Rotherham United manager Paul Warne is hoping he can tie down more of his key players to long-term deals.
Striking duo Jamie Proctor and Michael Smith were both handed long-term deals last week and Warne revealed he is in discussion with other players whose contracts expire in the summer.
✍| #rufc forwards Jamie Proctor and Michael Smith have signed new long-term contracts with the club, which will run until 2021 and 2022 respectively.
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) October 11, 2018
Warne handed new deals to Smith and Proctor last week, securing their long-term future at the club.
And the Millers boss feels the duo, who are both 26, still have their best years ahead of them.
“You need to keep the nucleus of a good team together and add to it bit by bit.
“They’ve done very well and fully deserve their new deals.
“Like the Tina Turner song, simply the best. I feel their best years are yet to come. Smudge (Smith) has improved and once Procs is fully fit and match sharp, he’ll be crucial towards our push for points.”
Now Warne’s focus is on securing the long-term future of his other star performers.
Joe Mattock, Joe Newell, Will Vaulks, Ryan Williams, Jon Taylor and Anthony Forde all have deals which expire in the summer and the Millers boss is keen to keep them around.
“There’s a few to be honest (out of contract). Like with Hazard at Chelsea, they’re trying to keep him and trying to persuade people to stay.
“Some of the lads have got options and stuff like that but I’m trying to get the players that are fundamental to our success.
“There’s a limit to that quite obviously, if it isn’t going to happen at least I know now so we can look at other options.
“A couple who we’re trying to get over the line and keep the group together.”
“It might happen next week, it might happen in three months or it might not happen.”
Bolton: “A better version of us”
The Millers take on Bolton Wanderers at the New York Stadium on Saturday, looking for their fourth win of the season.
Despite a strong start to the season, the Trotters find themselves 16th in the Championship table, three places ahead of Rotherham.
Phil Parkinson’s side have won just one of their last six games, but sit four points above the Millers heading into the weekend’s clash.
Warne though, feels they are a better side than people give them credit for.
“Every team in this league is very good. I think Bolton had a very good start to the season.
“They are possibly a better version of us.
“The quality of players they brought in during the summer are really good.
“I really like Magennis, always been a big fan of his. I could go through their attacking six, which I’ve got a lot of time for.
“They are a better team than people give them credit for, they’re really organised out of possession, they work really hard and don’t concede many goals.”
The Trotters signed Stephen Ireland on a free transfer last week and Warne believes they have made some good additions to their squad.
“They signed (Christian) Doidge from Forest Green for a decent sum and wage. They’ve signed (Stephen) Ireland and they’ve signed (Erhun) Oztumer from Walsall.
“These aren’t idiots they are signing, these are good players. They’ve got a really good Championship team and that’s why they’ve won so many points.”
Bolton Wanderers are pleased to announce that they have signed Stephen Ireland on a short-term contract.
— Bolton Wanderers FC (@OfficialBWFC) October 9, 2018
So, just how true is Warne’s claim that The Trotters are a better version of his side?
Both teams pride themselves on being hardworking, physical sides and the stats back this up.
Bolton have won 54.8% of their aerial duels this season compared to the Millers’ 52.6%. Both sides rank in the top five in the division for this.
Rotherham narrowly beat Bolton on average tackles per game. The Millers make 16.9 tackles a game compared to Wanderers’ 16.8.
Both teams have struggled to keep the ball this season. Bolton score slightly higher with an average of 42.9% compared to Rotherham’s 42.7%.
In the goals department, Bolton have scored 1 more than the Millers’ 9, but have a better defensive record.
The Trotters have conceded 15 goals, whilst Rotherham have let in 19.
The form book
Despite Warne’s praise, Bolton are bottom of the Championship form table, with just 4 points from a possible 18.
The Trotters have also failed to score in 3 of their 6 away games thus far, whilst the Millers have only failed to score once at home.
Even with their poor form, Bolton have only conceded 7 goals away from home in the league, whilst all 3 of Rotherham’s wins this season have been by a 1-0 scoreline.
If either side are to take maximum points from Saturday’s clash, the first goal could be vital.
The Trotters have been excellent at seeing out games this season. So far, they’ve won 13 out of a possible 15 points after taking the lead.
On the flip side, Parkinson’s team have taken just 1 point from 15 after conceding the first goal.
Rotherham’s record is even worse.
The Millers have failed to take a single point from the six games they’ve conceded first this term.
However, they’ve won 10 points out of a possible 15 after scoring first.