Michael Ihiekwe talks to www.themillers.co.uk...
STYLISH centre-half Michael Ihiekwe admits that the early stages of his Millers career have been "a learning curve" in his footballing development.
Prior to this season, the Liverpudlian has spent the vast majority of his career in non-league football and despite jumping up two divisions when he swapped Tranmere Rovers for the Millers in the close season, Ihiekwe has seamlessly adjusted to life at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard following a series of impressive displays.
However, Ihiekwe by his own admission, remarks that he has had to learn quickly, following an early baptism of fire on a personal and collective note, during his Millers league debut at highly-fancied Fleetwood Town in the season opener.
"The Fleetwood game was a learning curve for me,” Ihiekwe noted.
"It was tough. All teams are going to be well-organised and have that little bit of quality about them. There is no doubt if you make a mistake, they will punish you.”
Despite the early blip at the Highbury Stadium, Ihiekwe has hit the ground running at the AESSEAL New York Stadium with a number of eye-catching performances. The 24-year-old has visibly grown into his role in the Millers backline, with his composure on the ball and his ability to play out from the back a particular stand-out feature of his game.
Despite the setback at the weekend, Ihiekwe is confident that his and the Millers game will go from strength-to-strength, as they get games under their belt in England’s third tier.
"We did well in pre-season although it's not the same as the league,” Ihiekwe admitted.
“We have a good base, and we have shown how well we can play in most of the games this season. We've got to keep improving and that comes with experience of playing together. Hopefully we can keep getting better.
"We've still got a few players who were here last season, so they have Championship experience while we have brought in some players who have played at this level. It's a good blend and hopefully long term it will be a successful season for us.”
After narrowly missing out on National League promotion with Tranmere at the end of last season, Ihiekwe remarked that he had no hesitation in finally making the jump onto the EFL ladder, by putting pen-to-paper on a two-year deal with the Millers.
The former England C international remarked that the lure of playing in the salubrious surroundings of the AESSEAL New York Stadium and under the stewardship of Millers chief Paul Warne, were the key reasons why he decided to swap Merseyside for South Yorkshire in the summer.
"As soon as I came here and spoke to the gaffer, my mind was made up,” Ihiekwe enthused.
“You see the stadium, it's unbelievable and it's a pleasure to play here every week.”