Manager Steve Evans has admitted his surprise as Rotherham United forward Kieran Agard opted to join League One Bristol City rather than Championship giants Leeds United.
The Millers face Millwall tomorrow without the man who scored 26 goals in last season’s promotion campaign after he completed a near-£1-million transfer yesterday.
Evans said: “I’m just suprised he would turn down a club like Leeds with their profile and fan base and historical values.
“You could go to the wildest place in Africa and say ‘Leeds’ and people would know Leeds United.”
Agard turned down the chance of a move to Elland Road last week as the two parties couldn’t agree personal terms, and the Millers gave him permission to talk to the Robins when the Ashton Gate club agreed to meet the asking price.
Evans added: “Wow. In terms of a household name like Leeds United ... when you drop a division and go to Bristol City instead, and this is no disrespect to Bristol City, I’m surprised.
“Great owner. Great supporters. Fantastic club. For League One.”
Evans paid tribue to the player he plucked from obscurity at Yeovil and turned into one of League One’s most prolific marksmen.
“Kieran Agard is a fantastic young man. He’s come in with a smile on his face every day and he’s never let the speculation affect him,” he said.
“We loved working with him. We may work with him again in the future, who knows what football brings.”
But he was prepared to lose Agard, who had a year left on his current deal and had rejected the club’s offer for a new one, to protect the Millers’ wage structure and famed team spirit.
“When you’re getting a transfer fee that is very near to £1 million that is guaranteed - not never, never - with addtional plusses added to that, then it’s great value for Rotherham United,” he said,
“The biggest factor for me is, and I say this to every player, if you do not want to be a Rotherham United player then do us a favour, get on the train and leave town.
“We don’t want you if you don’t want to be here. We want people to come in and live and breathe this project.
“Kieran obviously wanted to go somewhere else and we wish him success.
“He’s a smashing kid and he’s joined a good manager and a good football club. But to take step down to L1 ... he must think he’s doing that for 12 months.”
Evans revealed that Agard’s representatives had told the club in the aftermatch of Rotherham’s League One Play-off Final success at Wembley that their man would be leaving.
“Kieran’s representatives made it clear from the day after Wembley that under no circumstances would they entertain him staying here,” he said. “So if that’s been the case - and I believe (chief executive) Paul Douglas’ attempts to get Kieran to extend his contract have been three or four months’ long - then you obviously have to realise the value of that player, and that’s what we’ve done.
“I think they’ve been in for a few discussions. Listen, people have wage structures, don’t they? That he’s signed for Bristol City might tell that their wage structure is different to Rotherham United’s.
“Listen, you’re talking to a manager who took a step down when he came to RU because of his belief in the bigger picture. We’ll see if that bigger picture is bigger for Kieran.”