Rotherham United manager Paul Warne wonders whether links with Nottingham Forest are the reason behind Matt Crooks’ slow start to the Championship season, as he told the Star.
The former Rangers youngster produced 11 goals and four assists as the Millers secured promotion from League One at the first time of asking last term.
And if Rotherham want to stop bouncing between the divisions and finally make the Championship their permanent home, they will need some similarly influential performances from arguably Warne’s most important player.
But after a summer of uncertainty, and recent links with Nottingham Forest (Rotherham Advertiser), Crooks is only now starting to remind everyone of his match-changing potential.
The all-action midfielder scored his first goal at the ninth attempt on Saturday, a late-winner against a Preston North End side who, until then, boasted an away record to rival anyone in English football.
And Warne was thrilled to see Crooks shake off the cobwebs at last.
“Could be,” the Rotherham boss adds when asked if the reported Forest target was distracted by transfer speculation.
“I don’t know how many of my players are absolutely 100 per cent but I think Crooksy sticks out because he was so influential over the last couple of years.
“If (Mohamed) Salah doesn’t play well for Liverpool everyone notices. With Crooksy, he is getting more like the player we want him to be.
“Has the transfer rumour and anything else that has gone on in his life affected him? Maybe. But that is just an excuse. It might not have.”
Nottingham Forest put a lot of emphasis on signing proven Football League talents over the summer with Jack Colback, Lyle Taylor, Anthony Knockaert, Harry Arter, Cyrus Christie and Tyler Blackett arriving, while a deal for Kamil Grosicki narrowly fell through.
Crooks, then, certainly fit the bill.