Rotherham United relegated: Viktor Johansson and Leam Richardson take different outlooks but problems are clear

Had Rotherham United been relegated from the Championship because their best was not good enough it would have been much easier to take.

The Millers are back in a division more in line with their finances. They and Plymouth Argyle are the only second-tier teams not to play in the top flight. The rest, bar Preston North End, Millwall and Bristol City, have done so in the Premier League.

So when relegation was confirmed with Friday's 1-0 defeat at home to Plymouth, no one could have been surprised.

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By the time in December the Millers settled on Leam Richardson as their new coach, having been turned down by Nathan Jones, it already felt a lost cause. As soon as Bali Mumba headed Plymouth ahead in the 32nd minute there was no conviction on or off the field that this was not going to be the night.

The disappointment is we have hardly ever seen Rotherham's best, which is why they were the first club relegated in the English leagues.

Seldom when a team is relegated do players front up to the newspapers but Viktor Johansson is a proper character who loves the club.

Despite refusing to say as much, the 25-year-old Swede will have to leave. A top-end Championship goalkeeper with a release clause cannot slum it in League One whilst trying to build an international career. No one could begrudge him going after four brilliant years.

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Whilst Richardson was scathing about the Millers’ problems, Johansson was doing what he had spent the last 90 minutes doing – fending them off.

HAPPIER TIMES: Viktor Johansson celebrates Rotherham United escaping Championship relegation last seasonHAPPIER TIMES: Viktor Johansson celebrates Rotherham United escaping Championship relegation last season
HAPPIER TIMES: Viktor Johansson celebrates Rotherham United escaping Championship relegation last season

Eleven months ago he was lapping the New York Stadium pitch after ending six years of yo-yoing.

"We had all the tools to kick on," he reflected. "It's a great team but we just haven’t been good enough.

"I don't know how to put it in words... we feel embarrassed."

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Richardson said "Friday’s performance typified the whole season: a bit lacklustre and lacking quality and desire," and that there were different agendas at play at the club. Johansson’s different views back that up.

FRUSTRATIONS: Rotherham United coach Leam RichardsonFRUSTRATIONS: Rotherham United coach Leam Richardson
FRUSTRATIONS: Rotherham United coach Leam Richardson

"Confidence is a big thing," he stressed. "When we started losing it's tough to bounce back but we had the character to do it.

"There's no (bad) eggs, we're all pulling in the same direction, doing the right things but it’s hard when you lose games and the way we have lost makes it harder. Sometimes there hasn't been much in the game.

"We haven’t been able to do it for 90 minutes. That's been frustrating because we're a good enough team to stay in the Champ."

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Richardson, with experience of cleaning up Wigan Athletic’s mess, must look beyond Johansson's superficial assessment – "you flip a coin and we've got the wrong side."

Rotherham can opt for Johansson’s sunny positivity and sticking plasters or the expensive surgery the coach wants.

Friday was the 27th time they did not name a full bench in 41 league games. Eighteen starts makes Lee Peltier one of their more robust defenders, but he was substituted for the 13th game. Only ever-present Johannson, Hakeem Odoffin (30), Ollie Rathbone (34) and Christ Tiehi have made more than 30 starts.

It is not just bad luck.

"We haven't been on our training pitch since the start of January," complained Richardson.

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"If Rotherham have 90-plus per cent availability it's still a tough challenge. If we're going around with 64 per cent and not being able to train, it becomes an impossible job."We have a choice as a club, right from the owner to myself to many other people: How do we want to press the reset button, how do we want us to look like?

"The biggest positive – and there aren't many – is that we know about the problems. We know the culture that we need to grow.

"I like to think that in the last 15 years I've been a good coach. I don't think there are many people, at my age, in the country who've won as much as I have.

"I've never shied away from a challenge. Until somebody tells me otherwise or someone thinks there's somebody better out there – which I personally don't – we'll give it a go."

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