ROTHERHAM UNITED manager Steve Evans has lavished praise on defender Kirk Broadfoot - who turned around an indifferent first half of 2014-15 to excel so far this calendar year.
The former Glasgow Rangers defender arrived from Blackpool last summer and proved a key influence at the back in the club’s pivotal final spell of the campaign when they secured safety.
With former captain Craig Morgan having now left the club to join Wigan, Broadfoot is again likely to be an influential figure at the back for Millers next term.
Evans has also praised Broadfoot’s fellow centre-half Richard Wood, who ended last season with some invaluable game time following a rehabilitative spell at Crawley, with the Millers chief hopeful he can stay fit to boost his defensive options in 2015-16.
Evans said: “I think special mention should be made of Kirk Broadfoot. He was no-one’s cup of tea up until Christmas and was everyone’s cup of tea and champagne from Christmas onwards. I just think he’s been simply an absolute stalwart and lion.
“Broady is also a big character in the dressing room and I think getting in the team in his preferred and natural position has helped and some of his performances have been simply stunning.
“Kirk deserves enormous praise, doesn’t he? Early in the season we had to play him as an emergency right-back. I’d be as well playing right-back as Broady!
“But he’s a leader of men at centre-back. Listen, we wouldn’t have been in the Championship if Kirk Broadfoot hadn’t forced his way into the team at centre-back.”
And on Wood, he added: “In the last 15 to 20 minutes against Reading, Richard Wood also came onto the park and right away, you could tell he had his game time down at Crawley as he looks fit and sharp.
“I thought he did alright at Middlesbrough and against Leeds, he looked like he had been a Championship defender, which he has been, all his days.
“When you sit down with Richard at the end of it, he’s so frustrated that he missed a lot through injury at the start of the season.
“But when Richard is focused and the bit between his teeth, you have got a very good and experienced defender in the Championship.
“I have read bits and pieces from supporters saying they think Richard would be away at the end of the season. If you’d watched him at Middlesbrough and Reading at the end of the season and against Leeds, you’d be saying he’d be one of the first you’d sign.
“He’s had bad luck and we sent him to Crawley knowing he’d have to defend a lot and that was the first thing.
“There were clubs in League Two sauntering into League One and they wanted Richard but there was no point as he would have done minimal defending for teams who do a lot of attacking.
“I wanted him to go somewhere where he really would have to defend for the most part of ninety minutes.
“He got that for seven or eight games and he’s seen the benefits since he came back.”