WHEN referencing Rotherham United’s successful second-tier sides of the past, it is instinctive to hark back to some imposing figures.
Gerry Gow, Martin McIntosh and Chris Swailes, to name but three, and several others besides, all possessed that innate ability to not only lead by example, but cajole all those around them to follow their instruction.
Those ‘old school’ figures might be a bit of a dying footballing breed, and the absence of their ilk in the modern-day setting will represent a cause of lamentation for many seasoned Millers followers.
Moreso given the club’s current Championship standing of 21st, with the teams’ collective abrogation of on-pitch responsibility towards each other such that they have already conceded 20 goals in the league this term – and showed themselves to be push-overs on their travels in particular.
Manager Alan Stubbs may have been a cultured centre-back in his playing days, but he is also a realist given the club’s disappointing start to the campaign and his Millers reign.
He is savvy enough to realise that the Millers must quickly find some more bite and backbone – both in the defensive backline and across the park – if they are to give themselves a chance this season. And quite possibly himself.
If it means the players being a tad nastier on the pitch, then so be it. Needs must.
Stubbs, left to pick up the pieces of some wretched concessions in last weekend’s morale-sapping 4-2 loss at Blackburn – and anxious to avoid anything resembling a replication in another crunch match with fellow early-season struggler Cardiff City tomorrow – said: “I do not want to keep relating back to when I played, but I played with quite a few characters and now is not necessarily a time where players dig each other out.
“That time has gone, (but) I would like to see it more.
“I was not great in terms of the way I spoke to team-mates, but I set standards.
“If somebody wanted an easy day, then I would tell them about it because I did not like losing whether it was training or in a game.
“I do feel as if the (modern-day) players can be a little bit nastier; not in a kicking way, but in certain times on the pitch telling a team-mate he is not doing it.
“But then after the game you shake his hand and give him a hug because you have just got the most important thing and that is three points.
“If someone needs a kick up the backside on the pitch, then I have got no problems with that, it should not be personal and it never is personal. We don’t want them to be nice, we want them to be nasty.”
It may be early season, but the stakes are high tomorrow with the Millers being three places and just one point above their rock-bottom visitors from the Principality.
If ever there was an afternoon for ‘manning up’ and taking responsibility this was it, with Stubbs’s declaration that captain Lee Frecklington will start following two substitute appearances being as sure a sign as any that he expects it to be an occasion for big characters to front up.
The tension may be seemingly ramped up given the position of both sides in the current table, but Stubbs believes it is all relative, with handling pressure being a constant of Championship life.
He has learned that much since arriving from Scotland, with no free lunches afforded in the second tier.
Stubbs, who will hand Dexter Blackstock a place in his squad if his training goes issue-free ahead of the game, said: “I do not look at tables, because if you get performances, the rest falls into place. If I was to look at the table now, I would say two wins would get us into the top 10 and that is without me even knowing what the table looks like. I think that tells you how close it is.
“When you look at some of the teams down there, it tells you how difficult the league is.
“It is amazing what confidence can do. You cannot underestimate that. We need to put in a good display, get three points and build on it.”
Particularly on the notion of pressure, both on his shoulders and his side’s, he added: “You could say the same thing every game. There are big games at the top and big games at the bottom.
“It is another chance for three points against a team who at this moment in time find themselves at the wrong end of the table. That is the way I look at it.
“There is pressure on, no matter what. That is part and parcel of being a football manager.
“It is the way of the world, it is the crazy world in which we live in.”