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A Millers tale

Paul Fletcher | 11:34 UK time, Thursday, 9 October 2008

Their offices are in Rotherham, they train in Doncaster and play in Sheffield. Welcome to the world of Rotherham United.

It hasn't been so much a rollercoaster ride for the Millers in recent years as a spectacular freefall that has twice almost ended in a very terminal crash.

drewebroughton438.jpgThe problems started after Rotherham's four-season tenure in the Championship came to an end in 2005. Predictably, the problems were of a financial nature and have seen the club twice enter administration over the last three years. Each time the Millers came perilously close to liquidation.

The financial crises have resulted in three different points deductions from the Football League. Since defender Ian Sharps joined the club in August 2006 he has had to come to terms with a total loss of 37 points. Showing an adroit mastery of understatement, manager Mark Robins told me the player has had to "endure a lot of adversity".

Robins might have been talking about his own situation since his appointment in March 2007 following a period in temporary charge.

When he was offered the job permanently the former Manchester United striker consulted several experienced managers who had taken over at financially trouble clubs.

"They were telling me to get out of there because it is so energy sapping," said the 38-year-old.

Robins accepted anyway but could not prevent the Millers from slipping to relegation in the final stages of the 2006-07 campaign. And he is absolutely adamant that the club would have won promotion last season but for the financial problems that came to a head. The club was issued with a 10-point penalty in March this year that saw them drop down to 11th in the table, while there was a period when players went unpaid.

"It is difficult keeping players focused when they are not being paid, even the ones that only earned £150 a week" Robins told me. "It made a big dent in what we were doing on a day-to-day basis."

A further 17-point penalty was issued in the summer while the club left their long-term home Millmoor for the Don Valley athletics stadium in Sheffield after failing to reach an agreement with their landlords.

After such a traumatic first 18 months in the job Robins could surely be forgiven for wondering what he had got himself involved with.

Had the thought ever crossed his mind? "No. I wanted to try to help the club out of their situation.

"We certainly don't want people feeling sorry for us. We want to get on with it and face up to the challenges that are there."

And Rotherham have been dealing in spectacular fashion with the challenges they have encountered so far this season.

Last weekend the Millers came from a goal behind to defeat Grimsby 4-1 and now sit 22nd in the League Two table with one point to their name to be in the black for the first time this season. robins438.jpg

Rotherham have also defeated Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Southampton in the Carling Cup and showed a clinical touch in front of goal on Wednesday to brush aside Yorkshire rivals Leeds 4-2 in the Johnstone Paint Trophy.

In conversation Robins is measured with his replies and obviously very switched on. He is also focused on what comes next, not what lies some way down the line. I asked Robins whether he could now start to think about promotion. "I don't even want to talk about the play-offs. Our next goal is to make sure we stay in the division."

Robins reasons that the Millers will have to accrue more than 90 points to clinch a play-off berth - a total that would ordinarily win a team automatic promotion and was only reached by a Milton Keynes Dons team with much greater resources last season. Had it not been for the points' deduction, Rotherham would currently be fourth in the table.

Nonetheless, the manager is delighted his players have cleared the deficit so quickly. "We could not control the sanctions, only our performances and results." And even if Robins is refusing to think about the play-offs he does admit that "the season starts now".

For the first time in several years there is a real sense of optimism around the football club. Rotherham are looking forward rather than over their shoulders.

OK, things are far from perfect but there is a plan, a strategy. The club are currently looking for a new training ground in Rotherham and hope to have it ready for the start of next season. Robins was able to bring in players over the summer and is happy with crowds so far this season, which have twice been in excess of 5,000.

Robins attributes this revival to the arrival of new owner Tony Stewart earlier in the summer.

"It bottomed out when the chairman took over. It wasn't just words - we have heard it all down the years - you could see that he had a plan and would make sure he implemented it."

Robins, who describes his time in charge as a learning curve he does not want to repeat, clearly has great respect for Stewart.

And although remaining understandably cautious, the manager is now looking forward to happier times.

"It has been a difficult period in the club's history and one we don't want to repeat. There is a hell of a lot to do but things are starting to look brighter. It is like the rebirth of a football club."


  • Comment number 1.

    C'mon you Millers !!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Reading the articles written by Paul Fletcher and tim Vickery, as well as Gavin Strachan's blog, you really do realise just what a closeted little world the Premier League is. top stuff Paul!

  • Comment number 3.

    Good blog Fletch. Rotherham have triumphed in the face of adversity.

    Why not do a similar blog on Bradford City, who have been in a similar situation financially, albeit without the points loss Rotherham have recieved?

  • Comment number 4.

    sbaker81 - Bradford is, so to speak, in the pipeline. I'm just trying to sort out the relevant interviews.

