If Jonson Clarke-Harris thought he was in for an easy ride after signing a new deal at Rotherham, boss Paul Warne has soon given him other ideas.
The club’s one-time record signing has been handed an incentivised one-year deal by Warne after injury ruined his 2016-17 campaign, but with it comes some stark warnings about his future.
Understandably, the 22-year-old was far from tip-tip condition when he made his return from the cruciate ligament damage at the back end of last season and Warne wants him working hard over the summer to shed excess weight and get into shape.
The repercussions if he doesn’t, says Warne, will see the end to his Millers career.
“He is carrying a few kilos which I don’t like the look of that we are going to shake off him,” Warne said. “If he comes back in a shape I am not accepting of in the summer then I will just loan him out for the season.
“I want him to come back with a real hunger, his contract is loaded on appearances and goals.
“He is on a contract to encourage him to get him in the team and to get in my team you have to have a real work ethic otherwise you don’t play.
“I would like him a little bit trimmer and fitter and if he has that, with a little bit of football intelligence then we could have a right player.
“But that all depends on him buying into it. If he doesn’t do that, I will shell him out.”
Warne’s concerns over Clarke-Harris’ fitness and desire to work hard is not to say the Millers boss cannot see the value his striker has to offer.
Although the former Oldham man has yet to deliver anything near payback on his club-record fee, he has, in pockets, shown the attributes and performances to suggest he can be a key player for Rotherham.
His return from injury at the back end of last season was particularly promising, especially in comparison to the displays offered by loan striker Carlton Morris, with a man-of-the-match display at Preston.
If Warne gets his way in the transfer market, a finely-tuned Clarke-Harris will make up a five-strong striking department.
“He is a real handful on his day and I want a plethora of choice up front so ideally I would run with five strikers,” Warne added.
“We sat down and had a good chat with him, told him a few home truths and told him that if he wanted to be here he had to prove it. To sign him was a no-brainer.
“He has definitely got something and it is our job to get the absolute best out of him.
“That is the challenge I have set him and I hope he comes back and proves me wrong and scores 30 goals and gets us promoted and I will carry him off the pitch myself.”