Boss Neil Redfearn believes a touch of tender, loving care is behind the transformation of Grant Ward from Rotherham United squad player to an attacking midfielder capable of striking fear into opposing sides.
Ward has been an ever-present since Redfearn took charge in October and the Millers manager revealed yesterday that the 20-year-old’s loan deal from Premier League Spurs will be extended from this month to the end of the season.
“I have given him a little bit more confidence, given him belief,” Redfearn said. “The big thing with young players is encouragement. You can squash them and lose them pretty quickly if they don’t feel like they have got that backing from the top.
“You have to let them find their way a little bit and you have to point them in the right direction.”
Ward was in and out of the starting 11 under Steve Evans but has since hit a rich vein of form which has coincided with Rotherham moving out of the Championship drop zone with five wins in 10 league matches and opening up a three-point gap between themselves and the teams in the bottom three.
The Millers face QPR at AESSEAL New York Stadium tomorrow looking to build on a run of three successive home wins which has seen them score eight goals and not concede any.
Ward is a certain starter, and Redfearn confirmed that right-back Shay Facey and Danny Ward are also fit for selection. Striker Ward took a kick in Tuesday’s 2-0 triumph over Brighton while Facey was withdrawn as a precaution in the second half because of a tight hamstring.
“For a young player, Grant has shown a lot of resilience,” Reddfearn added. “He has been in the middle of the 5-2 defeat against Ipswich and he was in the middle of the 4-0 win against Bolton, so he has been in the middle of both ends, which is fantastic experience.
“He gives you athleticism. He has got the confidence to pick up the ball between the lines and turn and get at defenders. We are trying to make him aware of his capability of scoring, I think there are more goals in him. His ability to get us up the pitch quickly is a big feature in how we are playing.”
Redfearn is intent on strengthening his squad during the January transfer window and is prepared to hold his nerve in his quest to land his main targets.
“We are having a little bit of trouble getting them over the line,” he said. “These are the players we want because we feel they are going to make us better.
“We are nearly there, but I’d rather it take two or three days longer for us to get these players rather than get players in who don’t fit what we need.
“We have to abide by the parent clubs of the players. I am pretty sure that they will happen sooner rather than later.”
Rotherham could be close to offering a deal to striker Luciano Becchio who scored twice in a private friendly this week.
The Argentine free agent, returning to fitness after a long spell with an ankle injury, would have to pass a medical, but the 32-year-old has been training with the club for a fortnight and Redfearn has been impressed by what he has seen.
“We are constantly in dialogue with Luciano,” Redfearn said, “We had a behind-closed-doors game and he looked strong in it. Perhaps he looked a little bit short of match fitness, but that is to be expected. He scored twice, which is a good habit to have.
“We are getting Luciano to a point where he is in a good place and if we can do something that would be great.
“He is somebody I have known for a long time. We know what he is capable of and I think he has got the bit between his teeth. He loves the game, he has missed being out there, and this gives him a realistic opportunity to kick on his career.”
League One promotion goalkeeper Adam Collin is set for a loan move away from New York.
Collin, who saved two penalties in a Wembley shootout as Rotherham earned their place in the second tier in 2014, has found his lack of first-team opportunities this season “frustrating”, Redfearn admitted.
Aberdeen are favourites to sign the 31-year-old.