Forgive the headline, but that seems to be the perception of some Rovers fans following the news today that Matt Mills has completed his move to Reading for an undisclosed fee thought to be £2million. Without knowing the player, and having a general perceived notion of the morals of professional footballs its easy to speculate as to the motives and mindset of Mills that engineered this move. Maybe he did want more money. Maybe he did want to play for a ‘bigger’ club. Maybe he did want to be closer to the bright lights of London. We probably won’t ever know.
What we will and do know is that Matt Mills had in effect two years with this club. He enjoyed two lengthy and productive and successful loan spells in the 2007-08 season which culminated in him playing a key role in Rovers ultimate promotion. And he also had an excellent 2008-09 season, although on forums today many fans have suggested his form curtailed in the latter half of the season, this is a harsh judgement on a player, who, when Rovers were without him they looked much poorer, and more vulnerable for it. Matt Mills is an excellent footballer, and in all honesty the only defender to come close to his quality in my decade as a regular Rovers follower is Steve Nicol in his Conference swan song.
So, what of the decision to allow Matt Mills to leave? Many have been quick to criticise, but in all seriousness how much of a decision was this for the Rovers. It had been clear that more established football clubs were interested in the services of Matt Mills from the mid-point of this season. Smoke machines aside of course, there is rarely smoke without fire, if there was any suggestion that Mills would never be tempted to leave then even those teams with a more questionable approach to transfer activity (take a bow Birmingham City) would have cut their losses. But the constant rumours throughout the summer have shown that Mills’ status as a Rovers player was more vulnerable, and each non-appearance in friendly fixtures gave the impression that Mills was shuffling his chair closer to the door.
Once a player’s head has been turned, by clubs with more money available, and a greater chance of upward mobility, then it can be difficult to keep their feet on the ground, yet alone, in your ground. John Ryan stated, via a message to the VSC recently that he and the club’s management were doing all they could to ensure Mills stayed with the club. And whilst many have been sceptical I personally don’t doubt this was true. But the more a player indicates that he is interested in moving on, the harder and to a degree less necessary this process becomes. How will the player’s team-mates react and respond to a man seemingly not happy in their company? How will the player perform when he is in truth glancing one club ahead from his current situation? Once Mills became this unsettled then for the sake of retaining team morale you have to look at things more pragmatically.
For all the questions about whether Mills should have turned his back on the club that has helped him resurrect his career, from a Rovers perspective it is worth viewing Mills career with our club on a more detached level. In simple terms Rovers paid out a record £300,000 for Matt Mills. In return they got two seasons (loan spell included) from a very competent defender who was key to the successes within that period, before selling him on for £2million. That is a lot of profit, and not just financially either. This sort of perspective must of course be extended, whilst Rovers may be a Championship club now and one which means the world to us, in the grand scheme of things we are lower down the pecking order, and players are always, and perhaps rightly so if they are truly ambitious, going to view a spell with us as a stepping stone to greater things.