EMOTIONAL Rotherham United midfielder Matt Crooks says that the tragic deaths of his best friend Jordan Sinnott and Chris Barker - brother of Millers assistant manager Richard Barker - is giving the club's players and staff an extra drive to clinch promotion to commemorate the pair's memory.
Matlock Town player Sinnott, who was a team-mate of Crooks's at Huddersfield Town - died on January 25 after being attacked during a night out in Retford on the previous evening.
Earlier that month, former Cardiff City defender Barker's death at the age of 39 had been announced on January 2.
Speaking in an interview with Radio Sheffield, Crooks - who left Rotherham's team hotel and missed the game at Peterborough United on January 25 after being informed that Sinnott had been attacked - said: "Woody (Richard Wood) knew him as well and it was the same when Richie's (Barker's) brother passed away.
"We all got around him (Barker) and stuck together and they have done the same for me.
"I was not actually going to play on the Tuesday after it (Sinnott's passing) and then I spoke to his mum on Monday morning and she was like: 'No he'd want you to play, I'd want you to play.
"It has given me a drive that I want to do it for him and Rich wants to do it for his brother. We all want to do it for his brother. Hopefully, everyone wants to do it for Sin.
"It has been an emotional couple of months for the club and hopefully that can push us onto new boundaries and go up."
Crooks netted the only goal of the game in the high-flying Millers' 1-0 League One victory at Lincoln City last Friday and he dedicated the strike to the memory of his best friend.
"It has been a tough couple of weeks. I wanted to score in the last three games so badly and I have finally done it. That was for Sin," he said.
"He would have liked that one, I am sure. He loved his footy and was a fantastic person. He will be solely missed.
"It was nice to score in front of all those fans and with the home games, they have been terrific with me and so have all the players and staff."
Football teams across the UK and beyond have sent in shirts in memory of Sinnott, after a campaign for shirt donations in aid of Sport Relief was sent up on WhatsApp.
Crooks added: "It really took off. The Tuesday morning, we got put in a WhatsApp group with a few of his mates who played football and some of his family and friends and at first, we will just try to get as many teams as we could.
"Then, we quickly realised throughout football, that teams would be willing to give their shirts in. We have got all the Football League clubs in England, most in the Conference and loads of grassroots (clubs), which is incredible.
"Then, we have teams like Roma and Alkmaar, which is ridiculous. We have even Seattle Seahawks, the NFL team.
"It has taken my mind of it a little bit, being able to see that and the outpouring of generosity from the general public, which was incredible."