THE arrival of Neil Redfearn at Rotherham United has worked wonders for Jonson Clarke-Harris.
He may still be a long way from the finished Championship article, for sure, but he is progressing rapidly as Redfearn’s reputation for nurturing young talent has come to the fore in terms of the coltish striker.
The Leicester-born forward heads into today’s test with Wolverhampton Wanderers with confidence sky-high following the first two-goal Championship haul of his career in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Bristol City.
It is a far cry from the start of the campaign when he was desperately disappointed and a touch bewildered as to why he did not line up for the big kick-off despite a bountiful pre-season.
All this after being farmed out on loan to MK Dons and Doncaster Rovers in the second half of 2014-15 – having only arrived at the end of the summer transfer window in 2014.
He would have been forgiven for wondering just where he stood. But Clarke-Harris is now finding harmony under Redfearn.
Not that the former Leeds head coach is letting him rest on his laurels as he stays on the case of the 21-year-old in a quest to cajole the best out of him on a regular basis.
The dialogue is constant, the trust implicit and the environment all-inclusive.
Clarke-Harris said: “The change in manager has been proper big for me. He’s come in, he’s helped me, and he’s got the boys really up for a fight. It’s better. Everything is better.
“It’s good now to be at a club where I feel I really belong. There are great people around me who make me feel welcome each and every day.
“Nobody is really on me too much, but when they are it’s only to make me better.
“One hundred per cent, it’s fair to say the new manager has built me up. Look at the start of the season – I wasn’t even in the squad.
“In pre-season, I scored more goals than anyone else in the team with half the amount of minutes in game-time. That was my argument. What will be, will be. Since I’ve come back in, I’ve done well. I’ve scored three under Steve Evans and already two under the gaffer.”
Specifically on the wise words of Redfearn, he added: “We’ve just had a chat, one on one, about a few things.
“He knows how to get the best out of young players.
“There are still things I need to work on and there are things the gaffer sees as well.
“But when he tells me something, it’s just a matter of listening.
“I don’t tend to get mardy or anything like that.
“I just tend to crack on with it, and, hopefully, the next time it’s better.
“The gaffer knows when to be on your case and when to be nice. I need that. I don’t really know how to say it, but I need someone on me to make me better.”
Among young players, confidence can be a brittle commodity which can be lost just as quickly as it is found.
Clarke-Harris readily admits to being a bit precious in that respect but Redfearn’s intuitive and instructive words have already reaped dividends.
He added: “Confidence is a massive thing for me. If not, my head will be down and I probably won’t be up for it as much. I try to get myself up for it so confidence is massive.
“I went five or six games without scoring and I was thinking ‘I’m not going to score, the gaffer’s going to drop me from the team’.
“But then I got two last Saturday. Confidence is sky-high now, sky-high. I can’t wait for this game on Saturday.
“Absolutely, I think I belong in the Championship. Why would I not think that? When I was brought here, I knew I could play in the Championship. With the right people and good coaches around me, who says I can’t go all the way? It’s me who can make that happen.
“Being loaned out last season was difficult, but that’s just someone’s opinion. But I could take it on the chin and say ‘You (Evans) brought me in. I don’t know why you want to get me out’. It doesn’t matter to me any more. It was just another learning stage in my career.”