AS the previous and present Rotherham United managers prepare to go head-to-head at Elland Road today, Millers chairman Tony Stewart is adamant the Neil Redfearn era is ready for take-off.
The 37th meeting of the Millers and Leeds United promises to be a fascinating affair thanks to what equates to an unusual job swap.
In the home dugout will be Steve Evans, who led Rotherham to back-to-back promotions before leaving the New York Stadium just 54 days ago.
At the helm of Rotherham, meanwhile, is Redfearn, a lifelong Leeds fan whose sacking at Elland Road during the summer left supporters hugely disappointed. The 50-year-old seems guaranteed a warm welcome on his return today.
A bumper crowd of 25,000 plus is expected for a clash that Stewart insists both managers will be “gagging” to win.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, the Millers’ chief said: “I don’t think the ex-Rotherham manager or the ex-Leeds manager will want to be embarrassed so I am expecting both teams to really go for it.
“Neil was very popular at Leeds so I am anticipating a bit of a buzz surrounding him going back. I’d expect both managers will be gagging for it, they’ll be desperate to win.
“We want something from Elland Road. Ideally, all three points. But a draw would not be the worst thing in the world, especially if it comes with a good performance.”
Rotherham make the short trip to Leeds sitting rock bottom of the Championship after Redfearn’s first six games in charge yielded just one point.
Leeds, meanwhile, have claimed two wins and two draws from five outings since Evans succeeded Uwe Rosler as head coach.
Despite the disparity in returns over the past month or so, Stewart retains full faith in Redfearn and believes hard work on the training ground during the international break will start to pay dividends today.
“We are not where we want to be,” said the Rotherham chairman, who this week sanctioned the signing of Leon Best and Stephen Kelly.
“That much is obvious. But we have made changes that we think will make a difference. We will have a team at Leeds that should give us a better performance.
“Training has been good and, in all fairness to Neil, his first month was, basically, seeing what is what.
“I am thoroughly enjoying working with Neil. I think of a Yorkshire expression with regards Neil, him coming in has been like putting on a pair of old slippers. Warm and comfortable, a really good fit.
“Neil is a pleasure to deal with and we fit together well. He is a good guy and he is good at his job.
“We thought we picked the right guy when Neil got the job and we still do. His philosophy is the same as ours. He wants to bring the young ones through, no doubt about that. He wants to develop players.”
As for Evans’s presence today in the home dugout, Stewart added: “Leeds is different to what Leeds used to be. But, yes, I was surprised that Steve got the job as quickly as he did.
“He has not done bad so far, with a couple of wins just before the break. He will be looking to maintain that, as I am sure he realises the only way to get the Leeds job on an extended basis is to keep winning and please the president. After Saturday, we will wish him well.”
Rotherham’s preparations for today’s derby included behind-closed-doors friendlies against the two main Manchester clubs during the break.
A decent City XI were beaten 2-1, while United restored Mancunian pride with a 2-1 victory over the Millers.
On the task facing the bottom-placed club in the coming weeks and months, Stewart added: “We had a bad start.
“Steve left after 10 games and, while we did win the last two of those, we also knew very early this was a season when we were going to be in a bit of trouble.
“Neil has come in, taken a lot at what we have and made a few changes. I do feel things look more promising now.”
“The test, of course, will be how we do at Leeds. The international break has, basically, been a fortnight spent preparing for the game.
“From our point of view, the big question is are we going to Leeds with what was effectively Steve Evans’ team? Partly, yes.
“But Neil has started to change things and this is his opportunity to say, ‘I am making a difference’.
“I do feel we are now ready to march on. Starting with Leeds, there is a run of games against sides like Bristol City, Huddersfield, Wolves - teams where we would hope to pick up points. A win at Elland Road would be a great start.”