At times, he didn’t look like a professional footballer: The damning verdict of one Portsmouth player ahead of Rotherham United clash

A brutal assessment of a Pompey striker, a Fratton flop tearing it up in League One and a former boss plotting his old club's downfall.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:16 pm

All those topics were on the agenda as The News was given the lowdown on Saturday’s opponents Rotherham United.

We were joined by Matthew Lax, who presents ‘The New York Talk - Rotherham United Podcast’ as he appeared in our new The Insider video on The News’ Youtube channel.

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Former Pompey striker Michael Smith (left) and current Blues front man George Hirst on opposite sides of the Rotherham wall. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The Blues go into the game after a two-week league break following a rampant 4-0 victory against highflying Sunderland at Fratton Park, while the Millers are unbeaten in their past seven League One outings.

Paul Warne's side sit in fifth place, and have had their best start to a season at this level since the 80s.

Shared forwards dominated the conversation, with Leicester City loanee George Hirst playing for Rotherham last season, while former Blues front man Michael Smith is leading the line for Pompey's rivals.

Lax delivered a scathing assessment of Hirst's time at the club.

The podcast presenter said: 'The first two or three games he did okay, he worked quite hard, nearly scoring once which was cleared off the line against Reading but that was it.

'At times he didn’t look like a professional footballer, he didn’t anticipate where the ball was coming from or where it was going, didn't know how to use his body to just be a strong striker.

'He’s 22 now and he’s not an 18 year old kid anymore so I suspect he’s not going to make it unless he sort of bursts onto some sort of a goal spree. I’ve seen nothing to suggest he can make it as a professional footballer. That's really harsh but I can't give you a positive on George Hirst from 31 games.'

Former blues flop Smith lines up against his former side in red-hot form, as the 29-year-old has scored seven goals in Rotherham’s first 11 games in League One this season.

When asked about Smith’s arrival at The New York Stadium, Lax said: 'He replaced Kieffer Moore and when he came in you could just see he had problems.

'His first touch wasn’t very good, he scored a few goals but he still had a few problems and wasn’t the finished article.

'Last season something just clicked in December/January and he hasn’t really stopped scoring since.

'He’s now a complete forward – his first touch is immense, he can finish the ball, he holds it up really well, he’s a focal point for the team and it’s just been amazing to see him progress over two or three years.'

Lax then went on to give an insight into how Rotherham line-up and who Pompey fans should watch out for.

He added: 'We've been playing 3-5-2 at the minute since December last year and it’s worked really well, defensively it’s sound.

'Three at the back is working like a dream for us, with Richard Wood he just sits in the middle and he’s got two fast lads either side.

'We have a great midfield three, Dan Barlaser is one of the best ball carriers in the division, he can ping a ball 70 yards or can knock an easy three-yard pass he’s very clever.

'Ollie Rathbone has the most tackles in England so far he's that type of combated midfielder.

'Chiedozie Ogbene is one of the fastest wingers in the division and gives left backs absolute nightmares.

'He's very clever and has got the pace but doesn’t always bomb up the field, he’s happy to drop in and play the short ball and move along with it.

‘Further up the field I would be very surprised if it wasn’t Will Grigg and Smith, they just complement each other really well.’

The presenter also highlighted former blues boss Richie Barker and the impact he’s having at the club.

He said: 'Richie Barker, former Pompey manager of course, is regarded as one of the best coaches in the country, questionable manager skills but his coaching is superb.'

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