Survival saviour Lee Frecklington is such a Rotherham United hero it could be time to erect a statue in his honour, says an admiring teammate.
The Millers’ march towards Championship safety has coincided with the midfield man’s return to the side eight matches ago.
And Jerome Thomas, a winger with a Premier League pedigree, believes Frecks brought a much-needed injection of experience to the side when he was fast-tracked back from a calf injury for the home clash with Brentford on February 27.
Two other players who have been around the block, striker Leon Best and Thomas himself, also made their presence felt in that fixture as a 2-1 victory set Rotherham on their way to a run of six wins and two draws in their last eight games.
“I think experience is key,” former Arsenal youngster Thomas said. “I think back to the Brentford match, me, Besty and Frecks came into the team for that game to get the ball rolling. That’s some experience there.
“Besty has played at the top level, Frecks has played for years, I think I am hearing talk of a statue being built for him, so I don’t need to tell you what he is capable of, and obviously there’s myself too.”
Last Saturday’s 4-0 drubbing of MK Dons saw the Millers move nine points clear of the drop zone with only five matches left to play to virtually guarantee their place in the second tier next season.
Despite being in 21st place, Neil Warnock’s side are only two points away from midtable. Next up, on Saturday at AESSEAL New York Stadium, are Nottingham Forest, and the Millers are determined to extend their unbeaten sequence.
“The gaffer has said he will be disappointed if we lose a game between now and the end of the season,” 33-year-old Thomas said. “That’s the mentality we have got.”
Safety is all but settled, and Rotherham could make it a mathematical certainty as early as next Tuesday, when Huddersfield Town are the visitors to New York.
Frecklington, a star of Millers promotions in 2013 and 2014, a veteran of last season’s survival campaign and an even more influential figure this time round, is likely to miss the next two games after feeling his troublesome calf at stadiummk.
But Thomas, who came on a substitute in Milton Keynes after putting his own injury problems behind him, will be on hand to bring to bear the knowledge gleaned from an entire career spent in the upper echelons of English football.
“Even when I am not playing, I am talking to the lads,” said a player whose top-flight experience has come with QPR, Charlton Athletic, West Brom and Crystal Palace.
“I go in at half-time with the gaffer. I talk to the lads to give them advice. I talk to Grant Ward - obviously, he is a young lad - and that’s what I am here to do.”
Thomas, signed just days after Warnock’s appointment in mid February, says the motivated Millers are intent on climbing the table now their relegation fears are behind them.
“I think we can finish a lot higher than we are,” he said. “We are not really thinking or even talking about the other side of it. We are out of that now.
“It’s about pushing on, pushing ourselves and being ambitious.”