Manager Neil Warnock is ready to take a risk on Rotherham United’s walking wounded as the clock ticks on the club’s bid for Championship survival.
The third-bottom Millers have only 13 matches left to save their season, starting today at home to Brentford, after being cut six points adrift of safety by a winless run stretching back to January 12.
The new boss, who took charge three matches ago, said: “I have never known anywhere where I have got so many players who have been out so long who have not played games.
“We are coming to the stage now where we might have to play them and to hell with it. 13 games is not a long time to get them fit and work on it.”
That means the likes of Lee Frecklington Stephen Kelly and Leon Best could be handed more action than they were anticipating.
Midfielder Frecklington hasn’t played since January 2, defender Kelly’s last appearance was in December and Best has been confined to two substitute outings after groin surgey, but all three are in contention against the Bees.
Warnock is looking to bolster his squad and has already rejected the chance to sign untried top-flight youngsters
“It is difficult because the players you want are already in a team and you can’t get them,” he said. “I have had two or three offered from the Premier League, but they are young players who have never played in the Championship.
“That’s a gamble as well and I don’t think we can do that when we have players who have played at that level coming back from injury.”
A striker is on Warnock’s wanted list and the 67-year-old added: “One or two players have been mentioned to me, but they are no better than a Best, a (Matt) Derbyshire or a (Danny) Ward, so it’s pointless.
“We have lads on loan who aren’t getting in the team and I can’t understand why you have to bring players in if you are not sure they are going to get in, and stay in, your team.”
The Millers are on their third manager this season and have made more than 30 signings since the summer.
“The chairman (Tony Stewart) has really supported the playing side,” Warnock said. “The number signed, I don’t think I’ve seen that many over a season in my career.
“It’s not the quantity but quality you need in the Championship. If I can get someone in like that on loan for a few weeks, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Kirk Broadfoot is set to be available today after being injured at Reading, but fellow centre-half Lloyd Doyley won’t make it, Warnock said.
The boss’s aim is to be as close as possible to the team fourth from bottom - currently MK Dons - after a sequence of games taking in this afternoon’s clash with the Bees at AESSEAL New York Stadium, next weekend’s derby at Sheffield Wednesday and then home fixtures against Middlesbrough and Derby.
“I’d like to think that, at the end of those games, we are still in touching distance of MK Dons. It looks like it is going to be between us three at the bottom (Millers, Bolton and Charlton) and MK Dons,” he said.
“Although six points is a lot of points, one win and you are right next to it.”