Rotherham United boss’s tribute to ‘joke’ Semi Ajayi after midfield revolution

Leeds United's Samu Saiz skips past the challenge of Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi
Leeds United's Samu Saiz skips past the challenge of Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi

Having spent most of the summer searching for a new midfielder, the one who might end up being best of the lot for Rotherham United has been there all along.

Boss Paul Warne had the phone attached to his ear for months trying to get reinforcements to bolster his ranks in the middle of the park and was so short of numbers for the Carabao Cup game against Wigan that he opted to play Semi Ajayi there.

The central defender was first deployed in a sitting role when coming on as a substitute at Gillingham in League One last season and it did not appear to be a permanent solution for Warne.

But low numbers forced Warne's hand and what a find it has turned out to be as Ajayi is showing himself to be the real deal in that position.

After impressive displays against the Latics and then Leeds, he stepped it up against Millwall on Sunday, helping the Millers to a vital 1-0 win.

Playing with the confidence that a first call-up to the Nigeria squad will give you, Ajayi put in the perfect performance in front of the back four as he covered the ground effortlessly, won tackles and headers and bullied the opposition.

Such was his quality in that role, it might well be a while until we see him back in central defence, with Warne seeing his short-term future in midfield.

“Semi was a joke,” the boss said. “He could play anywhere for me. He could play up front, on the wing or full-back - I know you might think I’m a bit crazy.

“I could do with signing a few more Semi Ajayis. He is everywhere for me at the moment.

“I like him there, he looks more confident and he does cover the ground for us and gives us protective cover.

“He looked like he enjoyed it. Being a centre-half if you make an error it's a goal. If you're a centre-mid and you make an error and concede a goal you can blame the two centre-halves behind you.

“It does give him a bit of freedom.”