Rotherham United: No moans as '˜Victor Meldrew' Halford steps up for Millers
He began Rotherham United life as a marquee signing, was dropped by his first boss, told he had no future under his second and could now be an unlikely survival saviour for his third.
Finally, Greg Halford, whose nickname in the Millers camp is ‘Victor Meldrew’ after the infamous grump in TV comedy One Foot in the Grave, has little to moan about.
Since Neil Warnock and Kevin Blackell arrived five matches ago in the third-bottom Millers’ Championship hour of need, he has featured in every game, become a key figure and is a likely starter tonight at home to promotion-chasing Middlesbrough.
Halford was a star performer for Sheffield United under Blackwell in 2008/2009 and Rotherham’s new assistant boss clearly knows how to get the best from a complex character.
“You just get on with him,” he said. “If he moans about something, it’s the way you handle it. We’ve nicknamed him ‘Victor Meldrew’ here. The lads all call him ‘Victor’. Now, he moans so they can have the ‘crack’ rather than having a moan about the moan.
“Also, it must be great - for anybody - to have someone who believes in you. He was thoroughly lost here. But he had the best spell of his career under me at Sheffield United, so he already had a big ally in me. And now Neil has seen it and Neil is a big ally.”
Halford was a man-of-the-match contender in the 1-0 derby win over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough last Saturday and his versatility is a huge asset to the Millers. Already under the Warnock-Blackwell axis he has played at right-back, centre-half, right midfield and in a defensive midfield role just in front of the back four.
It’s a far cry from the early-season days of Steve Evans - the man who signed him - when he was left out of the side and stripped of the captaincy and the reign of Neil Redfearn who decided he was surplus to requirements and had him training away from the first-team squad.
“I think Greg’s had to work to become popular and earn the acceptance of the dressing room and I think even now he’s still got to work at it because I’m sure his arrogance came across,” Blackwell said.
“It did at Sheffield United when he first arrived but in the end, let me tell you, the players loved him. It may just be a front with him. For all the ‘flash’ and whatever, he’s not the most confident of players. A player may come in and give it ‘all that’, but when you go ‘boo’ they step back a bit. He’s a little bit like that, I think.”
Rotherham have won their last two matches and are three points from safety with 11 matches to go.
Middlesbrough arrive at AESSEAL New York Stadium pushing for a top-two spot, but are definitely without central defender Daniel Ayala, who has an ankle injury, while the match may come to soon for skipper and midfielder Grant Leadbitter who has had a hamstring problem.
Tonight’s fixture is the second of three in eight days for Rotherham against teams in the top six, and Warnock said: “I will make changes because, quite frankly, I don’t think some of the lads will make three games in a week.”
Boro boss Aitor Karanka warned: “It could be the most difficult game for the rest of the season. Everyone expects us to get three points and thinks it will be easy, but for me it’ll be the most difficult as they’ve won the last two.
“Under Neil Warnock, they’re a team. He’s motivated them and he’s a good manager.”
One man showing more motivation than at any stage since his summer arrival is Halford.
“Neil’s fabulous in how he deals with players,” Blackwell added. “He knows how to get the best out of them - a little comment here, a b*llocking if it’s needed. It’s about knowing when, where, how. With Greg, it’s easy for Neil really.”
Whatever happens between now and the end of the campaign, the 31-year-old’s rehabilitation is one of the Millers stories of the season, and supporters, who were once calling for him to leave, were contacting him on social media over the weekend to congratulate him on his display against the Owls.
Fans praising Halford on Twitter, the very vehicle he used to fire well-publicised barbs at the club in his darkest Millers days ...
As Victor might say, I don’t believe it.