The Millers battler with Broad appeal

Aerial prowess from Kirk Broadfoot
Aerial prowess from Kirk Broadfoot

He always said that all he needed was a run in his favoured role, and he was true to his word.

Kirk Broadfoot started the season as a makeshift Rotherham United right-back, bravely giving his all to cover for Frazer Richardson’s injury but plainly playing out of position.

Battling against Huddersfield

Battling against Huddersfield

He finished it as a commanding figure in the heart of the Millers defence at centre-half, with no-one doing more in those crucial last few games to help secure the club’s Championship safety than the Scot.

The fans who spent the first six months of his Rotherham career criticising him were decent enough to take to internet forums in their droves and collectively admit: “We were wrong.”

And they’ll be happy if his name is on the teamsheet when the Millers kick off the next Championship campaign at home to newly-promoted Milton Keynes on August 8.

Just like Millers manager Steve Evans will be.

Flying high against Birmingham

Flying high against Birmingham

“Early last season we had to play him as an emergency right-back. I’d be as well playing right-back as Broady!” Evans said. “But he’s a leader of men at centre-back. Listen, we wouldn’t have been in the Championship next season if Kirk Broadfoot hadn’t forced his way into the team at centre-back.”

After the departure of former skipper and central defender Craig Morgan to Wigan Athletic and Kari Arnason’s successful switch to midfield, Evans no doubt has an extra centre-half on his wanted list this summer.

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But the Rotherham boss is delighted 6ft 3in Broadfoot, with his physical presence, rugged defending, total commitment and aerial threat in the opposition penalty area, will be reporting back for pre-season training with the rest of the Millers squad a week tomorrow.

Millers manager Steve Evans

Millers manager Steve Evans

After his initial spell as a full-back, Broadfoot was given the odd-run-out at centre-half. Unable to permanently break up the Morgan-Arnason axis, he said more than once that it would take three consecutive games in his preferred slot for him to reach the level of sharpnessrequired for him to show his true worth.

He started to impress early in 2015 and his big break finally came at the beginning of March at Huddersfield Town when Evans pushed Arnason into midfield and paired the 30-year-old with callow Derby County loan teenager Farrend Rawson in central defence.

The result? 2-0 to the Millers, one of the best Rotherham displays of the season, the emergence of Rawson as a star of the future and Broadfoot showing why he’d played international football for Scotland and had appeared in a Europa League Cup Final for Glasgow Rangers earlier in his career.

He talked Rawson through his Championship debut, and it was a third successive start for the man who never lost his place again as Evans’ men defied a three-point Football league deduction to thrillingly ensure their second-tier place for next year.

Just like Broadfoot had said, three games and he was up to speed.

“He was no-one’s cup of tea up until Christmas and was everyone’s cup of tea and champagne from Christmas onwards,” Evans said.

“I just think he’s been simply an absolute stalwart and lion. Broady is also a big character in the dressing room. I think getting in the team in his preferred and natural position helped, and some of his performances were simply stunning.”

Broadfoot finished last season with 27 appearances to his name, and will be looking for more as Rotherham look to build on last season’s achievements by becoming a midtable side next term with an eye possibly on the top 10.

Evans recalled a training game last season when ‘Broady’ was out of the first team and eager to impress.

“You should have seen him,” Evans grinned in obvious admiration. “He was so desperate to show what he could do he was almost eating their centre-forward.”

The quote is as telling as the image is vivid, revealing all you need to know about the character of the temporary right-back who turned himself into a centre-half fixture.

It’s nothing to do with being 6ft 3in tall that makes Kirk Broadfoot a big man for the Millers.