Rotherham United new boy Simon Lenighan has the ability to be among the top young players in the Chammpionship, believes boss Neil Redfearn.
The Millers manager compared the 21-year-old free agent to Leeds United stars Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt after signing him for the remainder of the season.
Redfearn was in charge of the Elland Road academy when Lenighan was there, and he said: “Before I got the Rotherham job, I knew Simon was out there and knew full well that if I got another chance in football he was someone that I would look at because, potentially, he is as good as the lads who are there and doing well at Leeds.”
The 6ft 3in central midfielder had endured a troubled time, which included being cleared of a rape charge earlier this year, and slipped into non-league football before being rescued by Redfearn who took him on trial three weeks ago,
The former Leeds head coach said: “Simon was one of the group that got first-team exposure when I was at Leeds. He was in the group of Charlie Taylor, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook. He was captain of the under-18s and U-21s and he lost his way for whatever reason and found himself out of it.
“This is an opportunity foe him. He has to grasp it and he realises that. It’s a measured gamble because I know what he is capable of.”
New boss Redfearn is aware of Lenighan’s past and says the youngster can challenge for a starting role with his Championship side.
“That got resolved. There’s not an issue there anymore,” he said. “We have got a top young player who is young enough to make an impact. He’s a central midfield player, athletic, he gets box to box and he’s technically very good.
“He is somebody I had in and around the first team at Leeds. He is more than capable. He is fit and available and capable of playing at Championship level, in my opinion.”
Lenighan’s deal comes 24 hours after the Millers landed fellow midfielder Luke Hyam on a loan deal from Ipswich Town.