It was one of the more memorable quotes in a season to forget.
“He wouldn’t win a quiz, but I really like him around the place.”
Rotherham United manager Paul Warne was talking about Joe Mattock, the left-back who has just agreed to extend his stay at New York Stadium by a further two years despite the club’s relegation from the Championship.
Mattock might not be the sharpest tool in the Millers box, but tying one of the club’s most consistent performers over the last couple of campaigns to a new deal is a clever piece of business.
The 27-year-old, with nearly a decade of Championship football on his CV, has spent only one previous season in League One and won the title as part of the Leicester City side in 2008/09.
Mattock was prepared to drop down a division for Rotherham, despite overtures from elsewhere. He could be a very handy man to have around as they taste life in the third tier for the first time since 2014.
Despite Warne’s ribbing, boss and player enjoy a close bond.
“We have got a really good relationship,” Mattock said. “Ever since I first came to the club, he has taken a liking to me, and I have with him.
“We get on really well. We talk on the phone and send messages. What he wants to do, I am buying into. He is very focused, very keen on getting the players fit and playing football next season. It is going to be an exciting one.”
The defender was brought to New York Stadium in 2015 by then-manager Steve Evans when his time at Sheffield Wednesday came to an end and has played more games, 73, for the Millers than for any of his previous teams.
He has a bit of bite in the tackle, isn’t often beaten for pace, offers a threat going forward and puts in a shift. An honest Joe. And Warne rates him the best crosser of a ball in his squad.
He’s also brave enough to front up when things aren’t going well. Sometimes after defeats, particularly on bleak, dispiriting days a long way from home, it can be hard to find players prepared to face the music.
The media learn quickly who their ‘regular’ guys are going to be. Like Lee Frecklington, Richard Wood and Will Vaulks now, like Joe Skarz before them, Mattock doesn’t hide. Although, as Warne might say, don’t ask him anything on general knowledge.
The manager likes his attitude, “He’s a great lad and he works really hard in training,” Warne said. “He’s still at a good age. He’s the type of person I want to keep at the club and he wants to stay.
“He’s athletic and still young enough to improve a little bit more. If we can get that out of him in the subsequent couple of seasons, then we’ve got ourselves a right player.”
Not a lot of people know this, but he also excels at footgolf when Warne decides to liven up training with an impromptu tournament.
Mattock feels at home in a red and white shirt. “It wasn’t a hard decision to stay,” he said. “There was interest, but my family is settled here and my main choice was to stay at Rotherham.
“It hasn’t taken too much time to put pen to paper. I was flattered to have other interest, but I am looking forward to the season ahead.”
In his first year at New York, he made 36 appearances and followed that with another 37.
No-one seriously threatened his place in 2015/16 when injuries were the only thing to keep him out of the side. This term, he faced the challenge of Ben Purrington, brought in for a six-figure fee from Plymouth Argyle in the January transfer window.
Quiz or no quiz, questions were being asked about his Millers future as Purrington, just turned 21 and one for the future, initially took the left-back role for seven games.
But by the end of the season it was the older man back in the side, with his young rival watching and learning from the bench.
“I suspect there won’t be many left-backs going into the season better than Joe or Ben in League One,” Warne added. “So, in that respect, I’m really glad to keep him on board.
“He could potentially have dragged his decision out through the summer, looking at this and that, but he’s happy to play for us and I’m buzzing to see him sign.”
The way he finished the season, the manner in which he fought his way back into the side and made his position his own, convinced Warne he was worth keeping.
“He wouldn’t win a quiz.”
But, when he needed them, Mattock had the answers.