Comeback striker Jonson Clarke-Harris has to shape up or risk being shipped out by Rotherham United before next season’s League One campaign has even kicked off.
The 22-year-old has signed a new one-year deal deal after returning to the first-team fold for the final seven matches of this term following a nine-month absence with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
But manager Paul Warne is warning the centre-forward he must shed the excess weight he accumulated during his long lay-off to avoid putting his Millers career in jeopardy.
“If he comes back in a shape I am not accepting of in the summer, then I will just loan him out for the season,” said Warne, whose side have been relegated from the Championship.
“He is carrying a few kilos, which I don’t like the look of, that we are going to shake off him.”
Warne, looking to start his pre-season recruitment this month, intends to start next year with five frontmen in his squad and has no doubt a motivated Clarke-Harris has the ability to force his way towards the front of the queue.
The forward’s deal is based around appearances and goals as Rotherham seek to maximise his talent.
“He is a real handful on his day,” Warne said. “I want a plethora of choice up front so ideally I would run with five strikers. We sat down and had a good chat with him, told him a few home truths and told him that if he wanted to be here he had to prove it.
“I want him to come back with a real hunger. His contract is loaded on appearances and goals. He is on a contract to encourage him to get him in the team, and to get in my team you have to have a real work ethic, otherwise you don’t play.
“That is the challenge I have set him and I hope he comes back, proves me wrong, scores 30 goals and gets us promoted. I will carry him off the pitch myself.”
Warne has already pledged that pre-season training will be harder than ever and will put his players through three sessions a day when they return at the end of next month.
“Jono has definitely got something and it is our job to get the absolute best out of him,” the boss said.
“I would like him a little bit trimmer and fitter. If he has that, with a little bit of football intelligence that the coaching staff can give him, then we could have a right player.
“But that all depends on him buying into it. If he doesn’t do that, I will shell him out.”
The Millers have already made bids for new players, while they are seeking answers this week from out-of-contract trio Richie Smallwood, Richard Wood and Joe Mattock who have been offered fresh terms.