Rotherham United's Jonson Clarke-Harris on secret to a successful relationship with Steve Evans - and his personal mission in League One

STEVE EVANS is someone who has been in the life of Jonson Clarke-Harris for a good while.

In that context, it hardly constituted as the biggest surprise that when the Rotherham United manager asked the striker if he fancied working with him again, he jumped at the chance and couldn’t head to the AESSEAL New York Stadium quick enough.

In truth, Evans’ relationship with the 29-year-old extends beyond football.

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The pair regard themselves as friends. The Scot has been there to dispense advice to Clarke-Harris when it’s been needed on all manner of topics in his career.

Jonson Clarke-Harris (third left), who recently joined Rotherham United for a second spell. Picture: Getty.Jonson Clarke-Harris (third left), who recently joined Rotherham United for a second spell. Picture: Getty.
Jonson Clarke-Harris (third left), who recently joined Rotherham United for a second spell. Picture: Getty.

They go back a long way with Evans signing the forward for a then record incoming fee of £350,000 in his first spell with the Millers in September 2014.

Yet while Evans has been a confidante for Clarke-Harris, there are demarcation lines.

Work is work and the Millers manager can never be accused of being someone who is shy when it comes to cracking the whip.

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On the friendship, Clarke-Harris said: “Absolutely. These are the reasons why I’ve stayed in touch for so many years because when he’s been managing another team, I’d always look for honest advice and that is something he does give.

"We’ve always been in touch throughout the season. Not about anything which could happen, but just talking about football in general."

And on the secret to a successful working relationship with the 61-year-old, the Leicester-born frontman continued: “Basically, you just do as your told and what the boss wants.

"If you do what the boss wants, he’ll be a happy man.

"You turn up, roll your sleeves up, crack on, work hard and score goals and he’ll be happy.”

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Happy is not really the word best used to describe Clarke-Harris’ first spell at Rotherham. It’s something he is striving to rectify second time around and he admits to a sense of unfinished business.

The East Midlander had some early moments to savour at the Millers, including a famous televised goal against Leeds, but his time at the club changed for the worse when he suffered a serious knee ligament injury in the 2016 pre season.

Clarke-Harris managed to get over his injury but it was at Bristol Rovers and then Peterborough where he consistently showed just why Evans was so keen to bring him in at Rotherham, first time around.

With business in mind on his return, Clarke-Harris added: “The way it ended (at Rotherham) was just so disappointing as it really did take me some time to get back from the injury.

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"That was a tough period of my life and football career. I did not know where I was going to go after that.

"I didn’t know what type of player I was going to be after that. But I knuckled down and cracked on and made something happen.

"At this point of my career, I didn’t understand what an ACL injury was. I actually felt fine, even (after) rupturing the ACL and was trying to say I could play.

"The sports scientist and physios at the time were telling me ‘look that’s not possible, you are injured.’

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"It was really tough and the first three or four months were extremely tough.

"I’d just had surgery and was starting to feel fine and I was saying to everyone ‘I can play.’ I just was nowhere near ready.”

Those doubts that Clarke-Harris professes to are now long since gone.

He has become a serious lower-division operator in front of goal and his record stands tall with the best of them.

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In his time with Posh, Clarke-Harris topped the League One scoring charts twice in three years between 2021 and 2023.

In total, he scored 87 goals in 190 appearances in his four seasons there and is confident he would have taken the division’s Golden Boot award if things had been different in 2023-24.

Of his 43 appearances last term, only 19 were starts. But he still managed to plunder 13 goals in all competitions.

With a familiar face and voice able to hit the right buttons with him in Evans, expect Clarke-Harris to be the Millers’ manager’s go-to striker in 2024-25.

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For most observers, it would be a major surprise if the marksman was not right at the top end of the scoring charts once more in the third tier in the new season.

Under Evans, Clarke-Harris will certainly back himself.

He continued: “I’ve had a meeting with the boss and said that the Golden Boot is a personal thing for me and that’s what I will be looking to go for this year.

"I’ve established myself as one of the best strikers in this league. If I could tell my secret to everyone, they would all be top strikers in this league!”