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READ | Consistency is key for defensive mainstay Mike

12 February 2020

Whilst the Millers may currently be sat pretty at the top of the Sky Bet League One table, it is holistically understood within the Rotherham United camp that nothing can be taken for granted.

Paul Warne’s side are enjoying a successful season thus far in the third tier with a number of players really finding their stride as the 2019/20 campaign surpasses the 30-game mark, and defender Michael Ihiekwe is a player who has regularly met those standards, grabbing the headlines for his rocksteady performances at the heart of the rearguard throughout.

The 27-year-old admits he is enjoying his football as much as he ever has and explains that his own personal form is tying in nicely with the team’s chemistry at an all-time high.

"It's a little bit of a change in comparison to the start of the season, but I've tried to stay as consistent as possible throughout,” Ihiekwe told www.themillers.co.uk.

“It was just a matter of waiting until we all clicked and we knew we'd be a real force once that happened, so it's great that we're showing that now.

"This season has probably been my most consistent so far in my career and I've been in a good run of form, but I just have to make sure I keep that up now as I am determined to make it a successful campaign for myself and the team. 

"When I came in for pre-season it was my aim to cement my place in the team and keep the levels high, so I knew I needed to put the work in then. That's where it all starts and it can set you up for a strong year, but my aim is just to keep improving and win games.”

Such has been the quality if Ihiekwe’s displays throughout the current campaign, it has often been his name coupled with ‘A Nother’ in the heart of the Rotherham United defence, with the former Tranmere Rovers man missing just once in league action as a result of injury.

With the likes of Richard Wood, Clark Robertson, Curtis Tilt and Adam Thompson also vying for places at centre back when fit, the Liverpudlian explains that he is well-aware that he has to maintain his high standards to keep whoever is challenging out of the team.

"I'd already played a lot of games with Woody and Robbo in the Championship so we've got great quality at centre-back when people are fit, so I've always got someone alongside me who's a capable player,” Ihiekwe continued.

"We've obviously got Curtis now too as well as other lads who can play in that position, and that means we all have to keep on our toes if we want that shirt on a matchday.”

The Millers have been recognised for their potency in front of goal throughout 2019/20, currently only trailing Peterborough United in the Goals For column, but the centre half was quick to point out that his side have been almost as astute at the other end of the pitch, where they have conceded just 30 all season.

"Keeping clean sheets mean you give yourself a chance to win the game and as a back line we pride ourselves on shutting out the opposition,” Ihiekwe proudly continued.

“Now that we're scoring more goals too we look very dangerous, and if we do our jobs at the other end of the pitch, hopefully we'll continue picking up results.

"Our defensive record and the way in which we organise ourselves, particularly away has been a massive influence on the forward-thinking players especially, giving them the freedom to express themselves and create opportunities in the final third.”

The one-time Accrington Stanley loanee has not only earned the trust of the manager on the field, but has also been praised for his attention to detail in team meetings and around the Millers’ Roundwood training ground, which has in turn, seen him rewarded with the captain’s armband in the absence of club skipper Richard Wood.

When asked about deputising as captain, Ihiekwe expressed his pride at the opportunity to lead his teammates into battle, but insists his standards will remain high whether he does so on a matchday or not.

"It's nice that the gaffer shows his trust in me to go out and lead the lads on occasions where Woody is unavailable, and you feel a level of responsibility too within the changing room,” he admitted.

"I want to be the best leader I can be whether I'm wearing the captain's armband or not, but when I play next to Woody I learn so much from him as he's been there and done it. We just want to keep the lads in confident spirits and pick up as many points as possible.”


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