In the first of our new ‘remembering’ series, we reflect on Stephen Brogan’s time at Rotherham United…
Brogan first broke into the Rotherham first team during the 2005/06 season. Under Alan Knill, he was the latest in a fresh crop of youth players making their way into the senior side.
Will Hoskins, Ryan Taylor and Marc Newsham were alongside Brogan in being the latest breakthroughs. But the left-back was perhaps the brightest prospect of the lot.
Brogan made his first-team debut in the LDV Van Trophy on 18 October 2005 against Accrington Stanley. He came on at the start of extra-time and helped his side go through via a penalty shootout, after drawing 3-3 after 120 minutes.
A couple of weeks later, the 17-year-old made his first league appearance. He came on as a late substitute as the Millers drew 1-1 away at MK Dons.
The youngster made two further sub appearances before the end of the season, as Rotherham narrowly avoided relegation in League One.
Brogan was out of the team for much of the 2006/07 season. He was named on the bench a few times in October and November, before he made his first sub appearance on December 23 against Swansea City.
He made a seven-minute cameo in that game, before making an 11-minute appearance against Oldham Athletic in their next outing.
From then on, Brogan was a regular in the team, making a further 18 starts before the end of the season. It was a poor campaign for the Millers as a whole in 2006/07, as they finished 23rd in League One – 13 points adrift of safety – to be relegated down to League Two.
Yet, Brogan’s end of season form was a real positive and a sign that despite the disappointment, the future could still be bright for the Millers.
His form was rewarded with a new contract. The youth product signed a new two-year deal that lasted until the end of the 2008/09 campaign.
— The Millers scrapbook. (@millers1971AK) October 20, 2019
Brogan was in the Millers starting XI right away under Mark Robins. He caught the eye with some fantastic performances as Rotherham started the season well.
He was an ever-present in the team, and he shone with some stellar man of the match showings. His first goal for the club came at Milmoor against Mansfield in October 2007. Brogan put the Millers 3-0 in front with a header, to help his side to another valuable three points.
The talented young player continued this form throughout the season. He scored three goals and grabbed six assists from his first 30 games of the campaign.
Brogan was a real force down that left flank, and he was one of the standout players in League Two that season. This stirred up interest from some of the top clubs in the country, with Tottenham Hotspur reportedly being one of the clubs tracking his progression.
He was on a real high, spearheading Rotherham’s fight to return to League One at the first time of asking.
Heartbreakingly though, all this momentum came to an abrupt halt against MK Dons in February. The Dons were leading 1-0 at the start of the second half. Brogan was advancing on goal, but he then had a catastrophic collision with ‘keeper Willy Gueret.
It did not look good right away, and it was soon revealed that he suffered a double fracture to his leg. He would miss 14 months of action as his career was put on hold.
Rotherham’s season tailed off after Brogan’s injury. It was as if the wind had been taken out of their sails, as they fell out of promotion contention.
Brogan missed almost the entirety of the 2008/09 season. He made his comeback by coming off the bench in Rotherham’s final game of the season against Exeter City.
Without Brogan in the team, Rotherham finished down in 14th after an indifferent debut season at the Don Valley Stadium. Sadly, Brogan was never the same player after his injury. He struggled with knocks, as he only made six appearances for the club over the next two seasons.
He spent a spell on loan with Stalybridge Celtic in 2010/11, where he made 12 league appearances scoring three goals. Brogan was released by Rotherham United upon the culmination of that season, ending a sorry final couple of years at the club.
Brogan’s story is perhaps one of the biggest what if’s in recent Millers memory. Just two years into his football league career, this horror injury ripped it away from him.
If he did not suffer that collision with Gueret, who knows what he could have gone onto achieve?
After just half a season in League Two, he looked set to win Player of the Year and a big move was surely on the horizon. Brogan could have turned into quite the player. It is awful to see this taken away from a player so early into his professional career.
He has spent the rest of his career playing for various non-league teams. He has still managed to tot up over 250 career appearances, but he should have been able to do so much more…