Ins and outs in the transfer market, players returning to fitness and four vital league games. January is set to be a massive month for Rotherham United…
As with any season, January is always a vital month for teams up and down the country. It gives clubs the opportunity to improve their squad in the transfer market ahead of the season-ending run-in.
But for Rotherham United especially, this month holds extra importance. There will no doubt be movement on the transfer front, with Paul Warne hoping to maximise his team’s chances of avoiding the drop.
Yet, these next few weeks have even more meaning given that some injured players are set to return to action. A lot of teams have struggled on the injury front this season due to this year’s demanding schedule.
It does feel like Rotherham have suffered more than most, though. In the coming weeks, Warne’s issues on the injury front will thankfully start to ease off…
EFL Championship 20-21
Top players after GW23
Mins: Ihiekwe 1710
Goals: 2 players 4
Assists: Olosunde 3
Shots on target: Smith 31
Succ dribbles: Wiles 14
Aerial duels won: Ihiekwe 124
Tackles: Lindsay 38
Interceptions: Harding 40
Clearances: Ihiekwe 85#rufc pic.twitter.com/dPqF6S4Qec
— EFL Stats (@EFLStats) January 5, 2021
It has been reported that Shaun Macdonald and Clark Roberton will both return to training in early January. All being well, both players should be back in contention to play within the next couple of weeks.
The returns of Chieo Ogbene, Kieran Sadlier and Joe Mattock are further away, however. It is expected to be February at the earliest before they are back.
Meanwhile, Curtis Tilt and Jake Cooper have returned to the club after their loan spells at Wigan and Gateshead respectively.
Add to this the returns of Matt Crooks, Angus Macdonald and Billy Jones from COVID related issues, and Warne’s squad is starting to look far stronger than it has been in the last couple of months.
The Millers boss will still want to be busy in the transfer market, though. Here’s a look at some ins and outs to be expected this month…
Warne is not promising wholesale changes. But he has already stated that he is eyeing a left-back, a centre midfielder and a striker this month. It goes without saying that a new left-back recruit is a must.
With Mattock ruled out, Ben Wiles has been operated out of position as a left wing-back. Even though he has done well there, a new left-back is still needed to play in Mattock’s absence and to add competition for the experienced full-back when he returns to fitness.
You could argue that a new central midfielder is not needed as much as Warne’s other two priorities. Yet, it would be ideal if he can find a midfielder who can add goals to the team.
Dan Barlaser, Jamie Lindsay, Wiles and Crooks have performed well. But Rotherham do lack a centre midfielder who can bag 10-plus goals a season. Finding a player like this is easier said than done, but having one would significantly ease the pressure that is currently on Rotherham’s strikers.
Rotherham United’s Centre Midfielders (Champ Stats):
Ben Wiles: 19 apps - 1 goal, 0 assists Jamie Lindsay: 18 apps - 2 goals, 0 assists Matt Crooks: 17 apps - 2 goals, 1 assist Dan Barlaser: 14 apps - 3 goals, 2 assists Shaun Macdonald: 9 apps - 0 goals, 0 assists
Warne also aims to sign another striker in January. The Millers have been heavily linked with the former Blackpool and Chesterfield forward, Armand Gnanduillet.
The 28-year-old is currently a free agent after his short spell in Turkey came to an end. He enjoyed the best goal-scoring season of his career in 2019/20 with Blackpool in League One.
Gnanduillet netted 18 goals from 36 appearances in all competitions. The season before, also in League One, he scored 14 from his 52 outings.
Having seen him play a couple of times and looking at his stats, he looks like he could be a good signing for the Millers. He is yet to play in the Championship, so he will be hungry to prove himself in this division.
With the signing of Gnanduillet or whoever it ends up being, one Millers striker may be on their way out…
Should another forward come in, that will increase their number of first-team strikers to five. You imagine that Warne will be hoping to let one go, with four attackers being just right for the Millers.
The most likely to depart is George Hirst. The youngster has only made three Championship starts for Rotherham and he has struggled to find any sort of form.
Leicester City may want him back so he can be sent out on loan to someone in League One or elsewhere. You have to feel for the 21-year-old, as his move to Rotherham has just not worked out.
Even though this spell has not gone to plan on the pitch, he will no doubt take a lot from the time that he has spent around a senior Championship squad. He is still young, so he can definitely go onto achieve a lot in the game.
Looking elsewhere, Adam Thompson is likely to leave. He rarely put a foot wrong last season in what was an impressive first year at Rotherham.
Despite this, he has fallen down the pecking order this term. He has been named on the bench eight times, but he is yet to make an appearance this season.
Thompson has gone through a lot in the last year with his father passing away. If he does move on, we will wish him all the best because he is clearly a great man who will be missed dearly by the staff and his teammates.
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January is often overshadowed by the transfer window. Yet this month is as important for the Millers on the pitch with four important Championship games due before the end of the month.
Rotherham travel to face Everton in the FA Cup third round this Saturday. Given their position in the table and that fans cannot attend, that tie really pales into insignificance compared to their next few league games…
Rotherham United’s January Championship Fixtures
16th January (SAT) - Derby County vs RUFC 19th January (TUE) - RUFC vs Stoke City 23rd January (SAT) - Luton Town vs RUFC 30th January (SAT) - RUFC vs Swansea City
The Millers have a few tough games here. Both Swansea and Stoke are battling for promotion towards the other end of the table. But so were Bristol City when Rotherham beat them at home. So Warne’s men have proven that they can beat some of the league’s heavy hitters when they are at their best.
Derby have picked up of late, but they are still only a place above Rotherham in 22nd. Luton are up in 14th, so they are the type of side the Millers should be looking to beat, even if it is an away game.
If Rotherham can pick up a couple of wins from these next four, it would set them up brilliantly for what is due to be a hectic month in February.
With the rescheduled Derby and Cardiff games taken into account, the Millers are set to play eight times next month.
Rotherham will play Tuesday/Saturday throughout February. This makes the transfer window and players returning from injury even more critical.
By the end of February, we will have a much clearer vision of how Rotherham’s season is shaping up. They will be 12 games deeper into the campaign, and there will just be 14 outings left before the end of the season.
As to be expected with the club in the Championship, Rotherham are up against it. But as we know, they have heart and character in abundance.
They will have to show this in spades throughout the next few weeks. If the Millers can avoid the drop, it will perhaps be Warne’s biggest achievement as a manager to date.