Rotherham United: How Warne talked Ekstrand into Millers move

Joel Ekstrand
Joel Ekstrand

Paul Warne was talking Joel Ekstrand’s language when he persuaded the Sweden international defender to sign for Rotherham United.

The centre-half has answered Warne’s call to join the Millers on a short-term deal to the end of the season after the caretaker manager turned multi-lingual to land his man.

“I had to Google Translate some Swedish words to try to sell him the club,” Warne grinned. “It worked a treat, although I’m not sure he got the message I intended to send him!”

Ekstrand has terminated his contract at Rotherham’s Championship rivals and opponents on Saturday, Bristol City, to allow the switch to take place outside of the January transfer window.

“I went for him because he’s experienced - he’s a good age for a centre-half, 27 - and he’s Swedish,” Warne said. “That might make people laugh, but I like Scandanavians. I think their attitude to life, diet and professionalism is right up there.

“We’ve lost Broady (central defender Kirk Broadfoot to injury), so I’ve needed to get some defenders in. I’m really pleased.”

Paul Warne

Paul Warne

Initial contact was made right at the start of the window as Warne drove to West Yorkshire for the Millers’ January 2 clash at Leeds United.

“I spoke to him a month ago on the way up to Leeds and he said he’d love to come but that he was a couple of kilos short because he’d been ill,” Warne revealed. “He said: ‘I’m not really fit to come yet.’

“That made me like him even more, because he was honest. He could have easily got through the door and then let me think: ‘What’s going on here?’

Rotherham’s main defensive target during January had been young Coventry City centre-half Jordan Willis. They made a club-record bid and, after haggling over personal terms with the player, thought the deal was in the bag until the Sky Blues said ‘no’ at the last minute.

“They didn’t want to sell him, in the same way I didn’t sell to Wardy (striker Danny Ward),” Warne said. “That’s their best player. He is their captain, their shining light, so you can understand why they don’t want to sell him.

“We went to a really good price, their valuation, and at the end of the day it’s their say. Unfortunately for us, they stopped it.”

Ekstrand, formerly of Watford, has played only twice for the Robins this season, with one of those appearances coming in a 2-2 draw at New York Stadium last September.

He travelled to South Yorkshhire for his medical today and has made an immediate impact.

“Everyone up here who has met him really likes him, and I think he will be a really positive influence in the dressing room,” Warne said. “The more characters you can get like him, the better. He’ll have a positive effect on the younger players. He’s a real leader.

“He plans to go back to Sweden and play at the end of the season, but if he comes here, does well and enjoys it, he might decide to stay here and have another year or so.

“He hasn’t played as much at Bristol City as he would have liked and I tried to sell us to him by saying: ‘Don’t let the final few months in England be disappointing. Come here. I’m not guaranteeing you’re going to play, but come in and fight for your place and see where it takes you.’ He’s happy with that challenge.”

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