AS a town, Rotherham has been kicked in the teeth too many times to mention in recent years – and now it is the turn of its football team to be in the dock.
Or, more especially, in the words of Steve Evans, it’s proud manager and chairman, with the Millers enduring their toughest time since Tony Stewart made the judicious decision to appoint the Scot in April, 2012.
Back-to-back promotions and preserving their Championship status represents impeccable form in the course of three progressive campaigns.
But in the oscillating knee-jerk world of football where the memory span of many supporters is shorter than it has ever been regarding results, the Millers, in the view of Evans, are now facing a chargesheet.
They head into this afternoon’s Championship home game with Cardiff City without a league win this term along with three other Football League sides – Blackburn Rovers, Crewe Alexandra and Newport County – and propping up their division.
The Millers’ disappointing sequence has led some fans to start openly questioning Evans, but with the season still in its relative infancy and armed with the benefit of the history of the past few seasons when the club has held its nerve in tense times, the 52-year-old is bullish regarding the prospect of a fightback.
As in the words of the famous Tubthumping song from Chumbawamba, if you knock Evans down, he will get up again, while vowing that Rotherham United will continue to prove a ‘beacon of light’ for the derided South Yorkshire town.
Offering trademark defiance, manager Evans said: “We are almost in a courtroom situation, where Tony Stewart and Steve Evans are in the dock getting judged by the jury and the jury is our supporters.
“If the evidence had been judged halfway through League Two and League One, me and Tony would have been sent down. If it had been this January, it is fair to say we’d be down again.
“But, as the chairman said, there’s a lot of evidence to come out of Rotherham United.
“After six or seven games to be saying this and that is disrespectful to what we have achieved in three-and-a-half-years really.
“We sit here four points behind half the league and yet we don’t know what we are doing. We have got little points to prove.
“Don’t people think Steve Evans and Tony Stewart aren’t fighters and haven’t got pride and determination?
“Do they think if we get down, we don’t get back up again? We are the leaders of that in Rotherham United.
“Our club has been the only beacon of light in Rotherham for three-and-a-half years. That beacon of light is not going to go out, that’s for sure.”
Evans is the first to acknowledge that the Millers’ start has been far from what everyone associated with the club hoped for, but equally, he believes that his side remain just fine margins away from removing the winless Championship millstone from their backs in 2015-16.
Two sound enough away shows at Charlton and Brighton, without a surfeit of points, justify that assumption, with Evans mindful of how the restorative benefits of one win can change the Championship complexion entirely.
He said: “Sometimes you read things that annoy you a bit. I have read that a couple of clubs have made great and steady starts and they are three points in front of us.
“One report I read said ours is a shocking start and it’s only three points behind one who have had a steady start...
“You set objectives at the start of the season. The first clean sheet, goal and point we have. We just need to get our first win to get off and running. You have to dig in and be determined.
“The large majority of supporters – and I meet many on a daily basis – speak about the remarkable progress we have made.
“But we don’t want it to be for nothing and don’t want to be back in the same league as Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfield. We don’t want to be in League One and must do what we can to stay in this Championship.”
Evans’s stock-in trade is winning and he prides himself on possessing that winning mentality, with those traits manifested not just at Rotherham, but also earlier in his managerial career.
If it means making a few enemies on the way, so be it.
Given his side’s recent dearth, the Millers chief is ravenous in his desire to reacquaint himself with that winning feeling which all his week’s work strives towards – with the ‘supporter’ in him also understanding fans’ craving for that sensation, too, and what they expect as a bare minimum if that does not happen.
He added: “The majority of supporters are with us every step of the way and I want to win matches more than anyone in the world. I want to get back to that winning feeling.
“I read some quotes attributed to Jose Mourinho this week and he says he’d forgotten what it felt like to win until he won in the Champions League. That is what it feels like as a manager.
“But if you are a football supporter, you want to win matches. I can relate to that as I am a supporter of Glasgow Celtic.
“And if I turn up to games, I don’t care if we are playing Real Madrid or Barcelona, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea; I want my team to compete.
“That’s what our supporters demand. They can accept if we lose if we have a go as they are honest and genuine people.
“And in the first two or three games at home, they probably feel we haven’t had a go. And I can understand that.
“But we believe we can beat anyone at New York Stadium, even though we have a track record that says it doesn’t always happen. But we have won more than lost and had great occasions.”