Rotherham United have extended Joe Newell’s contract by a year and will look to tie him to a longer deal when their push for League One promotion is over.
The fourth-placed Millers, who could mathematically secure their play-off berth tomorrow when they entertain Bristol Rovers, activated a 12-month option on the in-form left winger who has been with the club since 2015.
Boss Paul Warne knows it would strengthen the club’s bid to keep the 25-year-old if they can secure a place in the second tier in next month’s end-of-season shoot-out.
“We’ve taken the option on him,” the manager confirmed. “He’s more than happy with that. In fact, he’s pretty chuffed. Then it’s my job over the summer to convince him to sign a longer one
“I think Newelly, like everyone else, wants to play Championship football. I completely understand that. I’m hopeful that if we do go up this year then I can extend that contract.
“He’s been brilliant this year. This is the best I’ve seen him. At least I know he’s our player for the next 14 months. I’m hopefully going to try to convince him, with the chairman’s backing, to stay longer. I can’t see it being a problem.”
Newell has been one of the division’s stand-out performers this term, scoring seven goals and providing numerous assists, and his boss accepts that he could be a wanted man.
“I’d expect interest in him in the summer,” Warne said. “I’d expect interest in a few of our players. It’s not that we’re a selling club.
“I always think that teams that come out of the Championship sometimes look at the players in the league below who have done really well. And he is definitely one of those.
“I’m not trying to engage interest in him. But I understand that if you’ve watched Newelly play in some games this year then you’d think: ‘Wow, he is some player.’
“I could say that about a lot of our players. There could be interest in Smithy (Michael Smith), in (Matt) Palmer, in (Will) Vaulks.
“But, as I sit here now, no-one has phoned me about any of them.”
By activating the clause, Rotherham have put themselves in a strong bargaining position. Although they would much prefer Newell to commit to a long-term stay, they know they could demand a big fee for his services.
Joe Mattock is fit again after a hamstring injury and is battling with Ben Purrington for the left-back spot for the visit of Rovers.
Mattock is a Player of the Year contender but Purrington has done well since stepping in four matches ago.
Warne says striker Jamie Proctor, nearing a return after cruciate knee ligament surgery in August, might not be quite ready to resume playing this season.
“I’m more pessimistic than I was before,” he said. “The realist in me thinks it might be a step too far.”