Rotherham United: Young Rawson has a Farrend in Millers boss Steve Evans

Farrend Rawson plays against Brighton. Picture: Richard Parkes
Farrend Rawson plays against Brighton. Picture: Richard Parkes

He arrived at Rotherham United as a callow 18-year-old hardly anyone had heard of.

He left as one of the best-known players in the country, his name in every newspaper and plastered all over football websites.

Farrend Rawson's debut at Huddersfield

Farrend Rawson's debut at Huddersfield

In between, he played four matches for the Millers and revealed his massive potential. Through no fault of his own, he could also end up costing the club three crucial points in their fight for Championship survival.

Farrend Rawson. We all know who he is now.

The Football League have charged Rotherham with fielding the young centre-half in the 1-0 win over Brighton on Easter Monday when he was ineligible to play. The club had taken him on a youth loan in March and believed they had a second deal in place to keep him to the end of the season.

The rights and wrongs of that will play out before an independent three-man disciplinary commission sooner rather than later, when a three-point deduction for the Millers is thought to be the most likely outcome.

Whatever happens, Millers manager Steve Evans believes he has worked with a player who could eventually represent his country.

“I think, personally, the boy will go on and play in the Premier League,” Evans said. “He’s certainly a young man I think that highly of.

“I don’t want to build up this kid any more because for him to reach the levels he’s capable of has to have people around him putting the right things in his head and keeping a very even keel about it.

“But it wouldn’t surprise me to see him play for England.

“He’s 18. If he’s going to play for England as a centre-back he’s probably going to be 24/25. He’s got seven years of development to get there.”

Evans pitched Rawson in for a debut so instant that he’d met his new teammates only on the coach on the way to the Huddersfield Town clash in early March.

Some observers thought he was mad, but the Rotherham boss, having driven to Southampton and back in midweek, had seen enough in a Saints v Rams youth match to know what he was doing.

Rawson took 10 minutes to settle, improved up to half-time and was then utterly commanding throughout the second half as the Millers pulled off a 2-0 Yorkshire-derby win.

“I know for a fact - people around the club like Paul Warne (fitness coach) tell me - that when we picked him for his debut at Huddersfield a lot of people thought I’d lost the plot,” Evans revealed.

“We don’t go and pluck 18-year-olds from other people’s youth teams and put them in without thinking they’re quite exceptional.”

“Sometimes in football you have to give people the opportunity to shine. It shouldn’t be about age being a restrictor. It should be about if you’re good enough.”

After playing against the Terriers, Rawson featured in defeats against Wigan Athletic and Nottingham Forest before his final match, the 1-0 bank-holiday home triumph over Brighton.

Even Derby manager Steve McClaren had harboured doubts, but the former England boss was happy to admit he’d been proved wrong.

“When we went to take him, I think in the conversation Steve McClaren didn’t think he was quite ready for the rigours of the Championhip,” Evans conceded after the Seagulls game.

“But they don’t think that now. Obviously Macca and his staff get him evaluated here, as we do with our players who go out on loan. They’re absolutely really, really excited about the progress he’s made.

“It’s a big call for us to play a young man like that, but I know for a fact from speaking to Macca how highly he thinks of Faz.”

Following that match, Evans announced Rawson would be staying at AESSEAL New York Stadium, but by the following Saturday at Middlesbrough there was confusion as the Millers manager revealed the deal was off.

Two days later, the FL had an announcement of their own: Millers charged.

The victory over Brighton had left Rotherham clear favourites to avoid the drop, with Wigan and Millwall occupying the last two relegation places.

Now English football waits for the hearing to debate and deliver its decision, a verdict with the power to radically alter the landscape at the foot of the second tier.

The Millers showed last Wednesday they won’t be derailed by off-field issues, turning in one of their best performances of the season at Fulham where they drew 1-1 and were desperately unlucky not to win.

Evans has handled the situation well, remaining calm and focused, acknowledging that beating relegation remains in the club’s own hands and calling on his players to show the fighting spirit which has seen them defy the odds throughout his three years at the helm.

“We’ll just fight tooth and nail to make sure we give this great football club another season in the Championship,” he said.

After the fixtures last Saturday, when Evans’ team were without a match, Millwall are four points behind Rotherham while Wigan, having played a game more, are five adrift.

The FL were absolutely right not to let the panel sit before the weekend. Any points deduction for Rotherham heading into last Saturday would have given the Lions and Latics an unfair boost.

They would be absolutely wrong to let it drift for too long and risk their ruling affecting the relegation placings after playing matters are concluded.

Millwall are away to Blackburn tomorrow night. After that, they have two games left, as do Wigan, while Rotherham have three - home encounters against Norwich City and Reading respectively on Saturday and next Tuesday and then the last-day clash at Leeds on May 2.

After tomorrow’s Millwall match and before Saturday’s fixtures would be, in the interests of fair competition, the best time for the hearing to take place. If a three-point deduction is the outcome, the Millers would then have one game over their rivals to make right the damage.

It would be a sporting tragedy if an administration issue involving a player who started four games came back to haunt a club who have so far battled so hard over 43.

Survival needs to be settled on the field, not in a courtroom.