THE role of caretaker manager can often be a thankless task.
Invariably handed the reins following the dismissal of someone who had been their boss, the temporary incumbent has to try to focus minds amid incessant speculation as to who the board are eyeing for the vacancy.
In Eric Black, of course, Rotherham United have a man well versed in what being a caretaker chief entails with this being his sixth such post.
A couple of those have not involved any competitive action but, while at the helm of Sunderland in 2011 and Birmingham City four years earlier, the Scot lost his only game in charge.
After the post-Steve Evans era at Rotherham last night ended in defeat, Black could be about to do the same with chairman Tony Stewart hoping to make an appointment during the international break.
More than 60 applications have come in from both home and abroad with Neil Redfearn understood to be firmly in the running along with a host of familiar names.
Clearly, the locals have huge faith in the Millers’ chairman getting the appointment right with his name being sung several times during the loss to a club whose own manager could be about to become a big target for the Premier League.
Speculation on Wearside suggests that Dick Advocaat is about to stand down at Sunderland and, worryingly for the Clarets, Sean Dyche is the man wanted by the Stadium of Light hierarchy.
The smooth manner in which Burnley moved up to third last night underlined why their manager is held in such high regard.
Not only are the Lancashire side well drilled and organised, they also possess sufficient attacking threat to be genuine challengers for promotion even if Dyce is tempted north by the Black Cats.
Rotherham, meanwhile, continue to be a work in progress. Perhaps this is to be expected after Evans’s reign saw no fewer than 88 signings made – at a ratio of one per fortnight.
Such a rapid turnover can partly be explained by United’s rapid ascent up the Football League courtesy of back-to-back promotions.
This said, whoever does succeed the Scot must surely make a priority bringing a semblance of calm and stability.
Considering what a larger than life character Evans was during his stint in South Yorkshire, there was inevitably a different feel to the first game since Monday’s shock departure.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the home dugout, which certainly witnessed less histrionics than it had done for the previous three and a half years.
Compared to the double act of Evans and assistant Paul Raynor, Black was a model of self-control.
Keeping a close eye on everything, the caretaker manager offered encouragement when appropriate and the odd rocket if anyone in a red shirt did something horribly wrong.
Several times in the first half, Black could also be seen waving his arms in the air in an attempt to urge his men forward.
With good cause, too, as the hosts’ tendency to sit too deep in midfield allowed Joey Barton to seize the initiative on his full debut for the Clarets.
His intelligent use of the ball and eye for an opening meant Lee Camp was by far the busier of the two goalkeeper during those opening 45 minutes.
He did well to beat away a George Boyd cross and even better to then keep out a curling follow-up from David Jones. Camp also showed good agility to beat away a shot from the always lively Tendayi Darikwa that took a wicked deflection before reaching the United goalkeeper.
All these saves came in the wake of not only a thunderous shot from Sam Vokes that crashed against the crossbar but also the Clarets’ opening goal on nine minutes. Boyd, celebrating his 30th birthday, played his part with a 50-50 challenge against Richie Smallwood that ended with Andre Gray being released and the striker made no mistake with a deft chip over the advancing Camp.
In and among these wave of attacks from Burnley, Rotherham did offer some threat in the first half.
Matt Derbyshire, after latching on to a flicked header from Jonson Clarke-Harris, brought a flying save from Tom Heaton.
Grant Ward also shot straight into the mid-riff of the Clarets goalkeeper but, otherwise, the best United could offer were a couple of long-range efforts by Tony Andreu and Derbyshire that flew well wide.
Rotherham improved after the break and could have been level with Burnley eight minutes after the restart.
A rare mistake by Darikwa wide on the Clarets’ right flank was the catalyst, the former Chesterfield man allowing Clarke-Harris to dispossess him far too easily.
The Millers’ record signing then raced towards goal before pulling the ball back for Andreu whose first time shot was deflected just wide.
It was a big let-off for the visitors, but one that proved only temporary thanks to a pile-driver of a shot from Grant Ward that flew past Heaton and into the top corner.
At that stage, Black, whose best caretaker spell yielded two wins and two draws from six games at Blackburn Rovers in 2012, looked like claiming reward from his first – and likely only – game at the helm.
Burnley’s reply, however, was impressively swift, just six more minutes having elapsed when Vokes tapped in after Camp had done well to keep out a rasping shot from Scott Arfield and ensure the 1,595 visiting fans returned to Lancashire in happy mood.
Rotherham United: Camp; Buxton, Rawson (Broadfoot 77), Collins, Mattock; Smallwood; G Ward, Newell (D Ward 71), Andreu (Maguire 71); Derbyshire, Clarke-Harris. Unused substitutes: Collin, Ledesma, White, Richardson.
Burnley: Heaton; Darikwa, Duff, Keane, Mee; Barton; Boyd (Taylor 75), Jones, Arfield; Gray (Long 88), Vokes. Unused substitutes: Gilks, Lowton, Kightly, Ulvestad, Ward.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).