2016-17: Rotherham United are here on merit

New Rotherham boss Alan Stubbs
New Rotherham boss Alan Stubbs
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SUMMER has not been straightforward as far as Rotherham United are concerned – far from it.

But the twinkle in the eye of new Millers manager Alan Stubbs is clearly detectable, with his enthusiasm for the task in hand being positively boyish when you speak to him.

Yes, making significant headway on the transfer front has proved somewhat elusive, with the high-profile pursuit of Lee Gregory and Tom Bradshaw – deals which would have smashed the club’s transfer record – coming to nothing.

The upshot is that the Millers’ lack of current striking options look particularly glaring, exacerbated by a long-term injury sustained by Jonson Clarke-Harris and the departure of Matt Derbyshire.

Not that Stubbs is not one for bleating, far from it.

He is fully focused on what he has got – as opposed to what he has not, with his glass very much half-full ahead of his maiden crack at the Championship.

Just as it was after being sworn in as manager of Hibernian in June, 2014, a club where the larder was bare in terms of playing assets when he arrived, but one which he left in a much better state when he departed, with a Scottish Cup in the cabinet as a fair bonus.

Stubbs told The Yorkshire Post: “From where I was last season, coming into the Championship is a big step.

“But, from my point of view, it is an exciting challenge I am looking forward to. Some might look at how difficult the division is going to be, but it does not faze me.

“It is a brilliant challenge and as a young up-and-coming manager, you always want to test and challenge yourself. For me, this is the next test. I am not just saying this, but I cannot wait for it.”

Stubbs admits to being emboldened by the Millers’ head-turning Spring uprising when they transformed their season with a majestic 11-match unbeaten run which yielded 23 points from a possible 33.

The statistics were those of a promotion contender rather than a club haunted by the spectre of relegation, with that stellar form representing the Millers’ best second-tier run since some halcyon days under Emlyn Hughes in the Spring of 1982.

The likes of, to mention a few, Kirk Broadfoot, Lee Frecklington, Danny Ward, Richard Wood and Lee Camp all stepped up to the plate during that remarkable run under Neil Warnock and Stubbs duly took note, with the developments not bypassing him up in the Scottish capital.

Stubbs added: “We want to get to a points tally where we cement our place within the league as quickly as possible and the players should take huge confidence from the way they finished last season.

“To go 11 games unbeaten in any league is a fantastic run. But to do it in the Championship, which is one of the toughest leagues in the world; if you are not going to get confidence from that, you never will do.

“I did not lose track of what Rotherham did and while the coverage of the Premier League is unbelievable, the Championship is not far behind that and I saw the standard and quality of the teams.

“Sometimes, it can take a little bit of time for clubs to think that they belong and are good enough to play in this division.

“The club have now had two years to stabilise and cement themselves as a Championship club.

“Staying up has probably been a little bit closer than the club would have liked, but now we are looking to move away from that and try to get to that middle of the table, rather than worrying about the last six weeks of the season.”

During his time in the Scottish Championship, Stubbs quickly learned that Hibs, along with Rangers, were the team who everyone wanted to beat.

Now the boot is on the other foot for Stubbs, whose Millers’ side are cast in the guise of the underdog competing against some big-hitters such as Newcastle and Aston Villa.

Stubbs added: “It is a bit of a role reversal. But we do not look at ourselves as a small team, but one who have earned the right to be in there and we will not have an inferiority complex going to such as Newcastle, Aston Villa or Norwich.

“We deserve to be going there.

“We are looking for a little bit consistency all the way through. Some teams have a poor start, pick up a little bit and have a really strong finish. We want to be more consistent in terms of overall results.”