KEY man Michael Smith has played through the pain barrier for the last three weeks rather than drop out of Rotherham United's fight for Championship survival, the Advertiser can reveal.
The 6ft 4in centre-forward broke his toe on the day of the Sheffield Wednesday game last month but has stayed in Paul Warne's side who head into this weekend's derby at Sheffield United unbeaten in their last six matches.
A freak incident in the warm-up to the Owls clash saw Smith suffer the break.
"He's been playing with a broken toe for the last few weeks," Warne revealed. "He could have easily come out of the team but that's not the sort of character he is. That's why everyone at the club loves him."
Teammate Will Vaulks accidentally trod on the frontman, who is crucial to Rotherham's hopes of staying in the second tier, as they loosened up on the AESSEAL New York Stadium pitch before the 2-2 draw with Wednesday.
Smith, the only player at the club suited to the lone-striker role, has had to numb the injured digit before games ever since.
"It's just a question of him managing it," Warne said. "He's fine. He's a big, strong lad and pretty resilient."
The manager, whose team beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 last weekend after five successive draws, is hoping the club will have a new recruitment chief lined up by the end of next week following the departure of Jamie Johnson.
"We need someone in, like, now," he said. "I have players who are out of contract, I have players who will leave in the summer. I need to get my targets in and work out the weaknesses in our squad.
"The post has been advertised and it's a quick turnaround really. The deadline for applications is this Friday. The person we choose will have to work really hard because that's what we all do at this club.
"I'll do a shortlist, then we'll all sit down - me, the chairman, the chief exec, Richie (assistant manager Barker) and the chairman's son, Richard, possibly - and organise interviews for next week.
"My ideal scenario is that we offer someone the job at the end of next week. That might be a bit unrealistic - because we lose two days in midweek to the game at Queens Park Rangers - but that's what I'm aiming for."
The Millers are third from bottom in the table and face a tough task at Bramall Lane against their South Yorkshire neighbours who are gunning for automatic promotion.
"The way the fixtures are this weekend, everyone except us is playing everyone else at the bottom," Warne said. "If we can come away with something that would be great.
"I am well aware that Sheffield United have got one of the best home records, if not the best home record, in the league. They start games really well. They're incessant. Their fans get right behind them. It's a brilliant atmosphere there. I watched them against Middlesbrough and they're constantly trying to score.
"Their boss, Chris Wilder, will definitely get Manager of the Year in the Championship, no matter where they finish. Whenever he leaves, through a push or a pull, the club will be in a position. What him and Knilly (assistant boss Alan Knill) have done is really good.
"Them and Leeds are probably the two most exciting teams to watch. I really like them. They're similar to us. They haven't got the biggest budget in the league but they have got a real team spirit. They're really close.
"They've still got a lot of players who took them out of League One, although they've obviously added a lot of quality.
"Their togetherness is what separates them from the other teams in the top six."
Winger Jon Taylor was back in training yesterday after an ankle problem and is expected to be fit for Saturday's showdown which kicks off at 12.15pm.
This article first appeared in the Advertiser
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