Steve Mildenhall predicts brighter future for Bristol Rovers
Steve Mildenhall believes the next six months are key in determining whether or not Bristol Rovers can look forward to a much brighter future.
Mildenhall, 33, became the latest recruit to join John Ward's crusade to keep second-from-bottom Rovers in the Football League after agreeing a deal to arrive on loan from Millwall for the remainder of the season.
The experienced stopper made his debut in Tuesday's 2-1 victory over Plymouth Argyle – a win that ended Rovers two-month wait for a victory and served to improve their standing within the confines of the relegation scrap at the bottom of League Two.
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"I'm a West Country boy born and bred so I already have an understanding of how big a football club Bristol Rovers is," said Mildenhall.
"It is a sleeping giant in my eyes so if we can get things right between now and the end of the season, then the club can really push on next year.
"The potential and everything about the club suggests that the future should be bright – but we must make sure that we do what is required of us over the next few months to get us up the table and clear of any worries of relegation.
"The club certainly has the fan-base in place. The supporters were brilliant here on Tuesday. Even when we let Plymouth back into the game, there was not any rumblings of discontent. The supporters were right behind us from the off and I think the players responded positively to that.
"I really enjoyed that game, although I would have liked to have kept a clean sheet. We made one slip up to concede a sloppy goal, which put us under pressure a bit towards the end.
"I didn't have to make many saves at all though, so that suggests the lads in front of me defended resolutely. Everybody put themselves on the line and we fully deserved to get what was a very good win to make a great start to the New Year."
Swindon-born stopper Mildenhall, meanwhile, revealed that his West Country roots and the opportunity to play regular football – with his future at Millwall uncertain beyond the season – were the major reasons behind his decision to arrive at the Memorial Stadium.
"It's great to be back in this part of the world and that was one of the things that really made this move a good fit for me," said Mildenhall, who also spent two years at West Country rivals Yeovil Town between 2006 and 2008.
"I've not played for Millwall in this campaign and I believe that my career may be headed elsewhere at the end of the season, so it is important for me to get out and play some football.
"I've never really had to go out on loan to play football before and it can be a bit difficult when you have a wife and a young family. We have a lot of friends and family in this part of the world and that makes life a lot easier off the pitch, which will only benefit me and my performances when I go out onto the pitch.
"It was an interesting day on Monday as I started it in Scunthorpe (where he has been on loan since November) with my wife and baby before driving them both back to our current home in Essex.
"Then I had to head to Swindon, where my family are based, in preparation to join up with the lads for Tuesday's game.
"I only met the lads for the first time when I walked into the changing room a couple of hours before kick-off. It will be nice to get into training now for a few days and make a start on getting to know the boys.
"I hope we can build on our win over Plymouth because we have a tough game coming up against the league leaders Gillingham on Saturday.
"It's the sort of game that doesn't worry me because in this league you can beat anybody as long as you are right on top of your game."