Rotherham United: Striker Michael Smith arrives as Millers sell long-serving Lee Frecklington
Rotherham United today brought in a new striker as they said farewell to club legend Lee Frecklington.
The Millers signed targetman Michael Smith on a permanent deal from Bury less than an hour before captain Frecklington ended more than five years in South Yorkshire by moving to home-town club Lincoln City.
Smith, aged 26 and 6ft 4in tall, goes straight into the squad for Saturday’s visit to Oldham Athletic where seventh-placed Rotherham will be looking to break into the play-off spots.
“He’s ideal for me and how I want to play,” said manager Paul Warne, who has moved quickly to fill the void left by Kieffer Moore.
“Luckily for us, Bury agreed the deal and the player wanted to come. He’s very athletic. He can play. The way we play, we can get him scoring goals. We get loads of crosses into the box.”
Midfielder Frecklington, 32, a hero of two promotions at AESSEAL New York Stadium, has agreed a two-and-half-year contract with League Two promotion contenders Lincoln who are believed to have paid the Millers a significant fee.
“Frecks has left the building,” Warne said. “He was in the last year of his contract with us. He got offered an amazing deal for him and his family. He lives in Lincoln and I think it really pulled on his heartstrings.
“He has had a massive impact, but we move on. It can’t go on forever. I can’t wheel out Frecks at 48. All the parties are happy with the business we have done.”
Warne, who confirmed that free agent Giles Coke was training with the club but denied being interested in Chesterfield striker Kristian dennis, is now looking to add two central midfielders to his squad during the January transfer window.
He said he had money to spend on the right players.
Smith, whose best spell came at Swindon Town two years ago, caught Warne’s eye when he was introduced as a substitute by Bury at New York earlier in the season when Rotherham won 3-2.
“In the coaches’ room afterwards we were all talking about him because he made the game a lot more difficult for us,” Warne said. “He pulled out centre-halves into positions they didn’t want to be in. He impressed me. He was always on my radar from that game on.
“He trained with us today and was excellent. The lads were clapping every time he scored. That’s always a good sign. He’s a good age. He’s got games under his belt. He knows what to do.
“With Kieffer going, we just needed a player with a bit of presence. Hopefully we can improve him and get the best out of him.”
The boss paid tribute to Frecklington who joined the Millers from Peterborough United in October 2012.
“Everything good that has happened since we moved to this stadium, he’s been a massive part of it,” Warne said. “He’s been a real driving force. But that’s football. Players come and go all the time.
“It was a good deal for our club, it’s a great deal for Frecks, it’s a brilliant deal for Lincoln. There are no real losers. We now need to sign the next Lee Frecklington, someone who’s going to be on the pitch for us for the next three or four years.
“He leaves with a heavy heart. But he goes to play for his home-town club. He’ll be rightly paraded like a legend. It’ll be like Caesar going back to Rome. I will miss him. I wish him all the best. I think the world of him.”
Mansfield Town, managed by Steve Evans, the boss who brought Frecklington to the Millers, were also in the running, but the lure of playing for the club where he started his career was too much for the player to resist.
Winger Jon Taylor is back in contention after being out since November 11 with a knee injury, but midfielder Darren Potter has suffered a setback as he bids to overcome an achilles problem.
Potter has had an injection and won’t return until late February at the earliest.
Centre-half Richard Wood is attracting the attention of Chesterfield, However, Rotherham will allow him to leave New York only if they can line up a suitable replacement.