Doncaster Rovers v Rotherham United: Reo Griffiths happy to take on lead role in survival battle

Even with the January additions of former Miller Kieran Agard and Adam Clayton, if he makes his debut, Doncaster Rovers will still have a pretty youthful squad for tonight’s League One match against Rotherham United.

But their most recent signing, Reo Griffiths, is proof birth certificates have little to do with leadership.

The 21-year-old forward passed through Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur’s youth systems without a senior appearance, and the furthest he got at Lyon was their B team.

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But the fact he was not afraid to make the move two-and-a-half years ago, then captained them in the French fourth tier showed Griffiths is no shrinking violet. Manager Gary McSheffrey knows it is essential others come out of their shells too.

Reo Griffiths - who has joined Doncaster Rovers on a two-and-half-year deal Picture submitted by Doncaster Rovers

“The experience was crazy,” says Griffiths of wearing the armband in a country where he could get by with the language.

“The manager told me I would be captain and a few of the boys looked around but I felt ready for it. My first game as captain we won 2-0 and that was a battle. I don’t think I’ve run so much, it was hot and I scored a penalty, then captained in another game and scored again. I kicked on from there.

“Some players are quiet off the pitch and when they get on it, they get a voice. I’ve always had a voice on and off, I’ve always been one to encourage.

“You can’t afford to be quiet. If I need to say something I’ve always been like that.”

Gary McSheffrey - Doncaster Rovers manager. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

McSheffrey wants more of that from a group missing captain Tom Anderson with plantar fasciitis.

“I said that to the lads on Monday,” he said. “Eighteen-year-olds can be leadership material. I’ve played with players who have come in on loan or through the system and at 18, 19 you can definitely be a leader and be vocal.

“If you’re playing in Doncaster Rovers’ first team, you have to have a voice, there’s an open door for an opinion as long as it’s all constructive.

“If there’s communication throughout the team, so many of our goals are avoidable. It’s a common trait for most of the goals we concede. If you look five or six seconds before the ball’s in the net, there’s simple things that can be avoided if somebody fills in for their team-mate, makes their team-mate aware there’s a gap, if somebody needs to tell a midfielder to track a runner.

Paul Warne - Rotherham United manager. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“The communication’s been really poor.

“Your technical ability gets you there but what keeps you there is your mentality and your communication, your game management and how reliable you are. That’s where we’ve really got to focus on. That’s why we felt it was important to get a couple of experienced players in the building to help.”

Griffiths has no fears about jumping from the French fourth division to the passion of a South Yorkshire derby.

“They’ve got drums, they’ve got horns, this and that,” he said of the atmosphere he has come from.

“In England I’ll understand what the crowd’s saying. Over there it’s just noise, it was all right for me, I was in my own little world. Here I’ll hear the swearing and what they’re saying but it doesn’t bother me.

“Every game (in France) was a battle and in this environment now, we’re in a position where we can’t afford to mess up.”

The top-versus-bottom clash should be a foregone conclusion for visitors who won 6-0 at Doncaster in the Football League Trophy but League One does not work like that.

“We played our second string, they were struggling big time for form,” recalled Warne.

“A lot went our way that night, the first half could have gone either way – they had a couple of chances, didn’t take them, we had one that hit the bar, then the keeper’s head, and the scoreline made it look more comfortable.

“It isn’t comparable, it’s like saying in 1986 we beat them 3-0.

“The lads will still turn up on the team bus thinking, ‘Last time we came here it wasn’t a bad night,’ but it can work against you, I hate complacency.

“I would think Crewe would be an easier game than Donny away and we only just managed to get through that. There’s only 19 more opportunities to be great and then there’ll be a season to remember. Whoever the opposition is, you just have to beat them.

“Fleetwood at home was a good body shot for the lads and they get told enough times if they’re at their best they’re good, but if they’re not at their best, they’re beatable.”

Centre-back Rarmani Edmonds-Green, on loan from Huddersfield Town, is Rotherham’s only fresh injury. Ro-Shaun Williams could be back on the Rovers bench after injury but Dan Gardner is unavailable.

Last six games: Doncaster Rovers LWLLLL; Rotherham United WDWLDW

Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire)

Last time: Doncaster Rovers 0 Rotherham United 6, September 7, 2021, Football League Trophy