Former Pompey and Forest player Greg Halford has cemented himself into the Rotherham United first team with a succession of great performances under the guidance of the experienced manager Neil Warnock.
However, his early life at the South Yorkshire club was a stark contrast to his current one.
For Halford, who had joined Rotherham on a free transfer from Nottingham Forest at the start of the campaign under the management of the colourful Steve Evans, things looked bright at first glance. He was awarded the captaincy and a first team spot. But this was the only high point of his Millers career at this point.
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Halford began to receive criticism early on from the Millers supporters as Halford started in the centre back role for Rotherham, supposedly one of his favoured positions.
Nevertheless, very quickly his poor, lacklustre performances distressed the Rotherham supporters, most notably in a 4-1 drumming at home to relegation rivals MK Dons where his misplaced pass allowed MK to score. Many Millers fans justifiably criticised Halford and called on Evans for a new skipper.
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After four losses and a draw eventually Steve Evans inevitably reacted to Halford's bad attitude and announced fans' favourite, midfielder Lee Frecklington as the new captain, a decision very much welcomed by the fans.
The Situation Worsens
Following the departure of Steve Evans to Leeds United former Leeds manager Neil Redfearn was appointed. Under Refearn, Halford struggled to get game time. He then had a short loan move to Birmingham City and still found no place in the Rotherham starting line up upon his return.
Halford clearly desired to play football and was no less distressed at this point. In many ways it is difficult to make sense of what exactly upset Halford. He then, doing himself no favours, took to social media to vent his thoughts, seemingly showing anger against the club as he tweeted:
A couple of angry tweets later prompted another negative reaction from the Rotherham supporters, who the majority seemed to believe that he did not deserve a first team place because of his poor performances and attitude. It appeared Halford now had no future at Rotherham United...
Enter Neil Warnock
Following a 4-1 defeat to Charlton and a 2-1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers saw the end of Neil Redfearn's short tenure as Rotherham manager.
Millers chairman Tony Stewart appointed former Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock as his replacement. Halford meanwhile had slipped under the radar prior to Warnock's appointment.
Warnock experimented with the Rotherham players at his disposal and chose Halford in the starting line-up against Brentford. There was a mixed reaction amongst the Rotherham faithful when Halford's name appeared out of the blue in the lineup, most unanimously one of surprise.
Halford Gains Adoration
Under Warnock, Halford has secured himself to be a key contributor to Rotherham's fantastic recent form that has seen them escape the relegation zone. The change from an outsider to a player who many Rotherham fans now admire is quite startling.
Crucially one of the areas in which Halford has blossomed is his role is as a midfielder in the team. Under previous management he was restricted to the defensive role which led to his failures. Neil Warnock deserves a lot of credit for selecting a once, perhaps widely disliked player back into the team in a position not previously witnessed by the supporters.
Halford has been revitalised with his new role in the team and has demonstrated he has equal quality both when attacking and defending.
A New Attitude
On the face of it, the Chelmsford-born player is much happier in his inclusion and new role. Because of this, he is much more focused and shows more willingness and desire to wear a red shirt. This has also relected in his terrific performances on the pitch.
He is now a dependable and flexible player who, against the odds got himself into the Millers team and subsequently won over the fans.
Several solid performances later, even including a harsh red card decision against Middlesbrough, Halford was still hailed as a player gladly received by fans, a testament to his newfound persona in an experienced squad.
Who's Laughing Now?
Rotherham's recent home fixture against Leeds United epitomised Halford's transformation. Halford would have been longing to show his former manager Steve Evans just what he was capable of when he arrived with his Leeds team to the New York Stadium, Halford did not disappoint.
Throughout the match, Halford was one of the top performers, holding on to and distributing the ball well in his new favoured role. Halford had proved his point to Evans and wasn't done yet!
Rotherham were awarded a penalty late on in the game, Halford picked up the ball and placed it on the spot, Millers players nor manager alike were arguing with Halford nominating himself for the responsibility. Halford showed great composure to slot the ball low into the left side of the net past stand-in 'keeper Giuseppe Bellusci, winning the Yorkshire derby and having the last laugh over Evans who was unsurprisingly deflated after the game.
Rotherham United fans will be hopeful that Greg Halford's solid performances and positive attitude continue as the Championship season reaches its climax.
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