It took Steve Evans less than 20 minutes to realise he had a hidden gem on his hands in Ben Pringle.
Evans was taking his first training session as the new manager of Rotherham United and he quickly delivered his verdict on the left midfielder who had been struggling to get a game in League Two with the Millers.
He turned to his No 2, Paul Raynor, and described the former Derby County man as “magnificent”.
Pringle, who was fast-tracked into the first team by Evans and went on to play a key role in two promotions, returns to AESSEAL New York Stadium in the Championship with new club Fulham tomorrow, having turned down a new Millers deal in the summer.
Evans recalled: “We knew of Ben Pringle because I tried to sign him for Crawley when he was in the cupboard at Rotherham. We wanted to sign him on loan and at that stage (Millers boss) Andy Scott wouldn’t listen to the loan request despite the fact that the kid wasn’t even making the bench.
“We came here, we took over and in our first training session within 20 minutes I turned to Paul Raynor and said: ‘Look at this blond boy, Pringle. He’s magnificent.’ We hadn’t realised until then just how good he was.
“We remembered him from his time at Derby County. He played against us. We knocked Derby out of the FA Cup when they were a Championship side and Crawley were non-league.
Pringle had started out in non-league football himself, and Evans added: “His career was probably heading back to Ilkeston when we walked through the door. I don’t know what he’s earning at Fulham but every penny he deserves because he’s a talented boy.”
Pringle says he and his West London teammates know what to expect at New York tomorrow.
“I think everyone knows what Rotherham United are going to be like, especially under Steve Evans,” the 26-year-old said.
“It doesn’t matter who’s on the teamsheet or what name is on the back of the shirt, if you start the game and get about people and hustle and fight for the ball, the rest will take care of itself - and that’s what we had massively at Rotherham in the teams that got promoted.
“We always worked for each other and worked so hard just to be in the game, and then the ability came through.
“I definitely want them to do well this season, I look back at the times I had there. In a strange way, I actually quite miss it, to be fair, the lads we had in that dressing room and the things that we did. I will always look back on it very, very fondly. Some of the matches we played were absolutely unforgettable.”
The Millers will make late decisions on a trio of injured players who have a chance of being fit by tomorrow: Richie Smallwood and Lee Frecklington and left-back Joe Mattock.
Meanwhile, with Tuesday’s transfer deadline day fast approaching, Evans has played down the chance of Sheffield Wednesday striker Stevie May finally becoming a Rotherham player.
The Owls are willing to let May go, but Evans said of the forward he was close to signing last summer: “100 per cent, I like him as a player. That doesn’t change because he signed for Sheffield Wednesday, Is there a chance we could afford Stevie May? No, not really.”
He also dismissed reports suggesting Millers striker Jordan Bowery could be heading to Bolton Wanderers.
“I know their manager, Neil Lennon, and I haven’t spoken to him for about a year,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to anybody at Bolton about Jordan Bowery.”
Evans is hoping to bring in a permanent signing and a player on a long-term loan deal before Tuesday’s 6pm deadline.