TO some observers, the pressure of being Rotherham United’s record signing was in danger of becoming a millstone to Freddie Ladapo.
But as far as Paul Warne is concerned, the bigger picture was the more salient point.
A return of five goals in his opening 18 appearances since his summer move from Plymouth represented a modest and some would say pretty disappointing return, yet his manager sought solace in the way in which he had integrated into the Millers’ system of playing.
As Warne suspected, rewards on the goalscoring front are now arriving a bit further down the line, with the Londoner heading into tomorrow’s League One home game with Rochdale on a purple patch of five goals in his last three outings.
Warne said: “I think it is unfortunate for Freddie in that – having paid a couple of quid for him – people expect that we have signed Ronaldo or something.
“In fairness to him, he played for Plymouth, who got relegated (last season) and scored some goals. I do not think he is the finished article, but he will go on.
“But I think his all-round game has improved. His hold-up play is better.
“In the same way as I want my wingers to cross the ball, they have got to do everything else. In the same way, just scoring goals is not enough to keep my strikers in my team.
“Everything else must be good. You have to work hard, hold it up, run the channels and close down the goalkeeper and I think his overall game has improved and obviously, getting goals has given him massive confidence.
“I just wish he would smile more when he scores as he never looks happy!”
Relief was entitled to be the overriding emotion for Warne on Monday evening after seeing his side stage a miraculous second-half comeback to score four unanswered goals after previously looking nailed-on for an embarrassing FA Cup upset after trailing 3-0 to National League side Solihull Moors.
A tumultuous roller-coaster of a cup-tie would have tested the nerves of most managers, certainly the Warne of old.
But the Millers chief – who has now been in charge of the club for three years – professes to being relatively calm these days and in control of his emotions.
It is a marked departure from his early experiences when he admitted to chewing his gums in his sleep and agonised over every aspect of management.
Warne knows which image he prefers.
Now the 13th-longest-serving manager in the country, he observed: “I feel like I am calmer.
“We were 2-0 down the other night and I was pretty relaxed, to be honest. I had the same face on at 2-0 as I did at 4-3; it was just a middle-aged grumpy face!
“I always back my team to come back into it and I do not get as stressed when goals go in like I used to.
“I used to think it was the end of the world, but I don’t any more. I always fancy us.
“I have changed a little bit and I am just a bit more experienced. I understand why press and fans get high and low; wins are amazing and defeats are horrendous.
“But I do not look at football like that. I know my career is judged by how many wins I get. I understand that.
“But my job is just to make the lads become who they should and if I do that and they play at their best and we lose, I have still done my job. That is how I see it.
“If they go on and have good careers and I lose my job or go somewhere else, I can accept that.”