They say a year is a long time in football, you won’t need to tell Jamie Proctor that.
His 2017-18 season will have felt like it lasted a lifetime, having been out of action since last August with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Thankfully for the Rotherham United striker, he’s finally on the mend after his year in the footballing wilderness.
The next step? Dislodging strike-partner Michael Smith from the starting 11.
“It’s like being behind Alan Shearer at the moment”
Both of them are Geordie lads and both of them are strikers, but for many, that’s where the link between Rotherham United forward Michael Smith and the Premier League’s record goalscorer ends.
Not if you’re Paul Warne.
The Rotherham United manager feels Smith is playing so well for his side right now, that Proctor might as well be competing with Alan Shearer.
“He’s (Proctor) been pushing him pretty well to be fair, as has (Kyle) Vassell. That’s probably why Smith is playing so well to be fair because he’s on his shoulder.”
“Procs is coming on, he’s scoring and contributing and I know he wants to start games but it’s like being behind Alan Shearer at the moment.”
“It’s difficult because Smudge is one of our outstanding performers.”
Despite limited game time this season, Proctor is actually the club’s joint top goalscorer this season with 4 goals in all competitions.
The 26-year-old striker has played 344 minutes this season, averaging a goal every 86.
He has also scored 4 of his 5 shots on target this term.
Smith, on the other hand, has scored 3 times in 19 appearances.
However, Paul Warne feels Smith is worth more to the team than just his goals.
His work rate is relentless, he brings others into the game and his commitment to the cause is second to none.
Warne feels if Smith added more goals to his game he wouldn’t be with the Millers.
“In fairness to him, the responsibility with one up front in this team, we need goals off everyone.
“I am not berating him. His work ethic and the fact everything goes through him, he is worth more than his goals.
“Everybody has to chip in. If he was chipping in goals at a regular rate we would do very well to hang on to him.”
🎥| If at first you don't succeed…#rufc forward Michael Smith finally got his reward with a goal last weekend, watch it back here in a video including a few of his recent near misses… pic.twitter.com/YcRjBvDEJF
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) November 2, 2018
“When we got promoted we didn’t play with two ‘number nines’.”
During last week’s 2-2 draw with South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United, Warne threw Jamie Proctor on to play alongside Michael Smith in a move he described as ‘kitchen sink time’.
The move paid off as Proctor scored from a Smith cross in the 93rd minute to salvage a point, stretching the Millers’ unbeaten run in the Championship to 6 games.
But could the two play together regularly? Warne hasn’t ruled it out but says he’s happy with how the team is playing right now.
“I’m not saying we couldn’t play two up, we could play a Vass or a Procs but we’ve had massive success playing one up front.”
“Even last year when we got promoted we never played with two ‘number nines’.
“I’m not saying we couldn’t play that way, but at the moment we have no reason to play that way.
The way we’ve been playing has been good for us and I’m happy with the way we are.”
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) November 24, 2018
After enduring such a tough time off the pitch, the nightmare 2017-18 season is finally over for Proctor and he’s now back in the fold and trying to make up for lost time.
The club didn’t forget him. He lead the team out at Wembley for their play-off final triumph over Shrewsbury and remained an integral member of the squad.
Warne showed faith in his front-man and gave him and Michael Smith new deals last month.
Proctor repaid him by rescuing a point in front of the home end in a South Yorkshire derby.
After all the trials and tribulations of his nightmare year, Warne was pleased Proctor could savour a moment like that.
“When he scored against Hull I thought that was a pretty good moment but we went on to lose so it doesn’t really count.
“It’s amazing for him and his family to score a goal like that on telly with all his family there.
“I saw a photo which I sent him on Sunday. It was him scoring a goal with both Sheffield United players lying down with their face in the dirt.
“It’s brilliant for him and although he’s been fully fit for months they always say with a cruciate injury you’re realistically 18 months away from being really back at it.
“Slowly but surely he’s getting there, hence why I gave him and Smudge new contracts recently. I think the world of both of and they’ll both play a part, but at the moment Smithy is the one who starts.”
— James Brailsford (@JimBrailsford) November 24, 2018