As if leading a team for the first time was not a big enough challenge, the youngest head coach in the Championship has taken it upon himself to be the man to reunite Rotherham Titans with their fan-base.
Lee Blackett, 30, returned to the club he grew up with to find a team that was losing touch with its supporters. So, on his promotion to the top job at the start of the summer, he knew exactly what he had to do.
“This is a club I loved to pieces, but when I came back last year, for some reason it had changed,” said Rotherham’s new ambassador.
“In my first spell here when we finished a game we used to go into the bar and players used to sit with the fans and there was a real club vibe to it.
“Unfortunately, that had changed. You can’t really do much when you’re playing, but as head coach you can make decisions, and that was the first thing I wanted to do, get the players and fans closer together.
“I want everyone feeling as though it’s their club. You speak to anyone who leaves this club and they retain a real fondness for it and that’s because of the fans.”
To unite the disparate factions, Blackett relaunched the supporters’ club which had frittered away to the point of barely existing. Since the beginning of August, the club have held fan nights on a weekly basis and his players have bought into his new philosphy.
Blackett has been the proverbial breath of fresh air after what was a turbulent season when Rotherham saw two head coaches in Andre Bester and Alex Codling walk out of the door.
Blackett has a new backroom team, including former Leeds team-mate Ed Williamson and he has recruited well from the lower leagues and abroad.
Juan Pablo Socino is back at inside centre, a former fans’ favourite the head coach calls the best No 12 in the division, while one-time Queensland Reds fly-half Dallan Murphy is a play-maker that has got a lot of Titans fans talking.
“We are a club that traditionally takes gambles on young players doing well, and with our budget being low we’ve had to do that again,” said Blackett, who accepts in appointing him as head coach, the club themselves have gambled. “In the last two seasons we’ve sent 14 players to the top flights, that’s more than anyone in the Championship barring the team that gets promoted.”
Mid-table is the more realistic aim for Rotherham, but given their budget, such an achievement should not be under-estimated. Getting his players fitter has been the pre-season priority.
“We’re not going to be the traditional Rotherham team, we play a different brand and to do that you’ve got to be a lot fitter,” said Blackett. “We’ve got no egos here, just players with the right attitude and if you have that here, with these fans, then it can be a great environment.”