  • Comment number 5.

    Congratulations to Tony Stewart, Mark Robins and the players for a fantastic start to the new season. My dad took me to my first game at Millmoor with my mam after the war. We went to practically every home game and many away games during the late fourties and early fifties. One of my most memorable games was at Newcastle in 1953. Third round of the F.A.cup and Newcastle on a hat trick of cup victories, but not to be. I lived in Manchester in the sixties supporting Man. City. In the seventies I was in Suffolk watching Ipswich Town and in the eighties I lived near Aldershot. It is good to see them back in the league after many years, but Rotherham United has always been my first love and the first team whose results I look for on a Saturday afternoon. Now retired and living in Suffolk once again I watch Ipswich and Norwich occasionally but my heart will always be with the Millers. Good luck for the rest of the season.


  • Comment number 6.

    As a Miller fan since an early age and for the last forty years only at a distance( work in London, Canade and now Germany) and living on the outskirts of Middlesbro, its great to see the chairman, manager and players doing so well. Though I always shudder when the Manager of the Month is awarded, because we always tend to lose the next match
    Despite what goes on in cloud cuckoo land, RUFC are the team of the season so far,

    Alas the Tivoli end is no more

  • Comment number 7.

    Fair play to the Millers, they've been put on the canvas more times than "Audrey" Harrison but each time they've stood up like true titans.

    Their run of results is no fluke and one can only hope that this string of results is more sustained than the last time when they fought back from a points deduction, only to hit a run of bad form and be relegated anyway.

    I would just like to wish them all the best for the future and hope that they can find a new ground to call their own and finally sever all links with Booth & co

    Good Luck and fair play to al their fans who stood as one when times were hard - that is what football is REALLY all about

  • Comment number 8.

    As a biased LUFC fan this makes me ask the old question -what purpose does deducting points achieve? Well done to the Millers for what they have done so far this season - and on a well-deserved win last night.

    Adversity does seem to pull clubs and fans together if only in hatred for the authorities and a siege mentality often breeds good results

    Good luck for the rest of the season and I'm sure you'll understand that although I hope you get promotion this year I also hope we don't play you again next season!

  • Comment number 9.

    ooh to
    ooh to be a miller!

    The turning point was moving out of millmoor. You could see it needed to be done and luckily for us Stewart had the guts and the brains to do it. yes it severed us from our home but it will hopefully provide us with stability in the long term - something the booths' value on millmoor would never have done.

    credit to the players and robins too. must be difficult trying to sell a club like rotherham given its current position but he's wheeled and dealed and brought in players who are ready and willing to take the challenge on.

  • Comment number 10.

    Although I am a staunch Wycombe fan, I think it is great that the Millers have come out fighting. The temporary ground is not ideal, so the fact that they have managed to claw points and now on more of an even keel, I would like to wish you luck for the rest of the season.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree with comment 2 - along with Tim Vickery, Fletch's blogs are the first ones I look for on here these days. Keep up the excellent work!!

  • Comment number 12.

    It's nice to see The Millers getting some sort of coverage. It's frustrating that it seems people will only really focus on small clubs when they've hit problems.

    I remember when Rotherham made it to the Championship all those years ago, and then stayed there for four years fighting above their weight. The Media barely gave them a second glance, despite the wonderful job Ronnie Moore had done in getting the team there.

    It's great to see the team finally getting some real points on the table, and their cup exploits this year have been a joy.

    Turning the spotlight in their direction is very much appreciated my end, thanks a lot Fletch for a great article.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a Miller Now living in Plymouth (Royal Navy) I have definetly missed out on the amazing start to the new season, especially in the face of what has happened. What a great run in both trophies. Bring on the FA cup!!!!!!!

    UP the Millers

  • Comment number 14.

    Ian Sharps is a good lad and I'm so pleased he signed a new contract even though he has gone through two insolvency events with the Millers.

    We need to keep this form going, we need to get another 45 points as quickly as possible

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm a man united fan but i love reading about how the smaller clubs work behind the scenes. As all above have said, i'm delighted for the millers and robins that there looks to be brighter times ahead.

    Paul, what do you make of teams been hit with points deduction for entering administration? IMO it really is harsh as the people it hits hardest are the ones that dont deserve to be penalised , ie the management team, players and the fans. There has to be a different penalty the fa can enforce

  • Comment number 16.

    About time Rotherham got some air time. If its not idiots who've never seen an onion, then the whole area is ignored all together.

    Being from the town the whole saga has been trying but very interesting and it astounds me it has taken so long to be reported. Locals believe this squad is the strongest we've had since our time in the Championship. If we reach the play offs it'll be a miracle but one I think this team are capable of achieving. Division 2 watch out!!


