ON an afternoon when National Lottery officials made a fresh appeal over two unclaimed winning tickets sold in Rotherham last summer, the town’s football club slipped closer to missing out on their own windfall.
Relegation from the Championship will leave a multi-million-pound hole in the Millers’ balance sheet and, despite a valiant late fightback against Leeds United that almost rescued a point, it is difficult to imagine the South Yorkshire club kicking off next season anywhere but in League One.
Eleven points – or, effectively, 12 when goal difference is taken into account – separate Kenny Jackett’s men from safety and that means the greatest of great escapes will be needed if a side with just one win from 18 league games this term is to get out of trouble.
Not that the dressing room is giving up. Far from it, as goalkeeper Lewis Price made clear in the wake of making his league debut for the Millers as a first-half substitute for the injured Lee Camp.
“We don’t like losing,” said the 32-year-old summer signing from Sheffield Wednesday. “None of us in that dressing room do. We didn’t come here to be in the bottom three of the table.
“Of course, it can be difficult to keep spirits up, but that is the one thing we have to do. I have played throughout my career at the top and bottom of this league, and it can become a lot harder if you get bogged down – and if you let things get you down, because that means you play with a weight on your shoulders.
“That is the last thing you need. We have to try and play with a freedom. That can only come from the training ground. I always come in on a Monday morning and reset myself, regardless of the weekend result.
“I make sure I walk in with a smile. It means every week is a new start. It also prepares you for the week that lays ahead.
“That is how I was brought up to look at things. There is nothing that can be done about what has already been and gone. You have to look forward.”
Price’s attitude is admirable. There is, though, no getting away from the mess in which Rotherham find themselves.
The club’s problems can be traced back to summer when Alan Stubbs was appointed to succeed Neil Warnock. The Liverpudlian inherited a squad in buoyant mood following the unlikely escape from the relegation that had seemed Rotherham’s fate as late as March.
But poor recruitment together with the jettisoning of key performers from the previous season’s late rally soon had the alarm bells ringing all around the New York Stadium.
By the time the axe fell on Stubbs midway through last month, the Millers had already been cut adrift at the foot of the table. Jackett’s arrival was a positive move, but the change in Football League rules that forbid transfers outside the two windows means his first month in charge has been akin to a rearranging of the deckchairs on the Titanic rather than the necessary launch of the lifeboats.
Peter Odemwingie, a free agent after an unsuccessful summer trial at Hull City, did come in and Jordan Spence may follow suit later this week, but Rotherham’s squad needed a major transfusion of talent the moment Stubbs left and not in January, when it is likely to be too late.
Still, there were positives to be gleaned from how Rotherham stuck to their task in trying circumstances against Leeds.
But for Robert Green denying Stephen Kelly and Richard Wood with two reflex saves before an incredible miss by Dominic Ball deep into stoppage time, the Millers would have rescued a point.
“It is never easy playing against a footballing team like Leeds are becoming,” added Price. “They are a very good passing team, but the lads put in a hell of a shift and we almost nicked it at the end.
“Going to the death was a positive and we have to take that into our next game. We have to look at December and think, ‘String some wins together and claw us back into it’.”
An admirable sentiment but, like those unclaimed lottery tickets worth £500,000 and £50,000 that were sold in July and August, respectively, the clock is ticking down fast in Rotherham.