IF there can ever be a ‘right’ way to be relegated, then Rotherham United can surely console themselves in the fact that they followed that particular path.
Someone who can certainly vouch for the fact is defender Billy Jones, 12 months on from being part of a Sunderland squad whose pitiful descent into the third tier of English football for just the second time in the Wearsiders’ 130-year history will represent one of the most infamous campaigns in the club’s existence.
While there was disunity and disharmony at the Stadium of Light, there was at least collectivism and togetherness at the AESSEAL New York Stadium and a feeling that the players could have done no more to secure their cherished Championship status.
When the dust settles on the Millers’ demotion to League One, it should at least provide peace of mind for the players when the close season arrives.
Jones, who was relegated at one of his other former clubs in West Bromwich, said: “Obviously it hurts right now. But we can be proud of some of the performances we put in and level we played at.
“I have unfortunately been involved in relegations and you take it personally and obviously need your team-mates to be safe and compete as well. I think every one of us looks to the man in front of him and to his left and right and knows they have given everything.
“I have been at other clubs where I have not had that and you try and get it out of the players at the front or side of you as an individual and then you are looking to your management to get it from them and it was not done.
“The gaffer here has always looked for players to improve and set standards high and just wants you to play at this level knowing that you have a chance.”
Jones insists that manager Paul Warne and his staff are worthy of tremendous credit even accounting for the Millers’ relegation, with their stock remaining sky-high among the club’s players.
He added: “The gaffer has been amazing and, personally, I have been really impressed with him. I have been at clubs where we have lost games and it has been a little bit brushed under the carpet and nothing has been said during the week and game plans have not really been worked on.
“I am just gutted for the staff as well as they have been great.”