TONY STEWART has issued a ‘war cry’ ahead of Rotherham United’s derby trip to Sheffield Wednesday – and admits he is desperate that the Millers’ unblemished record against the Owls under his watch stays intact.
The Millers chairman, brought up in an Owls stronghold in his home city of Sheffield, admits Saturday’s Championship game at Hillsborough is the one he has been anticipating like no other since the fixtures were revealed back in June.
Stewart’s heightened sense of expectancy is matched by the near 5,000-strong travelling contingent who will pack out the Leppings Lane end on Saturday, with the New York Stadium supremo labelling the fixture as the ‘big one’ as far as Millers supporters are concerned.
Stewart, at the helm when the Millers beat the Owls 2-1 in a home Capital One Cup clash in August 2013 and during their penalty shoot-out win in the same competition during their last visit to S6 in early 2008-09, said: “On Saturday, Rotherham will be invading Sheffield with a war cry and, knowing Steve Evans, he gets his guys up for it and prepared and it will be a real ding-dong.
“Under my watch, we have beaten them twice and I do not want to spoil the record I have got and hopefully it will be third time lucky and Rotherham going for the hat-trick.
“We will be taking nearly 5,000 fans from Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday has always got that ring to it.
“I think the banter from Rotherham fans is: ‘We have got to beat Sheffield Wednesday’ and we are looking forward to the game and are excited.
“With regard to the rivalry in South Yorkshire, Sheffield Wednesday is the big one, no doubt about it for Rotherham.
“Not big in derby size, but big in regards of our fans wanting to get one over them.
“I think because of the closer affiliation we have got with Sheffield United, even though we like to win, we do not give the war cry like we do when we go to Sheffield Wednesday.”
While traditionally, in terms of team placings and stature, the Owls have enjoyed a loftier status than their near-neighbours over history, Stewart believes that the size factor is largely redundant given that both are operating at the same Championship level.
He added: “On BBC Radio Sheffield, there is a programme called ‘Praise and Grumble’ and fans talk about big clubs and small clubs and whatever.
“As a Sheffield guy, with a business in Rotherham and living in the town now, this ‘city’ thing that Sheffield is big and Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster are minors makes me smile.
“To me, it is about being big in points not big in size. That is what it is about; where you are at the time and getting the points.
“I think the ‘little’ crowd at Rotherham will be the ‘big’ crowd in their stadium and they will be shouting and rooting for us.
“In a short time, we are now playing games in the Championship against Sheffield Wednesday and other big-name clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Derby.
“We’ve proved we have earned our way into the Championship and can compete with Sheffield Wednesday, regardless of them thinking they are the big club. We’re looking for the big points and both clubs will be up for it.”
As it stands, 14th-placed Wednesday are three points above the Millers, in 18th spot, with the visitors able to draw level on points with victory on Saturday.
In modern times, Hillsborough is a happy hunting ground for the Millers, who have won their last two Championship derbies there 2-1, with winning goals both coming in the 90th minute.
Both sets of players head into the latest showdown, their first Hillsborough league meeting since August 2002, seeking redress with management and fans alike after poor midweek performances in defeat.
A derby reverse for either combatant would see them head into the international break with a further heavy blow to their pride with Stewart pinning his hopes on Evans’s insatiable desire to win instigating an immediate Millers response.
Stewart added: “Sheffield Wednesday need to win and so do we. These are precious points and both clubs will be fighting for the win and their managers will hype the players up and won’t settle for anything less than the win.
“Steve Evans is the only guy who wants to win more than me. With my lighting company, there is no-one who wants success more than me. But in football, I have to put my hands up and say Steve wants to win more than I do. And I like it that way.
“I have had four managers and never met anybody like Steve Evans. He is dedicated and passionate and puts the work in.
“If I was a gambling man, which I am not, I think we will be able to take three points off them.
“Not just the fans, but the club, management and directors want to win at Sheffield Wednesday as after losing at the weekend and not hitting the ground running on Tuesday, we believe we can do a good job.”