The reason why manager Matt Taylor lied to Rotherham United striker Jordan Hugill

The Millers boss was acting with the best of intentions.
Jordan HugillJordan Hugill
Jordan Hugill

MANAGER Matt Taylor admits he’s told a little fib in a bid to increase striker Jordan Hugill’s set-piece threat during Rotherham United’s Championship survival run-in.

The Millers, who head to Bristol City on Saturday, signed the much-travelled centre-forward in January to lead their push for safety.

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As he was doing his research, Taylor realised how few of Hugill’s 80-odd goals had come from set-pieces and corners.

“Jordan had scored only three times from set-pieces in his whole career before he came to us, which is incredible for a big targetman who heads the ball so, so well,” the boss said. “He couldn’t believe it when I told him.”

The true number was actually a touch higher but Taylor wanted to be sure he got his message across. “It might have been a bit of a white lie,” he smiled. “I might have exaggerated it a bit. It was to make a point.”

The manager has worked out the reason for Hugill’s lack of success and his 30-year-old attacker duly responded with two set-piece headers that helped to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 earlier this month.

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“Traditionally, Jordan has always liked to come round the back side of the goal, but then you are dependent on the ball bypassing ten or 15 players and the goalkeeper — and it has to be a perfect delivery,” the boss said. “That gives the opposition more time to manhandle him.

“He wasn’t on the move and meeting the ball enough. We’ve been trying to get him to free himself up. The moment you create your own space by getting across a man, you’re going to meet the ball if it’s there.

“He did that for his first goal against West Brom. The second was more off his back foot. If you can do both then defenders have to be able to defend both, and that is a horrible thing for them to have to do.”

Taylor, aged 41, became a dad for the first time not long before he took the Rotherham hot-seat in October and has combined his fatherly duties with casting a careful eye over Hugill’s past exploits.

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“I have watched every single one of his goals,” he said. “I know it’s sad but it’s what managers do, even more so when you’ve got a seven-month-old. The beauty of (scouting software) Wyscout! I have access to it on my phone. If the little man is ever awake at night for whatever reason or if I’m feeding him, I just watch it then.”

Now, in the final four matches, the manager is looking for more danger from the man he brought to AESSEAL New York Stadium from Norwich City on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

“Jordan has to be better on set-pieces, he has to be a threat,” Taylor said. “It’s down to the group to give him the right deliveries.”

The midtable Robins, who were 3-1 victors at AESSEAL New York Stadium in December, have former Millers loanee Zak Vyner in their line-up. The centre-half has made 42 league appearances this season.