Forgotten man Leon Best’s fall from Premier League favour is fuelling his desire to play a part in Rotherham United’s great escape.
Best was once a regular scorer in the top flight with Newcastle United yet found himself without a club this season until the Millers took a chance on him in November.
He paid them back with two goals as a substitute in the thrilling late comeback against Derby County last Saturday and is confident he can take that form into tomorrow’s clash at Ipswich Town as Neil Warnock’s side look to take another step towards Championship safety.
“I feel I can go on a run,” said the striker whose return to first-team duty after groin surgery coincided with the arrival of Warnock seven games ago.
After leaving the Magpies, Best endured frustrating spells at Blackburn Rovers, Derby and Brighton and revealed the experience has inspired him to change his outlook.
“I take good care of myself now,” said the 29-year-old. “I train hard, eat right and I look after myself. Even when I was playing at the highest I’ve played, I didn’t do that.
“I did well at that level and I’ve always wanted to get back to it fit and in the shape I’m in now.”
In the last fortnight, third-bottom Rotherham have shocked the division by beating promotion contenders Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough and fighting back from 3-0 down to force a 3-3 draw against the fifht-placed Rams.
The Tractor Boys are the latest high-flying side to stand in their way as they look to exit the drop zone after cutting the gap between them and a survival spot from six points to one, and Best is determined to make up for lost time.
“I think, from being young, I’ve always had it kind of easy-ish,” he said. “I’ve always been at good clubs. I’ve always been, as you would say in the school playground, the first pick.
“But as I’ve got older I’ve turned into the one no-one wanted. It then kicks in. Either you sulk and go on a rampage doing things you shouldn’t or you think: ‘What can I do to put myself into a position to be ready?’
“That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make my body as strong as possible and for me to be in the best shape I can be in.”
The forward could be a key man, either as a starter or from off the bench, in the Millers’ nine remaining games of the season.
“I’m still miles off fitness, sharpness,” he said. “But I know what I’ll be able to do once I get sharp. As a striker, it’s all about confidence as well, never mind how fit you are.”
Old boy Ben Pringle, a hero of the Millers’ promotions in 2013 and 2014, lies in wait tomorrow.
He is on loan at Ipswich from parent club Fulham and, although he was an unused sub in Tuesday’s 2-0 home win over Blackburn, has scored twice in six matches.