Rotherham United striker Will Grigg motivated to catch ‘fire’ again and become loan star for Millers

ELVIS PRESLEY’S classic hit ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ has famously been turned into an anthem by followers of Will Grigg’s parent club Sunderland.

The Rotherham United loan striker’s time on Wearside was anything but a love affair and the wind coming in from the nearby North Sea will have felt biting cold.

Brought in amid considerable fanfare at the end of the winter window in 2019 with the machinations of arguably the most staggering transfer in lower-division history captured in full in a Netflix documentary series entitled ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’, Grigg had a big target on his back from day one if things did not go well.

There is nowhere to hide in the football-obsessed north-east, more especially when it goes awry on the pitch. They most definitely did for him.

Will Grigg has struggled to fire at Sunderland Picture: James Williamson/Getty Images)

Grigg – signed for a huge £3m fee which represents the biggest ever outlay by a League One club – mustered just eight goals in 62 appearances for the Wearsiders. It is a move which he instantly came to regret, having been happy at previous club Wigan.

Thankfully, for his sake, his time with Sunderland is now effectively over after joining the Millers on a season-long loan – with his contract at the Stadium of Light expiring next June.

The fact that the Black Cats allowed him to join a club who most expect to be a direct League One promotion rival in Rotherham underlined how much they wanted him to go.

On whether he was surprised at being allowed to join the Millers, Grigg acknowledged: “Yes. It wasn’t something I wanted to get too involved in, to be honest. I went to bypass that as quickly as possible.

Striker Will Grigg looks on as he warms up before a game for Sunderland Picture by Frank Reid/JPIMedia

“To be fair, the manager at Sunderland was good. He just wanted me to go out and enjoy my football. We spoke about where we were at and he said he wanted me to be happy again. He was very helpful and it wasn’t a stumbling block.”

The duty of care shown by Sunderland manager Lee Johnson to Grigg in attempting to facilitate a move is an indicator that while the forward had a fraught time in the north east, there were clearly people who still felt for him and recognised his plight.

A personable individual who speaks well, Grigg – far away from family and friends in his native Midlands – had to draw upon his depths of character in the most testing time of his career.

Times were bleak, but they ultimately did not drag him down and while his pride may have dented, his belief that he can prosper in the right environment and get back to the sort of goalscoring form that drew many admirers from his time at the likes of Wigan and Walsall did not.

Striker Will Grigg will be hoping to rediscover his scoring form under manager Paul Warne at Rotherham United Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The sort of good character who Millers manager Paul Warne invariably goes for, Warne finds himself at a club not too dissimilar from those two aforementioned teams in Rotherham and attempting to rewind the clock.

The 30-year-old continued: “The main thing it (Sunderland) has done is make me look back at my successful times, my happy periods.

“It gives you that extra bit of motivation and drive to get back to that place.

“I have been at my best when I have been happy and I have been happy because I am playing well. When you are doing well, you do not think about it at all. It will be nice to get back to that place and just really enjoy it again.

UNDERSTANDING: Sunderland manager Lee Johnson was sympathetic to the plight of striker Will Grigg Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA

“Everyone sees the glamorous side of it. But at the end of the day, footballers are still humans, we are still people. We go through ups and downs and have emotions, just like everyone in life. It has not been easy at all.

“But I’m not going to sit and moan and make excuses. It is in the past now and I am looking forward to being with Rotherham.

“I am out of contract at the end of the season, so I have essentially cut ties with the club. I will look out for their results. But I am a Rotherham player now.

As to whether he would consider a longer-term stay at Rotherham if things go well, Grigg added: “One hundred per cent. It is not something we have spoken about, but if the loan goes well, it is definitely something we will consider further down the line.”

While the price tag on his back at Sunderland will have felt like a millstone, there is also something else which has stalked Grigg relentlessly for the past few years and is liable to make him cringe.

No article about the striker is complete without reference to the parody song ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’ – with the chant being an adaptation of the dance classic ‘Freed From Desire’ by Gala. It was first sung by Wigan followers in homage to his goalscoring exploits in Lancashire.

The downloaded track achieved a cult following in the UK and Germany during Euro 2016 when he was on international duty with Northern Ireland.

It would not be a song of choice these days for Grigg, were he to appear on ‘Desert Island Discs’, but if Millers fans are singing it in the coming months, it might just be a sign that all is well again.

“It’s definitely not in any of my playlists, I can tell you,” Grigg said.

“It was good at the time, good fun and it raised a lot of money for charity. I don’t personally listen to it, but if I score a few goals and the fans start singing it, I won’t be complaining.”