What former recruitment chief Jamie Johnson did and didn't bring to Rotherham United

By Paul Davis | 11/03/2019

What former recruitment chief Jamie Johnson did and didn't bring to Rotherham United
Jamie Johnson. Picture by Jim Brailsford

JAMIE Johnson left Rotherham United pretty much as he joined them, slipping through the door without anyone outside of the club really knowing how good or bad he was.

He spent just over two years as head of recruitment but was a distant figure in that time, never moving to the area and not being seen that often at the club.

His home in Buckinghamshire was the base for his scouting operation which yielded mixed results for the Millers.

He left last week, a month after an important  January transfer window disappointingly yielded only one signing instead of the three new arrivals that supporters were hoping for.

Rotherham took him from Brighton & Hove Albion towards the end of 2016 on the advice of then-boss Kenny Jackett.

Jackett didn't stay at AESSEAL New York Stadium long enough to work with his recommendation and the Millers, as they waited for Johnson to work a period of notice with the Seagulls, thought they might lose their man.

However, he reassured them that his agreement was with them and not with the manager who had suggested him.

Chairman Tony Stewart liked Johnson's analytical approach, citing the new appointment's use of cutting-edge computer software as the way forward.

Ben Purrington was the first big signing with Johnson's seal of approval, the young left-back switching from Plymouth Argyle in January 2017 for a fee of £300,000.
Purrington started well but faded and has spent this season on loan at AFC Wimbledon and Charlton Athletic.

Ben Purrington

Centre-halves Clark Robertson, Michael Ihiekwe and Manny Onariase and forward Kyle Vassell are also arrivals who came to Rotherham's attention through Johnson and his team of scouts.

Other recruits like strikers Kieffer Moore and Michael Smith and winger Ryan Williams were spotted by boss Paul Warne and his backroom staff.
Now the department Johnson was brought in to overhaul will be restructured again.

The Millers know they can't compete with the spending power of bigger clubs in the Championship and that they have to embrace other markets better suited to their budget.

Northern Ireland, Scotland, the second divisions of Germany and France and the leagues in Scandinavia could all offer rich pickings at an affordable price.

A decision has yet to be made on who will be Johnson's successor but it would suit someone like Rob Scott who has been a key part of the lauded recruitment set-ups at Brentford and Watford and already has experience of exploiting foreign fields.

As a former Rotherham player, he also 'gets' what the Millers, a smaller club with a heart big enough to defy the odds, are about.

And, unlike Johnson, he lives within a 15-minute drive of New York where he is still a regular visitor.

Anyone close to Warne knows that he likes his staff to have a genuine Rotherham connection and to revel in the team ethos.

The boss respected Johnson's opinion, spoke highly of him as a friend and the pair spoke regularly. However, departures are a fact of life in football. Players, owners, coaches and managers come and go, as do recruitment people. Only fans are constant. 

There is no exact timescale but it would obviously be beneficial for the new man to be in place as soon as possible so the planning for summer transfer activity can be put in place.

The role has already been advertised and interviews are likely to be held next week.

There is nothing to say that heads of recruitment have to maintain a high profile, but it would have done Johnson and the Millers no harm had he been a closer, more accountable, more visible presence.

He was employed by the club for around 26 months: during a season of relegation, for the whole of a promotion campaign and for more than two-thirds of a first term back in the Championship. 

Yet when his tenure came to an end the Advertiser didn't have a single image of him in their picture archive.


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