Centre-half Kirk Broadfoot is in the form of his life but remembers the days when he couldn’t even get a game for Rotherham United.
The Scottish international turned in a another man-of-the-match display in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Brighton as the Millers moved three points clear of the Championship drop zone.
As home fans chanted his name, it was a far cry from the early weeks of his Rotherham career back in August 2014 when he played through an injury out of position at right-back in his first few matches and found himself out of the side.
“I always believed in my ability,” he said, “I didn’t have a good start here - I was injured - but I knew when I was fit and able to play I could force my way into the team playing in my strong position at centre-half.”
Broadfoot, who has taken the captain’s armband for the last two matches as Lee Frecklington nurses a hamstring problem, helped Rotherham secure their second-tier survival with a commanding run of form towards the end of last season.
And he has excelled this term after serving a 10-match ban at the beginning of the season and finally cementing his place in the team in the 1-0 victory at Leeds United on November 21.
Supporters now love the former Glasgow Rangers star for his combative qualities, and their backing hasn’t gone unnoticed by the 31-year-old.
“It’s always nice when the fans like you,” he said. “I just go out there and give it my all. I gave it my all at full-back but I knew I wasn’t a full-back and I wasn’t 100 per cent fit, but I went out and did a job for the team.”
The grizzled defender isn’t certain if the last 11 games have represented a peak in performances in his long career - “Probably. I dunno. I just go out there and play.” but one man who is convinced is boss Neil Redfearn.
“Kirk Broadfoot has been that consistent recently that you take that sort of performance for granted now,” the Millers manager said.
“He is a top performer and he is an experienced guy playing right at the height of his profession. He is a real good influence on other people. He has filled the captain’s role perfectly because he is a natural leader.”
Broadfoot has been paired at the heart of the defence with Stephen Kelly, Danny Collins and Faz Rawson in recent weeks and now has a new partner in Aimen Belaid.
“He’s a good player. He’s a big lad, comfortable on the ball and good across the ground,” said the stand-in skipper of the 27-year-old Tunisia international who joined the Millers last week after playing in Bulgaria.
Redfearn added: “Belaid has done great. You wouldn’t think he has been playing in a different style or standard of football. He has come into the Championship, which is a tough division, and shown his strength.
“His decision-making is good, he’s competitive, he’s aggressive, he’s got pace, he can deal with the ball. He’s a good foil for Broadfoot, It has opened up a bit of a different dimension.
More signings are on their way to AESSEAL New York Stadium, but Redfearn revealed deals had been held up by a busy week of fixtures, with clubs in FA Cup action last weekend and then facing two league games in the space of a few days.
“We are very close,” he said. “We are prepared to wait for the ones we want. By that I mean days rather than weeks.
“Against Brighton, we were down to the bare bones a little bit, but the lads have been absolutely fantastic. Brighton made nine changes to the team that played last Saturday, we made one. The lads have got to take great credit for that.”