FOR SOME, playing against a star-studded side recently relegated from the Premier League is probably the last challenge you desire when potentially fighting for your own lives in the second-tier.
Yet Neil Redfearn feels his struggling Rotherham United team have every chance of thriving in such circumstances when high-flying Hull City arrive at the New York Stadium this afternoon.
It is not blind optimism fuelling his belief; the Championship, with all its bizarre results, has a habit of producing the unexpected and, furthermore, for all Rotherham are currently embroiled in the relegation zone, they have done well against a number of opponents at the other end.
“This division throws up all sorts of odd quirks, and results and differences,” said Redfearn, whose squad are desperate to respond after Tuesday’s dire and dispiriting 2-0 loss at lowly Huddersfield Town.
“When you think one side will definitely win it becomes a coupon-buster.
“We know that and that, on our day, we have to make this a cup tie by making it a really difficult game for them; if Hull City are to get anything out of this game they will have to bust a gut to do it.
“We’re in this position for a reason and we’re fighting for our lives but we have to show that.
“The one thing I didn’t see in the first half (at Huddersfield) was that fight and desire and that cannot happen again.”
Granted, Hull are just two points off top place and have three times more than Rotherham’s paltry four victories so far, while boasting players of the calibre of former England internationals Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson.
But Redfearn – who lambasted his squad after that Huddersfield defeat – knows his own players must deliver.
“We have to try and get three points against Hull” he said, when asked what was a realistic target from the next two games, the other being the Boxing Day visit from bottom-placed Bolton Wanderers.
“We’ve not got to look past anything else but that.
“It’s a big game for us. It’s a great game for the lads to play in.
“I’ve seen Hull live and they are a good side – good quality and good physical attributes.
“They are a side that can mix it if needed to and play if they need to play. It will be a tough game for us but we’ve shown on our day that if we are at it and up for it –which we should be – we can give them a game and a problem.”
In essence, Rotherham need a replica of their 1-0 win at Leeds United four weeks ago.
“Yes, exactly that, and that has to be a given from us now,” he added.
“We cannot drop below that. When we can get our best 11 out, are upbeat and battling, we give people a game and that must be the level.”
Some players will be given an extra chance to redeem themselves this afternoon and Redfearn, while insisting he will have to recruit significantly in the January transfer window to avert relegation, maintains he has not yet written off any of his under-performing squad.
They have this festive period to bring some cheer on themselves, not only the fans.
“Never, ever say never,” added Redfearn. “If someone is willing to show that determination and that fight to get in, I’ll pick them.
“Listen, I’d pick Saddam Hussein if I thought he was good enough. It makes no odds to me.
“If they’re good enough to play and they show that attitude, I’ll pick them.
“The reason they’re not getting picked is probably because they’ve not shown that attitude. You’ve got to force your way in.
“All the best players I’ve ever played against in my career, they find a way. That’s the difference.”
Undoubtedly, however, some players will depart next month with Redfearn revealing he envisages a squad of 24 to 26 readied to tackle the second half of the campaign.
“It’s important that the number of your group is a healthy number,” added the former Leeds manager. “There’s no point having people who are going to get nowhere near your first team and are going to be sat at home on a Saturday afternoon.
“They all need to feel like that they’ve got a chance of getting in or around it. So it’s a natural process that some will move on. You have 11 and seven subs, so you’ve an 18. You’ve got to make your numbers up, so if you’ve got a squad of around 24 or 26 players who all have a realistic chance of getting in or around the first time that’s about right.
“I feel like – not that I’m starting from scratch – but similar to that. I’m building something back up. I’m team-building, basically.
“And the process is starting during a season, which is not ideal but is something we’ve got to do.”
Now it is up to Rotherham’s squad to demonstrate just who wants to be part of that team.