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In opposition: Rotherham United - ones to watch

31 January 2022

Rotherham have plenty of players to watch within their ranks. An attack-minded team overseen by an attack-minded manager lead to plenty of goals.

While the uncertainty of the team’s second-leading goal scorer Freddie Ladapo (who handed in a transfer request in earlier this month) took many of the headlines over recent weeks. It’s been the results that have slowly but surely began to rightfully overtake the media headlines what was conceived.

Warne has high-scoring Michael Smith anchoring the front line of his 3-5-2 attacking line-up, while the likes of veteran Will Grigg stand up top alongside Smith. The midfield area is patrolled by Daniel Barlaser, Ben Wiles and Oliver Rathbone, while the defence is captained by Richard Wood. The Millers are averaging 1.78 goals per game in Sky Bet League One, while holding a goal-difference of +30…seven more than Wigan Athletic who currently sit second in the league table.

 

Daniel Barlaser

An aggressive midfielder with crafty skill, 25-year old Daniel Barlaser arrived to New York Stadium in October 2020, making a permanent move to join Rotherham United from parent club Newcastle United.

Barlaser had recently completed a loan assignment with the Millers throughout the 2019/20 season. After spending 11 years in the Newcastle Youth Academy system, Barlaser signed with the Magpies in 2015, inking his first professional contract. In January 2018, he was loaned to Crewe Alexandra, where he featured in four games – serving as a substitute in each of those matches, and returned to Newcastle at the end of the 2018/19 season.

He also played 39 games for Accrington Stanley on loan during the 2018/19 season as well. After extending his contract with Newcastle in July 2019, he quickly set out on a loan spell with Rotherham for the upcoming 2019/20 season.

He scored two goals in 27 matches for the Millers that season. On the international level, Barlaser played with both the Turkey U16 and U17 squads from 2012-14.

In 2015, the Gateshead-born midfielder was called up to the England U18 side, where he has featured twice for the Three Lions. This season at Rotherham, Barlaser has been a mainstay in the midfield area for manager Paul Warne, playing in 30 games (27 starts). He has scored six goals and provided a team second-most matching four assists. He is third on the squad with 136 crosses delivered, and has collected 35 interceptions (third-most on the team) and 38 tackles won (second-most on the team) on the defensive end of the pitch.

 

Will Grigg

A Northern Ireland international footballer whose name rung around France and Europe thanks to the catchy “Will Grigg’s on fire” (set to the tune of Freed from Desire by GALA) which became something of an anthem during the Euro 2016 tournament.

Grigg joined Rotherham United on loan for the 2021/22 season right from the start. He has been at a number of different clubs, most notably beginning with Walsall in 2008, where he would stay until 2013. In that time, he would play in more than 100 games across all competitions, going on to score just under 30 goals. Grigg made a move to Brentford in 2013, initially signing a three-year deal with the Bees, but departed from the club in July 2015, despite featuring regularly during the latter stages of the 2014/15 season.

In 2015, he made a move to Wigan, where he would become one of the club’s biggest names and delivering the game-winning goal in a huge fifth round upset of eventual Premier League champion Manchester City.

In all that season, Grigg scored seven goals in six FA Cup games for Wigan. However, after a successful stint in which he scored over 50 goals and played in more than 135 games in total, Grigg left Wigan and signed for Sunderland on transfer deadline day during the January transfer window in 2019.

He has served two loan spells with MK Dons (2014/15 and 2021) in his career as well, scoring more than 25 goals for the Dons. On the international level, Grigg has been a member of the Northern Ireland National Team since 2012.

This season with the Millers, Grigg has featured in 19 games (12 starts) thus far, scoring three goals for the club. He has nine shots on target in 27 total shots, averaging a 33.3% shots on target average. He is getting off an average of 2.70 shots per game for the Millers, and averages right at 0.90 shots on target per game as well. He is scoring at a 0.33 goals per shots on target clip.

 

Michael Smith 

Since joining Rotherham United in January 2018, Michael Smith has been netting goals for fun with the Millers. The speedy out-and-out striker is a problem for almost any defensive unit. Signing his first professional contract with Darlington in 2010 – mixed with a six-game loan to Workington, he scored six goals in 37 games to start his career.

In 2011, he signed with his first EFL team when putting ink to paper on a contract at Charlton Athletic. He would spend three years at the club, but never gain significant playing time with the first team. Instead, he served several loan spells at Accrington Stanley, Newport County, Colchester United and AFC Wimbledon, before eventually completing a permanent move to Swindon Town in 2014.

At Swindon, he scored 21 goals in 65 league appearances for the club, while also serving a pair of short loan spells at Barnsley and Portsmouth. After his 2016 loan assignment with Portsmouth, he signed a contract to join the club full-time in 2016. He played for Bury during the 2017/18 season, before ultimately arriving to the New York Stadium in 2018. This season, Smith is one of the top goal scorers in Sky Bet League One, having amassed 16 so far, adding six assists to his CV.

He is averaging 0.57 goals per game, in addition to 0.21 assists per game. He tops the team with 37 shots on target for a 38.9% shots on target average, all while boasting 3.39 shots per game (1.32 shots on target per game). He is scoring at an average of 0.43 goals per shots on target.

 

Ben Wiles

A local lad born and raised in Rotherham, Ben Wiles is a product of the Rotherham Youth Academy. He eventually signed his first professional contract with his childhood club in June 2017.

He was immediately sent out on loan to Northern Premier League Division One South club Frickley Athletic on a one-month youth loan. Wiles scored his first professional goal for the Millers on 31 August 2019, when he netted a ball in a Sky Bet League One fixture against Tranmere Rovers. In all since signing his initial contract with the Millers, the budding midfielder has featured in more than 130 matches and scored double-digit goals in the process. In 2021/22, Wiles sits third on the team in goal scoring with seven under his belt, while also registering two assists.

He has a 0.50 goals per shots on target ratio and owns a 24.1% shots on target percentage overall. He averages 2.15 shots per game with a 0.12 goals per shots average. He is one of the most fouled players on the team, having been fouled 37 times. He has delivered 39 crosses into the box and gathered 29 interceptions with 24 tackles won in his defensive duties.

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