FOR several well-heeled Championship sides in days of yore, trips to Rotherham United were never greeted with any particular relish.
Back in the noughties, the club’s former Millmoor home represented a house of pain for several ‘big-hitters’, with anything that you managed to accrue there on your travels having to be achieved the hard way.
Dressing rooms which you could politely describe as ‘snug’, a parochial home crowd and a pockmarked playing surface all contributed to an imposing venue. Some suffered more than most.
Ask Glenn Roeder and John Gregory, who took their West Ham and Derby County sides there fresh from relegation from the top-flight and left with plenty to ponder. In Roeder’s case, the sack. If you question former Ipswich chief Joe Royle about his Millmoor memories, too, then you might also receive a curt reply.
In terms of facilities, the AESSEAL New York Stadium is a world away from Millmoor, despite it being in situ just across the dual carriageway. But maybe not everything has changed.
Neil Redfearn is someone who will always remember Millmoor after being handed a debut there for Bolton up against legendary Glaswegian midfield enforcer Gerry Gow in the mid-Eighties. What you got there as an opposing side, you earned.
Whisper it gently, but current Millers chief Redfearn is rewinding the clock in that respect if recent evidence is anything to go by.
Redfearn’s side head into today’s game with QPR seeking their fourth successive league home victory with promotion aspirants Hull City and Brighton among those to perish at the NYS in recent weeks.
The venue may be decidedly more plush than Millmoor, but the will to win mentality, desire and hunger of a side without passengers which were defining characteristics during Ronnie Moore’s golden time in charge of the club in the second tier is starting to display itself.
The sight of it is a most welcome one for Redfearn, with his painstaking work on the training ground building up his charges and creating a genuine team ethic starting to bear fruit.
Redfearn said: “If you look at the dimensions of our stadium, it is imposing and right on top of you, with a tight pitch. You can get after the teams and put them under pressure.
“I think if we are at it on our day, it can take people back a little bit (to Millmoor).
“For the sides who want to split and play out from the back, we are showing we can get after teams and play football on the front foot. That is what we have done in recent games at home and we have caught teams on the hop.
“Fans want to see you having a go. It’s a northern trait anyway and for most northern supporters, if you give 120 per cent, they will forgive you.
“But they have got to see that it’s a given.”
As the saying goes, sometimes you learn more in defeat than in victory, with it perhaps no coincidence that the Millers have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts at home following the fall-out of a punishing 5-2 home loss to a powerful Ipswich Town side on November 7.
After taking the lessons firmly on the chin, the reaction from Redfearn’s side at the NYS since has been admirable, with four wins recorded in their past five outings, with the only side who triumphed there in Wolves being fortuitous to take the points in a narrow 2-1 verdict on Saturday, December 5.
The consistency of performance is giving the Millers a platform to push on, according to Redfearn, who believes there is plenty more to come.
He added: “I am a big admirer of what Mick has done at Ipswich and he’s a good mate who has helped us out with Luke Hyam and what have you.
“But on the day, they taught us a lesson about the division.
“We got caught in between playing (passing football) and going a bit longer. They basically got the ball into the front early and with quality. People say Ipswich are long ball and make that mistake, but they play with quality, with good movement and get you on the back foot and compete.
“You need the humility to learn because if you try and shut it off, you are never going to get better. That was a good lesson from a top Championship side playing football at the height of their powers.
“Your home form always has to be your best as you rely on the bulk of your points coming from home fixtures. If you look at our last 10 games, we have won five and wins are obviously better than draws.
“What we need to do is win the odd game away and draw one or two which will complement what we are doing at home. It takes off that little bit of pressure.
“What is happening is that I can see the stuff we are doing in the week really coming out on a Saturday.
“It has not always led itself to a result, but in the last month to six weeks, the level of performance has been of a good standard.
“Because we are consistent, we are picking up results. The bottom line is that five wins from 10 games is good form and we have got to take a lot of heart from that.”
Delighted with the upturn on fortunes after a difficult start to his tenure in the autumn, the Millers chief added: “It is always good that we are moving in the right direction, although we knew this will take time. We knew that from the off.
“But what we are doing is finding a bit of momentum, particularly at home.
“That is definitely seen in the level of performances, which have been good in the past six weeks.
“We are getting in a position where we can definitely think about getting higher.
“We are on a run where we know that on our day we are capable of beating sides.”