Championship status just the start for Millers

Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart
Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart
0
Have your say

ROTHERHAM UNITED chairman Tony Stewart last night insisted that securing a return to the Championship at Wembley would be far from the end of the club’s ambitions.

The Millers meet Leyton Orient tomorrow in the League One play-off final knowing they are potentially just 90 minutes from claiming back-to-back promotions.

Victory would not only bring a return to a division Rotherham last competed in nine years ago, but also a significant boost to the club’s coffers with promotion worth around £4m in additional central funding from the Football League.

Such an increase would be a major boost to a club that has been bank-rolled to the tune of £30m by Stewart since he rescued United from administration in 2008.

And the Millers chairman is adamant that promotion tomorrow would not be the end of the story at the New York Stadium.

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Stewart said: “The entire town is buzzing. People are driving around in cars with Rotherham flags attached and the shops are entering into the spirit.

“It is third versus fourth for the last promotion place and somehow that feels right. Tickets have been flying out the door and I reckon we could have 20,000 fans down at Wembley.

“Obviously, we all want promotion. It would be huge for the club, both in revenue terms and the profile of Rotherham United.

“And if we can go up, we would then be looking to push on. If a club goes up and the only intention is to hang around and hold on by your claws, then eventually it becomes inevitable that club will drop.

“So, we wouldn’t approach the Championship like that. We would do what we did coming into League One a year ago, which was to look to push on and do well.

“With the season having been extended by the play-offs, the manager has already been working hard on preparations for next season.

“I said six years ago (on taking over Rotherham) that the target was the Championship but once there we would have to dream again.

“I firmly believe we are a club who could go into the Championship and use that as a further springboard.”

The last Yorkshire club to win back-to-back promotions from the basement division to the second tier was Hull City, who arrived in the Championship under Peter Taylor in 2005.

Stewart believes the Tigers, FA Cup runners-up last weekend after finishing 16th in the Premier League, show the potential way forward for clubs who have ambition.

He said: “We played Hull at the start of last season and only lost on penalties. But if you are looking at a talisman then they are it.

“You have to build as a club to compete. And during the manager’s discussions with various parties over his plans for next season, we are finding that people want to come aboard because they see the giant strides we are making.

“This is a club going places and back-to-back promotions would be a statement to back that up.”

For Stewart, a second promotion in as many seasons would further vindicate the huge sums he has poured into the club since taking over.

A succession of managers were handed substantial wage budgets way above the League Two average before the arrival of Steve Evans in 2012 proved the catalyst for take-off.

Stewart, the owner of Rotherham-based ASD Lighting, has also funded the building of the £20m New York Stadium.

The Millers chairman said: “With the experience of coming out of League Two to League One – and I hope the manager doesn’t read this – I have actually found it easier this season.

“Just look at our points total of 86, a big improvement on last year’s (79) in League Two. And this has been a tough division, the best for some time according to those who see it every season.

“The semi-final second leg at the New York was an incredible occasion. I got home afterwards and my coat was covered in champagne.

“So, was my hair. People have said for the past week or so that I was crying but I wasn’t. It was tears of champagne. I would settle for getting soaked again at Wembley and would take another trip to the dry cleaners if it meant Rotherham United were in the Championship.”

Evans and his players are trying to emulate the Rotherham side of 1999-2001, who finished runners-up twice in succession to go from the fourth tier to the second.

Stewart: “It would be fantastic to get back to the second tier. We would be a totally different club to the Rotherham United that came down, too, in 2005.

“I said six years ago that I had a five-year-plan to get Rotherham United into the Championship. I would love to be able to say to The Yorkshire Post on Sunday night, “I was a year out, I do apologise’.”

Wembley preview: Pages 2-3