from two rounds of hernia surgery.

“What a great person to have around,” Taylor said. “It will be even better when we have him available to play.

“People don't know what he was going through at the end of last season. Rotherham fans need to know how he put his body on the line.

“He knew his groin and stomach weren't in a good place but he was desperate to do as well as he could for the club."

Ferguson had been suffering since the turn of the year and played through the pain to to help the Millers close in on Championship safety

By the time Middlesbrough came calling at AESSEAL New York Stadium in the penultimate match of the campaign, he was in serious trouble but still started the match that sealed the survival deal.

He lasted 40 minutes of the 1-0 victory before being helped off the field and had put himself in harm's way despite his two-year contract nearing an end and there being no guarantee of a new one.

“He was doing it for the love of Rotherham United,” Taylor said. “He was chasing down balls and tore his groin and stomach muscles.

“He was fully committed then and he'll be the same this time around. We've just got to give him a foundation of fitness first.”

The 32-year-old, who was rewarded for his skill and bravery with a 12-month extension, had an operation early in the summer and then underwent a second one, conducted by a world-renowned surgeon in Germany in late August.

The former Newcastle United and Millwall man bought into the Rotherham way from the moment he was signed by then-manager Paul Warne in 2021. He moved his family from the north east and settled on the Waverley estate on the old Orgreave Colliery site in Catcliffe.

His first season at New York brought 45 outings, League One promotion and Wembley silverware in the Papa Johns Trophy. His second saw a further 37 appearances as the Millers finally broke their yo-yo cycle by remaining in the second tier.

Taylor is as pleased as anyone by the recent turn of events.When you see a player back in boots again, that's always a big moment for a manager," the boss said. "It means he's getting closer to a comeback.

“What a guy. We have to look after him, there's no rush for him. But he's at the point where, for his own sake, something has to ‘give’ in terms of his availability.”

Meanwhile, happy as they were to see those ghostly limbs finally getting some air again, teammates weren't giving Fergie an easy ride.

“The usual jokes came his way,” Taylor grinned. “They were shouting to him: ‘Have you got enough sun cream on?’ Even though it was p*ssing it down!”