Rotherham United: Dale Tonge interview

All Dale Tonge wants for Christmas is a run of games.

The 25-year-old right-back was one of the first names on the teamsheet during the 2007/08 and 2008/09 seasons.

But a string of foot injuries limited him to just 18 starts last term and he is yet to play for the first-team this campaign.

On Tuesday afternoon he took his first steps back to regular action when he came though a 2-0 reserve win over Nottingham Forest unscathed.

And now he's hoping to get himself in boss Ronnie Moore's thoughts for the Millers' festive fixtures.

"Coming back the other day felt a bit weird to be fair," Tonge told Yorkshire Sport. "I don't think it really hit me until the referee blew the whistle and suddenly I thought to myself 'oh I'm back on a football pitch'.

"But I was excited and glad to be back playing football even though it was a reserve game.

"There's not another reserve match for a month now, I've been training for a while and everything has been fine so if the gaffer feels the need to call upon me I'm definitely ready for the opportunity."

The former Barnsley man's injury nightmare started in November last year when he broke down in training.

He battled his way back from the sidelines but his luck was out when he then suffered a broken metatarsal injury not once, but twice.

Many players would have feared the worst. Tonge, however, remained

positive, knowing that his fortune would change for the good at some point.

"The first one was very minor but I didn't rest it enough and it turned from a stress fracture to a full fracture," the defender explained. "I was just over eager to get back on the pitch and paid the price.

"The other two have just been pure bad luck.

"I never thought about my career ending or anything like that though.

"Other players probably would worry, because you spend so much time on your own away from the lads, but I knew we had a good staff at Rotherham and I wasn't concerned.

"Fingers crossed it's going to be okay now. My foot feels great so I

hope everything is sound now."

Naturally, missing games was difficult for the Millers star to take. The most disappointing match to miss though was Rotherham's trip to Wembley for the League Two play-off final in May.

All English players dream of turning out at the national stadium. Sadly for Tonge, he was forced to helplessly watch from the sidelines as his team-mates were defeated 3-2 by Dagenham and Redbridge.

"That was devastating for me," Tonge admitted. "It's one of those things though, if it wasn't meant to be it wasn't meant to be. All I could do was support the lads and sadly it wasn't to be their day."

Despite the obvious glamour of appearing on the famous Wembley turf, Tonge is hoping the Don Valley Stadium-based club don't have to venture there again this season.

With the South Yorkshire club currently riding high in football's fourth tier, the young right-back feels it's time to go one better than last season and secure promotion via the automatic route.

"If you're given the choice you'd rather go up at the beginning of May rather than the end of May in a 50/50 game," he stated. "We're definitely aiming for the top three and promotion, because it's long overdue.

"We've been there or thereabouts for the last couple of seasons and I hope this season we can finally put it to rest.

He added: "I've been at the club a few years now and the team has changed quite a lot in that time but there is a really good team spirit.

"We have a good team and a strong mentality.

"Having a good team spirit is priceless and we're probably going to need it over the Christmas period where games come thick and fast.

"We're going to have to pull together to win points we might not have

played well enough to deserve, but that's what teams that win promotions do."

Other than a jump up a division the thing most Rotherham United supporters want to see is a return to their home town.

One hundred and one years of history came to end in 2008 when the club was forced to leave their old Millmoor ground due to a dispute over ownership.

They've been based at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium – a place more suited to athletics than football – ever since.

But last month plans for a building a new 12,000-seater stadium back in Rotherham were given the green light by the council.

And Tonge is as pleased about the news as any of the Millers' fans.

He said: "Getting back to Rotherham in a new stadium should get us good bumper crowds and that can only be a good thing.

"Fingers crossed everything will move quickly because the sooner we get

back into there the better for the fans.

"In the meantime we've got to get on with it at the Don Valley because it can't be an easy place for away teams to come to and we need to use that to our advantage."

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 Picture: Bruce Rollinson

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