Rotherham United’s most gifted player has been told he has to up his game if he wants to cement a first-team place under new boss Paul Warne
Warne says no-one in the Millers camp has more talent than left midfielder Joe Newell who made 35 appearances during this season’s Championship relegation campaign.
But, after taking the hot-seat permanently last month, the manager is warning the 24-year-old he must give more to the cause or risk finding himself of out of the League One picture next term.
“He will be a key player if he has the pre-season I want him to have,” Warne said. “If he doesn’t, he won’t be.
“I think Joe has pockets of excellence with smaller pockets of mediocrity. That’s probably a bit harsh, but it’s how I sort of see it.
“He’s probably the best footballer in the group. If you asked the squad who was the best footballer we had, the answer would definitely be Joe Newell.
“He’s a good kid. If we could just get another five or 10 per cent out of him, he could be virtually unplayable. That’s what we will try to do over the summer.”
Newell, signed on a three-year deal from Peterborough United in 2015, is thought to be one of the players in Warne’s squad attracting interest from other clubs.
“I do expect to prepare a squad and a team with Joe in it,” said Warne, who revealed he has appointed a head of conditioning and a chief physiotherapist. “But if someone comes in and offers stupid money ... you know what it’s like.”
Newell has played 73 games for the Millers, scoring seven times, and missed the end of this season through injury. He hit two of Rotherham’s best goals of the year with long-range efforts at Fulham and QPR.
“We want to get him into some mental state of invincibility,” Warne said. “I think then he’d be a good player.
“He hasn’t got a bad attitude. I think he suffers with ... he’s got that Chrissy Waddle body thing about him. He looks a bit languid and tired and not interested. But that isn’t the case. He’s been blessed with a ‘funny chassis’.
“Everything about his game is right. He understands football better than anybody else. We just need to add a little bit of aggression to him. Then he’d be the complete package in my eyes.
“If he comes back and really gets the bit between his teeth, really wants to play and dedicate his life to what we’re trying to achieve here, he’ll be one of the first names on the teamsheet.”
Warne is close to completing his backroom staff after making fitness coach Ross Burbeary head of conditioning and bringing in one of the two physiotherapists he needs following the departures of Mike Preston and Denis Circuit.
“I’ve got my head physio now,” he said. “I’m happy with him. Ex-military. I just need to get my first-team physio in.”
The club have yet to make an an official announcement about the appointments.
Rotherham will play non-league Parkgate FC in the two clubs’ annual pre-season friendly, on July 8, kick-off 2pm, at Roundwood.