Rotherham United: A look back at tweeting Greg Halford’s Millers career

Greg Halford
Greg Halford

Amazingly, he left and didn’t cause any real controversy on social media.

Greg Halford was full of good wishes as he departed Rotherham United last Friday after an 18-month spell punctuated by his online outbursts.

True, he had a dig at someone as he tweeted that caretaker manager Paul Warne was working wonders with “one hand tied behind his back”.

Yet, otherwise, he wanted the Millers to have all the luck in the word, talked about an interesting journey and claimed he wouldn’t change a thing.

He said he’d made some great friends. But Halford, particularly in his first season, was among the most unpopular players in Rotherham’s recent history.

No-one doubted the talent. Many questioned how it was sometimes applied by a player with a Premier League pedigree and the ability to be comfortable in several positions.

Celebrating a Millers goal against Bristol City earlier this season

Celebrating a Millers goal against Bristol City earlier this season

He came to life during Neil Warnock’s short but memorable reign between February and May last year. Now he has gone to Cardiff City for an undisclosed fee, and the January departure of a player at the top end of the pay scale who would have been out of contract at the end of the season makes sense.

Steve Evans brought the former Sheffield United star to the Championship Millers as his marquee summer signing in 2015.

Things quickly went wrong and Halford, playing in defence when he claimed he had been told he could be a striker, found himself stripped of the captaincy and out of the side.

There’d been “broken promises”, he told his 40,000-plus followers in a sign of things to come.

Converting that late penalty against Leeds United last season

Converting that late penalty against Leeds United last season

Evans’ successor, Neil Redfearn, banished Halford from the first-team frame, informed him he had no future with the Millers and left him training with the youngsters.

Redfearn and first-team coach Eric Black were the next targets, with one Halford tweet hinting that the manager hadn’t been brave enough to tell him to his face and others taking a swipe at Black when the coach stepped into sacked Redfearn’s shoes and then left for Aston Villa.

The player also boasted about his lucrative deal and called a fan a “clown” for good measure.

Halford didn’t appear the right fit for Rotherham, a club not long out of League Two and punching above their weight in the second tier, their success built on team spirit and an unrelenting work ethic.

The celebrations after the spot-kick hit the back of the net

The celebrations after the spot-kick hit the back of the net

Matt Derbyshire, another Rotherham player of the time with a similar top-level career behind him, turned up, grasped the Millers way and mucked in.

Derbyshire, now plying his trade in Cyprus, led the banter, was one of the lads, worked his socks off and was loved in the dressing room for it.

Halford was a more remote, detached presence.

At last year’s end-of-season dinner, with players are placed on tables with sponsors and supporters, Derbyshire was the life and soul of the party. When the meal was over, Halford was sat, back turned to his table, on his mobile phone.

He brought the trappings of success with him - the flash supercar, the luxury 4x4, the personalised plates. His flying Audi, done out in vivid turquoise, was easy to spot in the car-park at the club’s Roundwood training base.

‘GR’ its number plate started. Then ‘EGO’.

He wasn’t unpopular among his teammates, just a bit of an oddball with his own way of doing things.

He grew on them and they grew on him. By the end, there was mutual liking. But he was always one of a kind.

Last Friday, the 32-year-old moved to Wales to be reunited with Warnock, the gaffer who inspired Rotherham’s Championship survival miracle last season, the boss who brought him in from the cold, the manager with an understanding of what makes him tick.

Warnock and assistant boss Kevin Blackwell - who successfully managed Halford at Bramall Lane - came in and made a joke out of his “him and against the rest” standing.

They made out in training that Halford was their favourite, that he was receiving special treatment, that Greg’s way was the right way. Everyone bought into it and Rotherham laughed and fought their way to safety.

Typically, Warnock had made a statement in his first match in charge, at home to Birmingham City. Halford was on the bench and came on for his first action in two months.

He started the next game and then found his Millers calling with a huge performance as a defensive midfielder in the 1-0 derby win at Sheffield Wednesday. He missed just a single match, through injury, after that.

He had been deeply disliked by fans who saw him as a high-earning, destabilising influence for eight months. Now, he won their respect by stepping up at a time he was desperately needed to show his true worth.

This season, with an ankle injury curtailing his input to 15 games, the feeling wasn’t as extreme either way.

He did his best work during that thrilling 16-match Warnock spell. By then, his worst on Twitter was over.

There were times he was an assured, commanding 6ft 4in presence in the Rotherham team with a quality touch, vision, strength, that fabulous long throw and coolness under pressure.

He was the one who stepped up to calmly despatch the last-minute penalty against Leeds United to win the game for the 10-man Millers when the Warnock bandwagon was really rolling.

Conversely, there were defensive gaffes from time to time and the impression that they didn’t concern him too much.

He was a complex soul, and those around him could never be sure where his head was.

There was the figure who wasn’t slow to let people know he had money, the midfielder who performed a crucial, battling role in that epic survical surge. The man content in his own company, the team player who gave his all under Warnock. The social-media trouble-stirrer, the person willing to help out Warne behind the scenes.

Appropriately for someone who will be remembered in Rotherham chiefly for what he did on Twitter, ‘Grego’ is probably a man of 140 characters.

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