Millers misfit Jordan Bowery lies in wait in the FA Cup tomorrow, with Rotherham United boss Paul Warne claiming the striker had lacked the self-belief to make a success of his career in South Yorkshire.
Bowery lasted only 18 months at AESSEAL New York Stadium after joining Rotherham from Aston Villa in 2014 when they had been promoted to the Championship under Steve Evans.
He scored just five goals in 40 appearances before Evans’ successor, Neil Redfearn, allowed him to join Oxford United and is now with League Two Crewe Alexandra
“Jordan came here as a young man and it was probably a year or two too soon,” Warne, who was fitness coach at the time, said. “In the environment he was in - it was a different environment then, more hostile - I don’t think it suited his personality.
“His personality didn’t suit the regime at that time. It might be better if it was now. He’s probably a lot stronger. At the time, I don’t think he really believed he was good enough to play. But he was.”
Bowery, now 26, is a likely starter in the Crewe side - managed by another old boy, David Artell - that take on the Millers in the first-round tie at Gresty Road.
“He wasn’t an arrogant kid at all,” Warne said. “Some players will knock on my door and tell me they should be playing and I think: ‘You’ve got to be drinking. There’s no way you’re better than him.’
“Jordan would never do that. He would never think he was better. But sometimes as a footballer it’s good to have that arrogance, that gene that makes you think you’re the best. Then you go out and perform and are fearless.”
Warne, who is planning to make changes for tomorrow’s match after last week’s 3-1 League One defeat against Gillingham, has kept in touch with the player.
“I did loads of work with him,” he recalled. “I liked him as a kid. He scored last week and I texted him my congratulations. I wouldn’t be surprised if his career kicks back upwards again.
“He had all the attributes to be an outstanding player. He’s a massive confidence player. If he has a really good run in a team and someone sticks by him, he’ll be a handful for any side on his day. He’s in good form at the moment. We’ve watched the clips. He keeps getting in behind. He’s athletic and powerful.”
Bowery has scored three goals in his last five outings, taking his tally to four in 18 games this season.
“To do it consistently is probably the hardest thing for any footballer,” Warne added. “I have theory on big strikers. They don’t really know how to use their bodies until their mid-20s. Kieffer (6ft 5in Rotherham striker Moore), for example ... if you’d watched him two years ago, he would probably have been like Bambi on ice.
“You can say that about a few. At 19, they might be physically mature, but they don’t know the game, although people expect them to. Jordan is a little bit like that. He had pace and power but he didn’t know how to use his body.
“As he’s grown older, he’s got a bit wiser. He’s matured. I think he is a better player than the one Rotherham fans will remember. He’ll be a handful.”
Warne and Artell, a boyhood Rotherham fan, were Millers teammates during the 2000/2001 campaign.
“Dave is doing a great job. He is a really good friend of mine,” Warne said. “He is a clever. He’s done a criminology degree, which is pretty impressive, and he is a really good human being. I would love to play for him as a player.
“The match has an extra dimension because of him. If it wasn’t Dave at Crewe and it was someone random I didn’t know, it’d feel like less of a game. I know what Dave brings, I know what personality he has, I know what it means to him and I know how much effort he will put into the game.
“It’s no different to anyone who plays against their boyhood club. If it was me managing somewhere else and we played Rotherham, it would be a massive game for me.
“I reckon he will have about 2,000 complimentary tickets for all of his family. It does add a bit of magic to our cup game. At least a Rotherham manager will win on Saturday.”