Rotherham United forward Joshua Kayode continues to shine for Carlisle United, as he prepares for his first-team Millers breakthrough.

Kayode first joined the Millers when he was 16 years old. He has been highly rated throughout his time at Rotherham with him being one of their leading players at youth level.

‘JJ’ was given his senior debut during the 2017/18 season, in a Checkatrade Trophy clash against Manchester City U21s.

Remembering Rotherham United’s 1980/81 promotion season

He made another appearance that season in the same competition against Bradford. This was before he was handed his first professional deal with Rotherham in November 2017, which ran until the end of the 2019/20 campaign.

The striker carried on performing well in the reserves. He also enjoyed a useful month’s loan with Chesterfield during the 2018/19 season.

Kayode was now reaching the age where he needed to get some experience in men’s football. He was eager to do this, as he joined Conference North side Gateshead on a six-month loan in August 2019.

The youngster took to senior-level like a duck to water, as he enjoyed a really fruitful spell at Gateshead. He scored eight times from his 27 appearances in all competitions.

This staff at Rotherham were clearly pleased by this spell. He was recalled in January and was awarded a new two-and-a-half-year deal with the Millers.

Kayode was ahead of schedule in his development. His good showings for Gateshead lead to another loan move, this time to League Two outfit Carlisle United.

His spell at Carlisle at the end of the 2019/20 season was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. But he performed well in his first football league outings. He scored three times from his five League Two games.

The coaches and fans at Carlisle quickly took to Kayode. They were keen to secure his services again once their games resumed. They got their wish as it was announced in August 2020 that he had rejoined them on a season-long loan.

Except for the games he was unavailable due to international commitments, he has played 90 minutes in all of their League Two outings this season.

He has two goals and an assist in that time. This also comes while adapting to a new position. For much of this season, Kayode has played on the right of a front three as Carlisle have adopted a 4-3-3 formation.

JJ has coped well with this change, with his pace suiting this new position well. His form at domestic level led to recent call-ups for the Republic of Ireland U21’s.

In the recent international break, he scored in his full debut as Ireland beat Luxembourg U21’s 2-1 in Beggen.

Carlisle United boss Chris Beech was pleased that Kayode made a positive impact on international duty:

“For JJ, it’s an opportunity to get involved in his national team for the under-21s. He did great. He’s had to be patient because the last time he got called up he didn’t get on the pitch.

“This time he affected a goal in a bit of pitch time, then started and scored. Obviously, I’d have preferred if he had a Carlisle shirt scoring that goal. I said to him, I’m knocking on the door now Josh. I’m like a debt collector, you’ve played a dozen games for us, we want our goals now!”

When prospects like Kayode go out on loan for the first time, their talent is put to the test. We often see young players fall by the wayside as a result of not being able to cope with the physical demands of men’s football.

Thankfully, we have not seen this with JJ. The 20-year-old has got stuck in with every loan move so far, and it has helped to progress him as a player.

He was a regular scorer at youth level and in the reserves against players of a similar physical build. But when these players move up to the pro ranks, it is a completely different test.

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It is impressive to see just how well Kayode has coped with this change. When you look at him now compared to a couple of years ago, he seems to have really grown into himself.

He always had pace, but he has clearly been putting in the work behind the scenes as he now looks a lot stronger than he was a few years ago.

This has allowed him to become a real threat in the air. We witnessed a fine example of this as he scored an excellent header for the Republic of Ireland U21’s last week.

Stats: Rotherham United Forwards…

Joshua Kayode: 13 Appearances – 3 Goals, 3 Assists (Inc ROI U21’s)

Freddie Ladapo: 11 Appearances – 1 Goal, 0 Assists

Michael Smith: 11 Appearances – 0 Goals, 0 Assists

George Hirst: 9 Appearances – 0 Goals, 0 Assists

Kyle Vassell: 5 Appearances – 0 Goals, 0 Assists

It is no secret that Rotherham United’s first-team forwards have struggled to find the net so far this season. This does not come as a huge surprise because the Championship is a big step up from League One.

Goals have often been hard to come by for the Millers in the second tier. For Paul Warne’s side to be successful in the Championship, it is vital that his forward’s find their scoring touch.

Now it is easy to look at the stats shown above and ask; why is Kayode not back at Rotherham starting games? It goes without saying that the difference in levels between the Championship and League Two is massive.

Just because he is doing well with Carlisle does not mean he can immediately cut it in the Championship. He is still young and there is no doubt that if he keeps improving at the rate he is now, he could become a top player for Rotherham in the future.

His physical improvements will help him along, and the more he learns the game will only progress him further. Kayode’s core strengths mean that he is set-up well to have a successful career in the game.

It will be interesting to see what Warne and his staff decide to do with Kayode. With the player full of confidence and performing well, do they bring him back into their first-team fold right away?

This is a tough dilemma for them. We do hope that when his time does come, he can shine for Rotherham United just like Ben Wiles has. In a few years, it will be fantastic to see another homegrown striker leading the line for Rotherham, and Kayode is well on his way to achieving that.

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