SPEAKING to Tom Adeyemi, you get the unmistakable impression that he is a laid-back, polite and unassuming sort of lad.
No bad thing, many would say. But do not let it be said that motivation does not burn away at his core – heightened by an elongated spell in his career that has clearly tested him.
The Rotherham United loan midfielder does not have to shout from the rooftops that the past few years have been hugely frustrating for him. It is perfectly obvious.
Loaned out by parent club Cardiff in the last two seasons, first at tonight’s opponents Leeds United for the entirety of the 2015-16 campaign and now to the Millers for another season-long stint, Adeyemi is again striving to reconstruct his career.
How he – and the Millers – could do with a catalyst against their Yorkshire rivals this evening with the incentives plentiful for Adeyemi.
Alongside facing the club where he spent a bittersweet loan spell, the Norwich-born player is conscious of the pressing need to ingratiate himself with home supporters after an underwhelming start to his Millers career that has been hampered by injury.
There is also the consequential matter of Rotherham’s parlous predicament at the bottom of the Championship.
Derby bragging rights would be small beer if the Millers do end their 13-match winless streak this evening. The points certainly would not be, while there would be clear personal significance for Adeyemi.
A regular for much of the first half of last season at Leeds, Adeyemi fell off the radar in the new year behind Liam Bridcutt and Toumani Diagouraga in the pecking order.
It was far from ideal, but little has been for him of late.
Adeyemi said: “It was obviously frustrating (at Leeds). I played regularly in the first half of the season and thought I was doing well.
“Then, for whatever reason, I did not feature as much. For any player, that is the most frustrating thing that can happen in football.
“There was obviously a change of manager and whether that had anything to do with it, I am not too sure. I try not to think about that and focus. But it was not easy.
“For me, it is another game and there are three points up for grabs and that’s what I am interested in.
“But, obviously, you want to play well in every game and it does give you a little bit of extra motivation when it is against a former team.
“It is always nice to have a little bit of extra motivation to do well.”
It is not exactly a rarity for Adeyemi to be facing one of his former clubs, with the Millers being the eighth team for whom he has played, quite a record considering that he only turned 25 in October.
Therein lies a bit of an issue, with Adeyemi understandably keen for his nomadic days to end and to find some security of tenure at one footballing abode.
To do that, a stable first-team run would help, with the midfielder sick of fresh starts following a truncated spell over the past few seasons when niggling injuries and form have muddied the waters.
His latest equivalent of a fresh start comes as Adeyemi aims to rebuild his career – and quite possibly some levels of confidence – brick by brick.
The same applies to the Millers’ season and while it has pretty much been a write-off so far there is just about enough time to salvage matters if things can be dramatically transformed.
Adeyemi said: “It has been a little bit unsettling in that I am still at Cardiff and have gone on two loan spells.
“I am looking to find somewhere to settle down and rebuild as I have not had that regular football that I have been wanting. I am hoping that this time I am able to do that.
“Results -wise, it has been really disappointing (at Rotherham). We are waiting for that win to come to hopefully kick-start our season and we believe it is going to be this weekend.
“Once a few results go against you, it is easy for heads to go down and I think that was probably the case in the Derby game last week because we started reasonably well.
“But it was just a case of once the goals went in, it was like, ‘here we go again’. I think people lost a bit of faith and it is easy to then get rolled over.
“It is obviously disappointing. But there is no reason to give up.
“It is going to be difficult, we are under no illusions about that. At the same time, you have seen in the Championship before that teams can go on runs and you only have to look at what Rotherham achieved at the back end of last season.”
Even accounting for his up-and-down spell at Leeds, his time in West Yorkshire still made a lasting impression upon Adeyemi and he admits that the club’s upturn this season is welcome.
But given the Millers’ grave predicament, his desire for the Whites’ renaissance to be put on hold for one game at least is self-evident.
He said: “In the last few years, it has always seemed like there has been something going on.
“But it seems like they have really found some stability this season, which is great to see.
“The manager has got them playing well and they are at the right end of the table and I hope that continues – after we have beaten them this weekend.”