WHEN Johnny Mullins lifted the League Two runners-up trophy in front of thousands celebrating in the town centre last night, the Rotherham United captain must have pondered how strange and surreal football can be.
For here he was, in his proudest moment as skipper, at the end of a season in which he had touched the low point of being told he wasn’t wanted.
“Yeh, it’s been an unusual season for me, topsy-turvy but, I guess, that’s football,” he commented rather laconically.
At the start of this season, last season’s Player of the Year he thought he was probably - in his words - ‘surplus to requirements’.
He dropped out of the side early on and went on loan to Oxford United.
“I was told I wasn’t wanted and found that difficult to take, particularly as I’d just signed a new contract,” he recalls.
“But the past is the past, I came back and me and the gaffer had a chat” - with the chat conducted as he sat on the end of the manager’s bed in a hotel room in Exeter.
“Yeh, well, I got a lot of stick off the lads about that,” he chuckled. “But I was back and playing and I had always stated my desire to be at this club.
“Right now we can enjoy what we’ve achieved and I think it’s set up to be at another level up again from where (League One) we’ll be next season. I just want to be part of where this football club is going and I think this season, this promotion, can be the catalyst for more success.”
On his return, Mullins found himself handed the captaincy - another surreal moment not all that long after he reckoned he didn’t even have a future. Then, although regarded as a central defender, he played the final stages of the season at right back.
To round it all off, he got the goal which put them in front against Aldershot, effectively the moment people knew they were going up.
“I can’t sum up all my emotions but it has all been awesome and I’m proud of everyone at the club.”
Millers celebrations - P3.