NEIL REDFEARN is challenging Rotherham United to draw level with Championship big names Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the table – and avoid focusing purely on getting out of the drop zone.
The rejuvenated Millers – one point adrift of safety in 23rd place – welcome Wolves tomorrow, seeking their third successive second-tier win for the first time in almost exactly 12 years.
Victory would reduce the gap between the second-from-bottom hosts and 15th-placed Wanderers to just three points, with the Millers also currently only four points adrift of Redfearn’s former club Leeds.
The Millers’ manager has spoken about there effectively being three separate divisions within the Championship, with his winter target being to pull away from the ‘mini-league’ of relegation-threatened clubs and break into the clutch of mid-table sides.
Redfearn said: “If we can get in among the likes of Wolves and Leeds and all those, that’s an achievement.
“I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but what we have to do then is plan further ahead to be a side who are in there and challenging for the next level as you can’t stand still.
“We are right at the beginning of something here. But we are proving to ourselves, bit by bit, that we can.”
The first part of the winter has been an enriching one at times for the Millers at second-tier level this century.
Rotherham lost just once in six games in December 2001 en route to staving off the drop in 2001-02, and three famous away wins at Burnley, Ipswich and Preston arrived in the final month of 2002 to provide a level of impetus in the following campaign.
It was most spectacularly manifest in 2003-04 when Ronnie Moore’s side recorded a six-match unbeaten streak featuring five wins, which propelled them from third-from-bottom to 14th place on Boxing Day 2003.
Redfearn also presided over a similar season-changing run of form at old employers Leeds at the start of the new year in 2015.
With confidence generated among his Millers players after back-to-back wins over Leeds and Bristol City, he sees no reason why another rewarding win or two cannot be produced in the weeks and months ahead.
While being the first to acknowledge that the law of averages dictates that a setback is likely to occur along the way, the Yorkshireman has preached the importance of his players possessing both a positive mental approach and confident mindset, albeit allied to a touch of perspective.
He said: “If we start putting one or two runs together, you don’t know where you can finish.
“If you look at the nature of this level, every now and again someone gets battered, and it’s like us against Ipswich and Derby.
“We have not got to get too down when there’s one of those results.
“We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go again and put another little run together.
“What happens with confidence and belief is that it takes you such a long way and it can overcome a lot of things.
“We have got to get on as many runs as we can and if we can keep it going, we will. But we have got some confidence and that will help us.”
He added: “I know in my time as a player that all the best sides hadn’t necessarily had the best players in it.
“They have just been good, well-organised and well-drilled sides with special players who can win games – without being the best sides, but good teams.
“I know that can work. I know a lot of clubs at this level are maybe in a far better position than us in terms of gates and finances.
“But to buy your way out of it is tough.”