Tom Eaves is slowly but surely turning around his Rotherham United career ... there's been some suffering along the way

Tom Eaves celebrates after the first of his two goals for Rotherham United  against Cardiff City. Picture: Jim BrailsfordTom Eaves celebrates after the first of his two goals for Rotherham United  against Cardiff City. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Tom Eaves celebrates after the first of his two goals for Rotherham United against Cardiff City. Picture: Jim Brailsford
TOM Eaves knew he had to pull himself together for the sake of his son.

“My first 25 minutes ... Jesus Christ, everything bounced off me,” said the Rotherham United striker.

The big frontman was talking about his contribution in the early stages of the Millers' final-day Championship clash at home to Cardiff City last Saturday.

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Young Rudi Eaves was in the West Stand watching the action and his dad was determined to do him proud.

“I thought ‘I can't let it go on like this with my lad here’,” Eaves Senior continued. “You just have to be resilient and hope the tide will turn. Eventually, it did. I feel like I finished the game well.”

‘Finished the game well’ ... That's a bit of of an understatement considering he went on to score twice as relegated Rotherham proceeded to romp to a 5-2 victory.

His two goals made him the club's top scorer for the campaign with six - not a figure to crow about in normal circumstances, but a degree of vindication for a player hit by injuries and never given a regular run in the side in the two seasons since he left Hull City to come to AESSEAL New York Stadium.

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He has suffered in S60 and is hoping the little burst of starts new boss Steve Evans has afforded him is a portent for good things to come in League One next term when he enters the final year of his contract.

Paul Warne signed him but injury meant that Eaves never started a game before the then-manager left for Derby County while the next incumbents in the hot-seat, Matt Taylor and Leam Richardson, generally consigned the Liverpudlian to bench duty.

“It's been turmoil,” the 32-year-old said. “Warney brought me in and I wasn't the next two managers' player. Steve Evans has come in and showed good faith in me. Hopefully I can repay him for that.

“To be candid, there have been times when I've scored and felt like I've deserved a chance but then I've been dropped.

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“It's felt like I've been doing the Hokey Cokey - in, out, in, out. It's hard to find form.

“You can't turn it on and off, especially in the Championship. It's a relentless league.”

It feels good to be talking to him at New York following his exploits against the Bluebirds. There is no-one more popular than him in the Rotherham camp and he's waited too long for a moment in the spotlight.

A tough first season brought no goals but he's begun to turn things around in his second year, despite his lack of game-time, and has won the respect and affection of supporters in doing so.

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“I'm not used to standing here with you because I've not played an awful lot,” he said. “I think I've started less than ten games this year (he's right, it's seven in the league).

“Today meant a lot to me. The fans have been amazing with me; so, so good. People stop me in the street to wish me well. They've been so supportive and I'm very thankful.

“You just want to put the bad times behind you and move forward. It's my life. I live in Rotherham. I've moved my life to be here. When things aren't going well, you take it home with you. You're just human.”

Home with Rudi and missus Ashleigh is in Waverley.

Of Eaves' 53 Championship appearances across two seasons for the Millers only 13 have seen him on the pitch for the first whistle.

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“Coming on as a sub has been a common theme in my career at Rotherham,” he said. “It's so difficult when you're 2-0 down or whatever and chasing the game.

“People don't really know what I’m all about because they haven't seen me play regularly. They've seen me in dribs and drabs.

“It's been so hard to get momentum. When you keep coming on for the last ten minutes it's almost impossible to do anything. It makes such a difference starting games.”

As a starter against Cardiff, he won the supporters' the Man-of-the-Match award, reward for a sharp first-half finish and a coolly-taken penalty after the break.

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Rotherham's drop from the second tier had been confirmed a month earlier but, under a new regime they have found a spark.

“We just wanted a performance and a win,” the attacker said. “It was nice to show the fans a bit of passion.

“You can get so far with tactics but, at the end of the day, it's about fight. We wanted to give a little bit back. I'm delighted to finish with three points and those two goals.”

Rudi was cheering and so were the fans.

All together now: ‘Eeeeaaavvveeessss.’