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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One-time Leeds United talent Chris Dawson joins Scarborough Athletic
The midfielder has struggled with injuries since leaving Leeds United.
Leeds United fans probably don’t bother themselves with the news at non-league Scarborough Athletic, but one development at the club from yesterday might have caught the eye.
Chris Dawson signed for the club earlier this week, along with former Sheffield United youngster Jorome Slew.
Speaking to the Scarborough News about the move, Dawson explained he was just happy to be playing football again:
“There were quite a few clubs (interested). But I know the manager here and I know one of the lads here and I am not really bothered about what level I play at.
“I just want to be playing football again and want consistent game time.”
Leeds United fans will, of course, remember Dawson well.
The Welsh under-21 international was a highly rated youngster at Thorp Arch when he signed his professional contract in 2012.
He made his original Leeds breakthrough to the first team in 2013, starting in a 2-1 loss against Derby County in April of the same year.
Nonetheless, he struggled with a shoulder injury and other ailments after that period.
He next played for Leeds in November 2014 and after featuring just two more times for the club, he was released in January 2016.
Two days later Dawson headed to Rotherham United, then managed by his former Leeds academy boss Neil Redfearn.
Dawson, however, has had an unlucky career. By the time he had returned to full fitness, Redfearn had been sacked and he never went on to feature for the Millers.
After joining former Leeds coach Ian Burchnall for a loan spell at Norwegian side Viking FK he was released by Rotherham in May of last year.
Since then it has been a tough ride for Dawson.
A behind-closed-doors friendly for Oldham Athletic has been his only 90 minutes in the last year, after suffering a torn ACL.
The knee injury has kept him out of action but now, fully fit, he is hoping to help the Seadogs in their bid for promotion from the Northern Premier League Division One North.
Leeds United fans were always excited about Dawson’s ability. Often praised by his coaches and fans for his performances with the under-23s he looked a first-team prospect.
Technically gifted and dangerous around the box the Welsh talent has all the necessary skills to be a star. The one thing Dawson has not been gifted with is luck.
Hopefully, he can find success with Scarborough. Five years after making his Leeds debut, Dawson is embarking on the latest stage of his career.
No Leeds United fan would begrudge him any future success.
Leo Bonatini wants to stay and Wolves should keep him
The Brazilian has not scored in 18 games, but has earned a permanent Wolves switch.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have a decision to make in the summer regarding striker Leo Bonatini.
The Brazilian is on loan at Molineux from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal until the end of the season.
According to Birmingham Live, that deal can be made permanent in the summer for a fee of around €5 million (£4.4 million).
“It’s something I still don’t know. I’m on loan here, really, until the end of this season from Al-Hilal. I don’t know what will happen.
“But I know what I want, I want to stay. Here’s a place that I was able to adapt very well to the game style, it’s a game style that I like a lot, the country is a very good country, where I adapted to be able to live.”
In December, this would have been an easy decision to make. The Brazilian had scored 12 goals in 22 games for the club as they romped to a Championship lead.
It was a level of form that had him in contention for the national team.
Since then, things have dropped off. Bonatini has not scored in 2018 and is now 18 games without a goal.
The January loan signing of Benik Afobe has seen him lose his place and the Molineux outfit will no longer be sure that the 23-year-old should be snapped up in the summer.
But, surely Wolves should still push forward with signing the Brazilian striker?
His form recently has been a concern. However, Wolves know what he is capable of when he is firing.
Those 12 goals in 22 games at the start of the season were no fluke and the bullish frontman has plenty of talent.
Furthermore, Wolves can not argue with the price-tag.
For a player of Bonatini’s age and talent, £4.4 million is an absolute bargain when compared to some of the prices in the Championship in recent seasons.
Wolves will need different options up front if they are promoted and new faces will be expected at Molineux.
But Bonatini will have played a pivotal role in taking the club to the top-flight. Having him on the books will be a major plus in the Premier League.
Whilst his form has dipped in recent times, £4.4 million for a 12-goal striker, at just 23 years of age, is a deal that Wolves must snap up.
Mallik Wilks returns from injury with brace, Leeds United future looking bright?
The 19-year-old will be looking to score his first senior goal for Grimsby soon.
In December 2016, Leeds United boss Garry Monk signalled his intent to give a young striker at Leeds a chance in the first-team.
Mallik Wilks had been impressing with the under-23s and was handed a place on the bench for the first-team.
The teenager did not come on against Reading but a fortnight later received his first professional contract at the club.
Eventually, Wilks did make his first-team debut, as a substitute in the FA Cup loss versus Sutton United.
This was a remarkable feat from the youngster, after the murder of his brother outside a barbershop in Leeds just three days previous.
In the summer, after signing a new four-year contract with Leeds the striker headed out on a six-month loan to Accrington Stanley.
After five goals in 23 appearances for the League Two high-flyers, he joined Grimsby Town until the end of the season in January.
Wilks’ loan spell at Blundell Park has not yet been successful. With no goals in four games, he headed back to Leeds to undergo treatment on a hamstring strain.
Nonetheless, Wilks is back now, and among the goals.
The 19-year-old made his Grimsby comeback for the reserves on Tuesday, scoring a brace in a 4-0 win over Doncaster Rovers.
It was a brilliant return to action for the player, who will now hope to feature in this weekend’s League Two clash against Coventry City.
Mariners fans will hope Wilks can bring that goalscoring form to the first-team.
Grimsby are currently without a win since beating Forest Green 1-0 on the 9th December – a run stretching back 17 games.
Such poor form has left the club one place outside the relegation zone in League Two, just six points ahead of Chesterfield.
For Leeds, it would be great to see Wilks shine in Grimsby’s relegation run-in.
The teenager has had plenty to deal with in recent times and Leeds fans are 100 per cent rooting for him to become a first-team regular.
Playing in the tough conditions currently underway at Grimsby should be a brilliant learning curve for the youngster and one he can hopefully relish.
Monk was a big fan of Wilks and in the summer the striker might get a chance to show Paul Heckingbottom what he is capable of.
Helping Grimsby get back to winning ways after 17 games would certainly be a good place to start.
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