Ambition of Millers knows no bounds, says Evans

Rotherham United manager Steve Evans
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans
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Playing host to a side not far removed from the Premier League is a fitting way to bring the curtain down on Rotherham United’s first calendar year back in their home town.

Twelve months ago the Millers were gearing up for a promotion push in League Two having begun life in the resplendent surroundings of New York Stadium in fine style.

Gone were the bad memories of a four-year exile at the Don Valley Stadium, and here was a club on the up.

They welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers today with the arrow of their fortunes still pointing upwards.

Wolves were Premier League mainstays as recently as the 
2011-12 campaign before tumbling out of the top flight and straight through the trap door from the Championship.

Nevertheless, they arrive at the New York Stadium for a first league game with Rotherham in nine years, having opened the parachute and slowed the descent.

Under Kenny Jackett they have proven their credentials in the third tier and look for all the world favourites to win the division.

They sit second, just a point behind leaders Leyton Orient.

But just nine points behind in sixth place are the Millers, which is a measure of how far they have come in 2013.

“If someone would have said going into Christmas that we’d be be in the play-offs chasing promotion then you’d never have believed them,” said manager Steve Evans.

“There’s been a lot of reason for that; the stadium, the team, the chairman, the increase in crowds.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to be a part of.

“Last Christmas we had Accrington at home; this year it’s Wolves and Coventry. Next year we want that to be Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday.

“Our progress in 18 months has been staggering, but it needs to be more staggering to take us where we want to be.”

There have been a number of big games at the New York since it opened its doors 18 months ago.

Millers fans can look back fondly on the 2-0 win over Aldershot in May in particular, when automatic promotion was secured and Lee Frecklington was engulfed in fans after scoring the goal that crowned their ascenscion.

Sheffield Wednesday have been humbled in the Capital One Cup, while across the city they inhabited themselves for four years, the Blades were also sent packing on the day their new Saudi Prince took the reins.

At home in the league this season Rotherham have been largely impressive, the 4-0 drubbing by Swindon, and 2-1 disappointment against Rochdale aside.

Peterborough, another powerhouse of the division, were outplayed but escaped with a victory, while the recent dismantling of Gillingham had the old folk who used to pack into the Tivoli at Millmoor, purring.

It means Rotherham head into the festive period buoyed by their current standing, and determined to head into 2014 with their fortunes still on the rise.

Evans said: “These are exciting times and it’s a boost because we’ve got a lot of games against good teams, starting with the title favourites Wolves today.

“Then we have Bradford, Port Vale and Coventry. They’re all big challenges we are relishing.

“These are the big games you want to be involved in and the reason we wanted to be in League One.”

With the opening of the January transfer window now under two weeks away, Evans will be pressing chairman Tony Stewart for more finances as they prepare to strengthen for the promotion run in.

Rotherham have already had a six-figure bid for St Johnstone striker Stevie May turned down, and whether or not he goes in again for the Scot, a goalscorer tops his wishlist.

“I’ve had a very positive meeting with the chairman this week with regards moving people on and who we want to bring in,” said Evans, who has also been linked to Billy McKay of Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

“The chairman (Tony Stewart) has ticked every box, which makes me wish I’d gone in with four or five more, so I think I’ve missed a trick there!

“But we’re speaking to clubs now. There’s not going to be a mass recruitment drive but we need two or three players, and those will be of real quality.

“We’ve also got to consider if we want to retain our loan players, and as of now, we’d like to.

“We like continuity here.”

That means trying to keep, among others, Nouha Dicko, the Wigan Athletic striker, who has been a hit since joining on loan from the FA Cup winners with three goals from three starts.

A deal is in place for Daniel Nardiello to make his loan move to Bury permanent on January 1, with Evans thankful of the striker’s contribution in League Two, but not convinced of his ability in the division above.

On whether star players like Kieran Agard, Ben Pringle and Lee Frecklington – who have been instrumental in Rotherham’s rise – would be allowed to leave in January if the right offer comes in, Evans insisted: “No-one will leave.”