Caring boss Neil Redfearn will keep putting an arm around Leon Best even through the striker was sent off on his Rotherham United debut.
The centre-forward marred his first Millers match with a red card in the second half at Leeds United but played his part in his new club’s 1-0 Championship victory.
Redfearn says the 29-year-old, who has played in the Premier League with Newcastle United, has finally found a home where he feels wanted after joining Rotherham last week until the end of the season and can become one of the most dangerous attackers in the division.
“He feels loved, that’s a big thing,” the Millers manager said. “You can’t doubt the lad’s ability, but he has been pushed around the leagues and hasn’t really been given an opportunity. He’s somewhere now where we will respect him, and he’ll be a great signing for us.”
Best, now banned for the next three matches, was a Blackburn Rovers player for three seasons before signing for the Millers but made only nine league starts and was sent out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and Brighton.
“I thought he did great against Leeds,” Redfearn added. “I think he is going to get better and better. Second half, he really warmed to it. He is a real physical presence. He has got undoubted ability.”
Best helped his new boss achieve his first victory since taking over the Rotherham United hot-seat seven games ago. The Millers were already leading 1-0 at Redfearn’s former club when Best saw red for elbowing Leeds left-back Gaetano Berardi who was also dismissed by referee Keith Stroud for his reaction to the challenge.
“I saw Berardi push Best over but I didn’t see the other incident,” Redfearn said. “The referee has made his decision, I heard the noise when it happened. It’s a shame because he is going to be a big player for us. His ability is undoubted. If we can get him playing to his abilities, we have probably got one of the best players in the division.”
Ex-Millers boss Steve Evans. now in charge at Elland Road, said: “I can only talk about my player, I wouldn’t insult Neil Redfearn by talking about Leon Best, who has just joined that football club.
“You can’t react the way Berardi did. He wouldn’t normally act like that, he’s a good kid. But he’s been absolutely smashed by a quite horrific elbow.”
Millers skipper Lee Frecklington played down the 73rd-minute incident.
“It’s just a local-derby atmosphere, isn’t it? Everyone is desperate for the points,” he said. “When you’re out there and it’s full-blooded, sometimes they happen.
“Best is a handful. Obviously, he’s played at the highest level. We all know his ability. We’re trying to get him even fitter and I think he will be even more of an asset to us.”
Rotherham won’t be pursuing their interest in attacking midfielder Stephen Hunt, aged 34, who has been training with them as a free agent.
“We can’t do anything with Stephen,” Redfearn revealed. “It’s just how it’s fallen. With the players we have got in as well, we talked about strengthening other areas. We’re still the wrong side of the January window, but we will try to strengthen when we need to strengthen.”
Young left-back Harry Toffolo has tipped the Millers to climb out of the drop zone after extending his loan spell until January 20.
The Norwich City 20-year-old, who came on as a substitute against Leeds, said: “Even before I went to Rotherham, I knew that it would be only a matter of time before they pushed their way back up the table. I stand by that.”
Three players the Millers have allowed to leave on loan were in League One action last Saturday.
Left winger Aidy White played for 74 minutes of Barnsley’s 2-1 win at Oldham Athletic before being substituted, striker Jordan Bowery was brought off 79 minutes into Bradford City’s 2-0 triumph at Scunthorpe United and centre-half Richard Wood came off in the 74th minute of Chesterfield’s 3-2 defeat at Port Vale.