Joel Ekstrand talks to www.themillers.co.uk...
When Swedish international Joel Ekstrand steps out in Rotherham colours, it will be inevitable that Millers followers will draw immediate comparisons with another player of Scandinavian-origin, Kari Arnason, who will arguably go down as one of the club’s best ever players.
The Icelandic international, who was born in Gothenburg, etched himself into Millers folklore by playing a leading role in the club’s meteoric rise to the Championship following their historic move to the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
There were widespread rumours that Arnason, who tasted Champions League football with Malmo before representing his country with great distinction during last summer’s European Championships, could make a nostalgic return to South Yorkshire during the recent transfer window.
The speculation proved unfounded as Arnason opted for a move to Cypriot club, Omonia Nicosia, but Millers caretaker manager Paul Warne was quick to express his delight at acquiring a player of a similar ilk and mentality in the shape of Ekstrand.
Released by Bristol City, Ekstrand was signed as a free agent by the Millers on a deal until the end of the season.
Speaking to www.themillers.co.uk on his unveiling, the former Udinese and Watford defender is hoping that his Rotherham spell will help kick-start his career.
“I’m very happy and I’m looking forward to it,” Ekstrand enthused.
“I’m really pleased and I just want to get started as soon as possible.
“I think this is a good opportunity for me and I hope to help the club in every single way. Hopefully it will be a win-win situation and I’m just glad to get it done.”
During a distinguished playing career, which took in spells in his native Sweden and Italy, Ekstrand was part of Watford’s squad, who earned promotion to the Premier League.
However, Ekstrand’s participation in the top-flight was curtailed by a long spell on the sidelines due to injury and he decided to return to the Championship as he joined Bristol City last September.
However, he found his chances limited at Ashton Gate as he made just two appearances with Robins boss Lee Johnson deeming him surplus to requirements.
Refusing to dwell on his disappointing spell in the South West, Ekstrand is excited at the prospect of resuming his Championship career with the Millers and the twice-capped international defender has not ruled out the possibility of extending his stay beyond the end of the season.
“You never know what is exactly going to happen when you go to a new club,” Ekstrand insisted.
“I wanted to go to Bristol and play but everyone knows it didn’t happen. I think it was the best road to go, for me and Bristol, and I’m happy to be here.
“I don’t want to look back. I just want to get going and try and help Rotherham.
“We will see how these couple of months go. The move is a good solution and a good thing for everyone.
“I’m really happy for the chance to come here. I want to improve myself and do something good for the club.”
Ekstrand is no stranger to the AESSEAL New York Stadium after being part of the Bristol City side, who fought back from two goals down to earn a share of the spoils with the Millers in September.
Following his appearance in opposition colours, Ekstrand is looking forward to showcasing his talents at the stadium in a Rotherham shirt.
“I really enjoyed the stadium.” Ekstrand enthused.
“It’s tight and Rotherham have a good set of fans with a good pitch. I really enjoyed playing here and I can’t wait to get started."