Young Joshua Kayode could be ready to make his breakthrough for Rotherham United

HE looked like a different player in the opening pre-season friendly.
Joshua KayodeJoshua Kayode
Joshua Kayode

The pace was the same as teenager Joshua Kayode played and scored in the first half of the 7-0 win over non-league Parkgate FC at Roundwood.

But now there was strength, power and physicality in the 18-year-old Rotherham United centre-forward known to everyone as 'JJ'.

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The speedy striker has long been regarded as one for the future at the Millers and spent last season training with the first-team squad after being rewarded for his displays in the youth set-up with his first professional contract.

His call in the League One campaign which kicks off next month could come sooner than anyone was expecting.

“If he keeps developing the way he is, he has a chance of playing next season,” confirmed manager Paul Warne who could go with an attacking 4-3-3 formation in the bid to return to the Championship at the first attempt.

“We run a small squad. We've got 22 players at the moment. We have no under-23s side and we're trying to give the youth-team players a better pathway to the first team.

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“The best pathway for JJ at the moment would probably be for him to go out on loan and play, but that might be detrimental to the first team. If we do play three up front, more often than not he'll be getting on the pitch.”

Regular spectators at Rotherham reserve games will tell you the Nigerian-born youngster has always been quick and mobile.

The muscle put on since last term is a welcome addition and has added to the centre-forward's promise.

There was a first-half corner against Parkgate when the Millers massed their big men at the edge of the penalty area waiting for the kick to come in.

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Kayode didn't look out of place as he stood alongside Semi Ajayi, Richard Wood, Michael Ihiekwe and Michael Smith before the ball was clubbed into the middle by Kyle Vassell.

After a summer of encouraging recruitment and the welcome return to fitness of Vassell and Jamie Proctor, Rotherham look far stronger up front than they were last season when they came close to remaining in the second tier.

Warne has new record signing Freddie Ladapo, fellow new boy Carlton Morris, Smith, Proctor, Vassell and Kayode to choose from.

“All six of the strikers will get game-time,” the boss forecast. “Keeping all six strikers fit is near on impossible. You need five strikers fit if you're playing three up top.

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“Good luck to JJ. It will be very difficult because the competition for places is immense up top, as it is in the middle of the park.

“But I don't look at him as a younger player. If he keeps training and playing the way he is, he can easily force his way into the front three.”

Kayode's only previous senior experience is two substitute appearances for the Millers in the EFL Cup in 2017 and three National League outings in a brief loan spell at Chesterfield in September 2018.

He continued to catch the eye this pre-season during the week-long training camp in Germany

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His sharp run and dribble, minutes after his introduction as a substitute, created a goal for Smith in the 2-2 draw against Werder Bremen II and he started the 2-1 loss against FC Magdeburg a few days later.

There was more game-time in Wednesday's match at Bradford Park Avenue.

“When he came on against Bremen he looked an absolute brute,” Warne enthused. “He was knocking people out of the way, he was winning free-kicks, he set up a goal for Smudge.”

There's something else his manager likes.

“And he can run,” fitness fanatic Warne added. “Oddly enough, players who can run tend to do well under me. If he keeps producing, he should be able to play a part this year.”

This article first appeared in the Advertiser