A quiet chat over tea and biscuits looks to have rescued the Rotherham United career of young striker Jonson Clarke-Harris.
The record signing was frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities and, as he often does, went knocking on manager Steve Evans’ door.
A parting of the ways could have been brewing, but Evans put the kettle on, broke open a packet of Digestives and offered the 21-year-old some crumbs of comfort.
Work hard in training, show some consistency and you could still have a future at AESSEAL New York Stadium, the Rotherham boss told him.
The result was a 35-minute cameo against Preston North End when Clarke-Harris came off the bench and wreaked havoc, followed by full games and man-of-the-match performances against QPR and Norwich City, plus a superb goal at Loftus Road.
“He has been great again tonight,” said Evans after the Millers have given the Premier League Canaries an almighty fright on Tuesday night before going out of the Capital One Cup 2-1.
“I like Jonson Clarke-Harris as a player, but I have just reminded him that if he drops it he’s out. Playing like that, he is a top player in the Championship.
“But he has to come in and work hard and be committed, and he knows that now. We had a chat about 10 days ago where he came in the office and had a cup of tea and a Digestive.
“He made it clear that we were going to see a Jonson Clarke-Harris who wanted to earn the right to be here, because he was on his way out.”
Clarke-Harris, relishing his run in the team, said: “I just want to be happy, keep improving and score some goals.”
With next Tuesday’s transfer-window deadline drawing close, Evans still wants to bring in new players and, in anticipation of a busy weekend, has postponed part of his UEFA Pro Licence coaching course.
“I was talking to (Norwich boss) Alex Neil about our journey to the Pro Licence course and we’re both not going because we’ve both got business to do,” he said.
“Our chairman is very supportive. He knows what we’re trying to do. He knows we’re trying to get a certain type of player in.”
Evans has made 12 signings over the summer but after four league games, despite decent away performances at Nottingham Forest and QPR, his side are at the foot of the Championship table.
“We’ve signed some good players here,” he said. “People question whether we this squad is better than last season’s. It’s night and day really. But you have to prove it. At the minute, everything that can go against us is going against us.”
Adam Collin was given his first action of the season against Norwich and Evans must now decide whether to retain the No 2 goalkeeper who had a solid game or bring Kelle Roos straight back into the side for Saturday’s home match against Fulham.
“I think Adam has done well,” the manager said. “His distribution was good, his handling was impeccable and he made two or three blocks. We were pleased for the big man.
“People think that because he is out of the team we don’t love the boy to bits. He’s a big reason why we are in the Championship. But you have to play like a Championship player if you want to play for Rotherham.
“People say we split up the League One squad, Have a look where they are, have a look at their performances. There’s a difference when you step up to this level and people who don’t know that simply don’t know football.”
Midfielder Paul Green scored against the Canaries with a 20-yard volley but is looking for the Millers to be meaner in defence.
“It just dropped out of the sky. I hit well and it’s gone straight past the keeper, so I was chuffed to bits with it,” he said. “But, obviously, the result went against us and that’s the most important thing.
“It was end to end and we had a few chance. I don’t think we have created as many chances as that in a game for a long time. We are getting in those positions and now have just got to take the opportunities.
“It’s a case of ‘bring on Fulham’ on Saturday and trying to get our first three points on the board.
“There were some positives to take against Norwich, but we have conceded two goals and we need to cut those goals out.
“I am sure we will be working on a few things in training for Saturday, looking at the goals we’ve conceded and hopefully tightening up.”