The Millers were in no mood to be patronised by anyone last season after promotion from League One via the play-offs. Even a deduction of three points and a £30,000 fine for fielding on-loan Derby defender Farrend Rawson (who returns to South Yorkshire for another loan spell – contract and clauses hopefully checked and double checked this time) wasn’t enough to drag everyone’s favourite pantomime villain’s team back from whence they came. Indeed, even with this handicap, Steve Evans’ team finished five points clear of the dreaded perforated line.
Story of Last Season
Goals were hard to come by at times – Matt Derbyshire top scored with a paltry nine league goals and Jordan Bowery also found it difficult to get into his stride with an underwhelming five. Nonetheless, The Millers pulled results out of the bag against the league’s strugglers and mightily enjoyed deserved wins against Ipswich Town and Leeds United. The club will be looking to push on this season after comfortably finding their feet last term.
Steve Evans loves a signing or two: “We’re looking at six or seven permanent signings but we’re not going to sign that many if we can only agree terms with five without breaking any structures we’ve got either financially or what we want to do with the squad,” he explained in pre season. Homegrown defender Frazer Richardson knows what to expect as he declared that any summer signings will fit right in back in May: “We’ve got a great bunch of lads here and I’ll always try and help integrate the lads into the team,” he enthused. He’d better get his integrating hat on and be ready to listen to a bunch of awful initiation songs from the new recruits as Evans has been doing what he does best – buying and loaning players. Indeed, he clocked up his 40th signing (loan or permanent) in the last 13 months during the summer.
For all the new faces though, Icelandic international Kari Arnason will be missed having left for the possibility of Champions League football with Malmo. Ben Pringle has also popped off to Fulham, taking his creativity and hairband with him. Defender Kirk Broadfoot will also miss ten games after expressing some forthright views towards James McLean.
Aidan White – attack minded full back from Leeds United
Joe Mattock – well travelled ex England under 21 full back from Sheffield Wednesday
Emmanuel Ledesma – peripatetic Argentinian midfielder from Middleboro
Richard Smallwood – defensive midfielder, also plucked from Middlesboro
Danny Collins – experienced defender from Nottingham Forest
Tom Thorpe – highly regarded young defender released by Manchester United
Greg Halford – nomadic defender also from Forest – can be deployed as a target man too
Lewis Buxton – experienced defender, also from Sheffield Wednesday
Chris Maguire – striker or wide man making it a hat trick of arrivals from nearby Wednesday
Kelle Roos – young Dutch goalkeeper on a season long loan from Derby County
Farrend Rawson – highly regarded defender, also from Derby County
Vastly experienced and specialist caretaker manager Eric Black has also been employed as a coach
Danny Collins is a like for like replacement for the departed Arnason, but perhaps less skilful. For Rotherham to consolidate, he’ll need to make his experience count.
Lee Frecklington is a skilful midfielder with an eye for an important goal. With a stuttering forward line, his creativity will be required even more in the absence of Pringle.
Matt Derbyshire has a habit of going on scoring runs in short bursts, If he can sustain one of these beyond three games or so, he has the potential to be prolific and finally fulfil his potential.
Not only does Steve Evans like to tinker but also the possibility exists of a whole new batch of players arriving in January so predicting a settled line up is like trying to hold newly popped pitta bread straight from the toaster for more than three seconds. Nonetheless, it might look something like this:
It’s all too easy to poke fun at Steve Evans or to get irritated by his touchline antics. His playing of the transfer (and loan) market is bordering on abuse too. Nonetheless, he’s guided Rotherham from League Two to a very creditable showing in the Championship. To do so requires more than luck and hope – there’s a canny, streetwise and effective manager lurking inside that body of his.
First 6 fixtures
MK Dons H
Nottingham Forest A
Preston North End H
Charlton Athletic A
There’s noting here for the Millers to fear – not even QPR and their expensively assembled dropouts. Inevitably, ex-Forest players Danny Collins, Greg Halford and Matt Derbyshire will each bag a goal at the City Ground – but then again, Ben Pringle will probably notch a late winner for Fulham at the impressively difficult to spell AESSEAL New York Stadium.
All of which points to a season of continued improvement resulting in mid table consolidation. Steve Evans is far too savvy to allow his team to fall away after all the graft of the last two seasons. A continued high turnover of playing staff might eventually unsettle the team but equally, were the team to be struggling, this might well be his ‘get out of jail’ card.
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