Nickname: The Millers
Ground: New York Stadium
Manager: Paul Warne
Honours: Third Division (1950/51, 1980/81), Fourth Division (1988/89), Football League Trophy (1995/96)
Have we met? Yep – 16 times so far, all in the league, with the first clash coming in January 1995 and the most recent in March 2013. We’re unbeaten against the Millers since our last meeting at this level – a 1-0 home loss in March 2001.
When were they last here? 2017/18. Having spent two campaigns treading water in the Championship, Rotherham succumbed to relegation in 2017. Their stay in the third tier was a short one, though, as they finished 4th and went up via the play-offs – exactly as they did 2014 when Steve Evans led them to a second consecutive promotion. The Millers don’t tend to stick around long in this division, exiting one way or the other; their previous two spells lasted two seasons and one respectively, and you have to go back to the mid-90s for their last prolonged spell here.
What happened last season? The second of the Rotherham’s two relegations from the Championship in three years. They almost doubled their 2017/18 points total last time around and finished two places higher, but a 2-1 defeat at West Brom sealed Paul Warne’s side’s fate on the penultimate weekend. Still, the Millers picked up points against the likes of Sheffield United, Derby and Middlesbrough, and showed plenty of signs that they might just get over the line next time. Now it’s just a case of whether or not ‘next time’ is 2020/21.
Any connections to Wycombe? Marcus Bean (happy retirement, Beany), Guy Branston, Drewe Broughton, Tony Cunningham, Delroy Facey (him again), Mark Foran, Reuben Reid, Alex Revell (you bloody legend), Danny Rowe, Scott Shearer and Sam Wood have all represented both clubs.
How will they fare? There’s every chance that the Millers will keep up the yo-yo club act and repeat the feat recently achieved by Wigan – the Latics won this division in 2016 and 2018. Some of last season’s key man have departed – ‘keeper Marek Rodák has returned to parent club Fulham, while midfielder Will Vaulks and centre-back/holding midfielder Semi Ajayi have joined Cardiff and West Brom respectively – but recruitment has been strong, with forwards Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris and midfielder Dan Barlaser all having shone in League One in the last couple of years. Meanwhile, Leicester stopper Daniel Iversen makes the step up after an encouraging loan spell at Oldham in 2018/19. The wide areas remain a slight concern, but the squad remains a match for most in the league, at a club with crucial stability on and off the pitch.
Fan Q&A with Anton Hill (@anton_hill)
After a second relegation from the Championship in three seasons, is there a sense of frustration that you’ve become something of a yo-yo club, or is it more a case of feeling like you’re edging towards cementing your place at that level? 2018/19’s points total and final position did represent an improvement on 2016/17, after all. There was surprisingly little disappointment last season, despite a difficult run-in where the team were unable to gain any points in their efforts to climb out of the bottom 3. The fact that we were competing against many teams with Premier League aspirations and budgets to match meant that every performance was applauded and the players’ efforts met with an ovation, win, lose or draw.
What do you make of your chances of a second consecutive promotion from League One? It’s looking set to be a real battle at the top in 2019/20 – do you think you’ll be among the challengers? Promotion surely has to be the aim; you seem to have a solid platform. Top 6 has to be the aim as a minimum. Some of the performances last season, with the bulk of the players retained for the forthcoming one, were excellent, and we gave some top sides a run for their money regularly. It would be nice to avoid the play-offs and finish in the top 2 for once though.
Which players do you expect to stand out for you in the coming season and why? I think the players we’ve retained are all consistent performers, and the ones we’ve added probably give us a better attacking dimension than last term. If he stays fit, Shaun MacDonald will be a key man. His experience in the middle of the park will be key to dominating possession in games. As a collective, we have a team who will give it their all, and that will ultimately decide the outcome next May.
What do you make of your summer business so far? Are there any positions where you still need to strengthen? There’s some good business been done in the close season. We weren’t able to keep any of the four wingers who we’ve had for the last couple of years, but none of them were real game-changers who could top the assist charts. Bringing in Freddie Ladapo was a great bit of business if he can replicate his scoring from last season at Plymouth. Shaun MacDonald, as already mentioned is a good addition, following the sale of Will Vaulks to Cardiff, which was a great bit of business. With the loan signings of Dan Barlaser from Newcastle and Carlton Morris from Norwich, we have two more players who have performed to an impressive level in this division previously. The number one jersey is still up for grabs at this moment in time and is expected to be filled by [Leicester loanee] Daniel Iversen.
Lastly, what’s been your best moment as a Millers supporter? There have been many ups and downs following the Millers for the last 30 odd years. Double promotions, Wembley play-off wins and staying in the Championship against the odds, all highlights. But probably the most significant moment, not just for every Rotherham supporter, but for the club itself, was when the doors opened for the first time at the New York Stadium. Walking into the stadium and looking around the ground with my son, I had tears in my eyes. After being close to extinction and having endured a number of years playing in Sheffield at the Don Valley, being back home was definitely my best moment as a Miller.
Main image: Chris via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.
Paul Warne image: Chris Page via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.
Stadium interior image: John Lord via Wikimedia Commons. Used under license.