Millers ready for step up

Chairman Tony Stewart celebrates at Wembley last season.
Chairman Tony Stewart celebrates at Wembley last season.
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CONSOLIDATION is a dangerous word as far as Tony Stewart is concerned.

The go-ahead Rotherham United chairman is steadfastly refusing to be dazzled by the Championship headlights. The Millers are here for business.

Gone are the days of ‘little old Rotherham’ being happy to just dine out with the second-tier glitterati and be content to survive as they were in the noughties. It is a negative mentality that does not sit well with him.

But if you are expecting bold statements as to how Rotherham will fare, a club transformed since their relegation in 2004-05 – the previous time they played at this level – that is not Stewart’s style either.

Other than to say he is presiding over a club engrossed in its work from top to bottom and one determined to pass its aptitude test on and off the pitch – a club determined not to just make up the numbers.

As for the persistent talk of doing well to be competing against many traditionally big clubs, that plainly does not wash with Stewart.

Big clubs compete in the Premier League is the clear message; you play Championship teams, not reputations.

An upwardly-mobile club similar in design, rise and profile to the Millers did that rather well in that aspect last season in Bournemouth. They beat the likes of Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, QPR and Blackburn among others on their way to a 10th-placed finish last term.

That is the sort of thing that Stewart notes but he will leave the predictions for now.

On his hopes for the Millers, rated by many bookmakers among the relegation favourites despite their remarkable promotion campaign crowned by play-off glory at Wembley in May, Stewart told The Yorkshire Post: “Consolidation means being sat on your backsides.

“What I will say is that we are new to the Championship, which will test our level of competence and the ability of the manager to get a team in and the ability to be able to perform at all levels. It is a testing time for us.

“But I do not see it as us arriving in the Championship. I see us as being in it and seeing what we can do. In each match, we are a work in progress and it is the same for the manager.

“If things are not going our way, we will do what we need to do to change that.

“If someone said ‘would you be happy with finishing in the first 10’ I might say I would be. But if we finish ninth or 10th, I might say ‘hang on, why didn’t we get into the play-offs?’ It’s about ambition and our ambition is being able to compete with the competition.

“Look at Bournemouth. They have a similar background and got deducted 17 points and finished in League Two as we did. It is a similar story and they just missed the play-offs last season and it just shows what is possible.

“I do not see any team who will come to Rotherham or any who we visit where we should think: ‘Wow, what a big club.’ What is a big club? Big clubs have big success. I know there are a lot of chairmen and managers who speak about teams having parachute payments and this, that and the other.

“But it is not just about money and a good example of that are Bristol City.

“They have spent a lot of money and even now they are one of a few sides in League One spending more than Rotherham. It is not just money, but how you spend it to take things forward.

“It is also how you prepare the team. People have seen with Steve at Rotherham that he is like a Duracell battery. While other team’s batteries go flat, the Rotherham battery carries on.”

Evans’s contribution to the Millers history is a pretty golden one already by virtue of back-to-back promotions, equalling the feats of Ronnie Moore in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

But basking in the glow of promotion was just not an option for the Scot, who soon got to work with his board to bring in a plethora of newcomers, who merge extensive Championship experience through the likes of Matt Derbyshire, Richard Wood, Fraser Richardson, Scott Loach and Paul Green with unfulfilled promise in the shape of club record signing Jordan Bowery and Febian Brandy.

With many of their heroes of last season still in place and hungry for a piece of the Championship action in the likes of Alex Revell, Kieran Agard, Ben Pringle, Lee Frecklington and Craig Morgan, the Millers have bases covered, but with the wherewithal to augment their squad if need be.

Stewart added: “I look at things and it is the third season in which we have the same manager and there is continuity.

“Nine out of the 11 who played at Wembley are still with us and we have got a spine here and, with the newcomers, it has all complimented nicely.

“It’s the first time I can say that we have got two ‘A’ sides rather than an A and a B side.

“It is a decent squad and we will see how we go in the first two or three games.

“But it is not just about football and talent but about building spirit and the players have got to have that desire like us.

“We feel there is the right balance in the changing room and when you get harmony in the camp, you get more out of the squad.”