New Rotherham United striker Tom Eaves targets 20 goals in the Championship

Tom Eaves has set a 20-goal target for his first season as a fully-fledged Rotherham United striker, and insists even after their last three Championship seasons ended in relegation, they should aim for more than just survival in 2022-23.

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Signed on a free transfer from Hull City to replace the prolific Michael Smith – a favourite of manager Paul Warne and until he joined rivals Sheffield Wednesday, the fans too – 30-year-old Eaves has big boots to fill but is put at ease by joining a team tailor-made for him.

“Twenty goals would be a good season for me,” 6ft 3in Eaves, who scored once in a nine-game 2013 loan at the New York Stadium, says without hesitation. “I think that’s what a striker should aim for if he’s a No 9 playing week in, week out.

Tom Eaves: Rotherham United’s new striker has set a goals target for this season. (Picture: PA)

“If I make it early, I’ll keep going.”

Eaves did not manage 20 goals over the whole of his three-year Hull contract, but only started 49 games. With Smith gone and Freddie Ladapo joining Plymouth Argyle, he should get more opportunities next season.

“With the rhythm of games usually comes the purple patch of goals,” he argues. “When you’re playing regularly you feel more confident and you’re fitter. The gaffer explained they’re looking at playing a two (-man forward line) and when he said there would be plenty of crosses into the box I lit up. It was a no-brainer to come.

“I haven’t met Cheo Ogbene yet but he looks like he can beat a man at the drop of a hat and he whips a good ball in.

Paul Warne, Rotherham United manager, signed Tom Eaves on a free transfer from Hull City (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“I’m really looking forward to working with the gaffer but he’s evil when he gets on the training ground! I think he’s up at midnight working with the fitness coach to come up with those runs because some of them are tough.

“The first three days have been really gruelling. I hope it tones down a bit but whether it does or not, the staff know what they’re doing.

“After the last few days I just want to get through tomorrow (the opening pre-season game against Parkgate) unscathed!”

For those mulling over joining, the elephant in the room is three straight second-tier relegations (followed by instant promotions).

“If you’re signing for any club in the Championship there’s probably a glimmer of doubt because it’s such a strong league,” argues Eaves. “It’s difficult not to acknowledge (Rotherham’s record) but you’ve got to overlook it because no matter what team you’re playing for, there’s risk.

“I don’t think this season is solely about safety but that should be one of the priorities. If we focus on our performance levels, I think the results will look after themselves.”