Comeback striker Jonson Clarke-Harris has improved his prospects of earning a new Rotherham United deal, manager Paul Warne has revealed.
Clarke-Harris impressed at Preston North End on Saturday in his first start since surgery on his cruciate knee ligaments last summer.
The 22-year-old’s three-year contract expires shortly and the Millers have yet to reveal whether they will take up their option to extend it.
But Warne, after watching his centre-forward’s man-of-the-match display, told The Star: “If he performs to that level and shows that desire for the badge, then he has got a better chance of getting a deal than if he’d had a stinker.”
Clarke-Harris and several of his teammates who are also out of contract at the end of the season are expected to be informed of their fate by Warne in the next week.
“It’s the same with all the players, I will tell them in person before I say anything publicly,” the manager said.
Warne issued a pre-match challenge to Clarke-Harris who had been agitating for a starting role all through April as he made five substitute appearances.
A hamstring injury ruled out top scorer Danny Ward - who could be fit for relegated Rotherham’s final match of their Championship campaign, at home to Derby County on Sunday - and the boss turned to Clarke-Harris ahead of loan frontman Carlton Morris who was on the bench.
“In the team meeting on the morning of the game, I rattled him,” Warne said. “I think, with Jonno, he always plays his best when he feels threatened.
“Obviously, individuals are different. Some players need an arm around them. I think he does well when he needs to prove people wrong.
“So I told him in the team meeting that if he keeps telling us that he is fit enough to play, then it is time to step up to the mantle.”
Clarke-Harris, who lasted for 72 minutes before being withdrawn, helped the Millers earn only their second away point of the season with a 1-1 draw at Deepdale as they took their points tally to five in five matches since Warne became permanent manager.
“I thought he was a handful all day,” said Warne. “He was one of many shining lights.”
Warne hopes to have his new assistant boss at his side in training tomorrow, with his former Millers teammate, Richie Barker, expected to be confirmed in the role.
Barker had been No 2 at Charlton Athletic who announced his departure last week when Rotherham made an official approach.