  • Comment number 17.

    I am a Spurs fan, but I really feel for the plight of Rotherham; to be punished repeatedly for the indiscretions of prior owners which relate not at all to performances on the pitch is mindless and embleatic of the current FA. I really believe Rotherham can make the play-offs this season and just want to wish the club all the best.


  • Comment number 18.

    Doing brilliantly to claw back that points deficit. Well done Millers. Some players on £150 a week! That's more like it. This lot aren't overpaid, that's for sure. They'd probably love to be "insulted" with offers of £50,000 a week, like a certain former Arsenal full back.
    Good luck Rotherham.

  • Comment number 19.

    Living and working on a small Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has it draw backs, one is the time diffrence I must find out the Millers score every Sunday morning rain or shine . I am really happy to hear what they have accomplish that shows the fighting sprite in a club. playing beach footy the locals are all geared up in there Man Utd Liverpool Arsenal shirts me I just roll up in my Miller shirt and proud of it too.
    Keep your heads up high players and fans there is light at the end of that tunnel.

  • Comment number 20.

    I have to congratulate Rotherham, I was at the Don Valley Stadium as a Leeds fan, and they have displayed the same determination and grit that we showed last year to overcome their deduction. Their players played their hearts out, and although our team was weakened, and had the larger share of posession, I have no complaints. Their defenders played like advancing in the JPT was the one thing between them and eternal happiness.

    Unfortunately both our clubs have seen their fair share of incompetant owners, and its good to see two (three including Bradford) Yorkshire clubs back on their feet, developing young players and stable again. I just wish the Football League would stop punishing the new owners for the mistakes of the past, or at least punished those who got these clubs into the positions they are in.

  • Comment number 21.

    Fletch, What about Bournemouth then??

    "Paul Fletcher - BBC Sport wrote:
    sbaker81 - Bradford is, so to speak, in the pipeline. I'm just trying to sort out the relevant interviews."

    Looks like sbaker81 got his wish real easy. It's like going to Lapland or Church - ask and you will receive!!

    The interviews for Bournemouth should be dead easy too, I'm their fan - The fan, Jimmy Quinn'll talk to anybody and you can find all the players in the pub on a Saturday morning.

    Get on it mate.

    By the way, Dean Court has gone all seater - they've put a sofa down at each end.

  • Comment number 22.

    I too, am a life long fan living abroad. My local club is now Real Madrid but my first love is and will always be Rotherham United. My first game at Millmoor was to see Rotherham against Bury in the old 2nd division when crowds averaged 15,000. Can that ever be repeated?

    What is happening at the moment is nothing short of a miracle. This is "Rocky" stuff and if the local sporting public can't be inspired enough to go along and support the team now, it never will. My brother phones me regularly and he tells me that the atmosphere at the Don Valley Stadium is altogether different from that at Millmoor, and everybody is convinced that things can only get better. After the defeats of Sheff Wed, Wolves, Southampton and Leeds, it seems to be working out that way.

    As for the points deductions, it's difficult to see how it could be more unfair. Fans who shell out week after week are the ones that suffer most. But then, the FA is only interested in the big timers as the West Ham/Tevez affair showed.

    But who knows? Maybe Rotherham will be playing West Ham in the league in the not so distant future.

  • Comment number 23.

    Congratulations to Rotherham on getting off the minus points. Keep up the performances and you may be in the play off picture yet.

    Looking forward to seeing you at Don Valley on November 1st when my team, Wycombe Wanderers, come to visit.

    All the best for the rest of the season.

  • Comment number 24.

    An excellent article and always nice to see the BBC taking an interest in the plight of lower league clubs.

    However, Peterborough United also got more than 90 points last season, not just MK. So even more chance then that the Merry Millers might be just that come the end of the season.

  • Comment number 25.

    Excellent blog, and well done to Rotherham and Robbins, it shows with true grit & determination clubs can overcome the hurdles thrown at them.

    As a Bradford fan I luck forward to the blog as much as I luck forward to the three Yorkshire teams mentioned (+Leeds) achieving on field success and climbing the tables back to where the clubs spiritually belong. Bradford + Rotherham - Champioship, Leeds - Premiership

  • Comment number 26.

    Having followed the Millers for 25 of my 32 years im delighted with the article and believe that it should be given more coverage of the superb job Mark Robins is doing in very difficult circumstances. The obvious difference in Tony Stewart from the awful previous Chairman Booth is incredible i really hope the Millers can survive. The lads play with heart and express believe and respect for their gaffer. The Cup run i have not experienced since the Wembley final of 1996!!!!

    Up the Millers keep the faith!!!


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