Rotherham United’s promotion party was gatecrashed by idiots - Stuart Rayner on Football

The good and the bad of Rotherham United’s fanbase has been in evidence over the last week.

The good far outweigh the bad, but the moronic element all clubs have are making themselves so hard to ignore. The club and its right-minded fans must do all they can to drum them out.

When Michael Smith lost his bet with Richie Barker for a signed Alan Shearer shirt because the Millers assistant manager refused to count Football League Trophy goals, fans and manager Paul Warne clubbed together to buy one for him.

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It must be pretty difficult to score 25 goals in a season for any club and be unloved by its fans, but Smith endeared himself further by playing the final weeks with a broken foot. The contrast with Freddie Ladapo was stark.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne is forced to make a swift exit after promotion was clinched with victory at Gillingham. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

So when Barker decided only 20 goals counted towards the 25-goal target for the shirt on his wall since playing against Shearer in 2006, supporters wanted to show their appreciation to the boyhood Newcastle United fan.

Because the online whip-round almost instantly passed its target, the hundreds of pounds left over will go to Rotherham Hospice.

The kindness was needed after Saturday’s events at Gillingham.

Warne spoke before the game about regretting running straight down the tunnel after Rotherham’s last automatic promotion 21 years earlier but, when history repeated itself, he hared off again, sensing what was coming.

He and his players conducted interviews next to the team coach in the bowels of Priestfield Stadium not knowing if they would be allowed to share their achievement in seeing off plenty of bigger-budget clubs with the fans. Coronavirus robbed them of that when they were last promoted from League One two years ago.

In the morning, travelling fans serenaded pubs such as the Southern Belle next to the train station but, long before the 12.30pm kick-off, they filled Gillingham’s big away end, roaring their support as the players came out to warm up and throw tops to them as a thank you.

Warne was first out for kick-off, his presence whipping them into a frenzy.

They came through the test of patience the 90 minutes provided but then Rotherham’s recent success has been based on a perseverance and loyalty to a manager who has overseen three relegations as well as three promotions. It is something to be proud of.

On Monday a supporter created a video reminding us it is not always like that, interspersing images of Warne with screenshots of tweets lambasting him when frustrations boiled over.

Away fans invaded the pitch after Richard Wood’s goal was disallowed and again – as they sang they would – when Georgie Kelly scored one that stood, each time throwing on smokebombs.

Richarlison’s brainless weekend goal celebration at Everton further highlighted how dangerous the trend for pyrotechnics and the apparent slackness allowing them into so many grounds is.

With the policing and stewarding inadequate, long before the final whistle fans lined up behind the byline to run on again.

I write as a hypocrite who has invaded pitches at the end of seasons and other sports events when I was younger and even more stupid. Leeds United and Middlesbrough have had problems this season but the scenes of Scarborough Athletic fans on their plastic pitch after promotion to Conference North on Monday were joyous.

‘Invasions’ are usually good-natured, but it only takes one idiot and there were plenty at Priestfield, some with ripped-out seats.

Most supporters made a beeline for their players, juggling Dan Barlaser and others on their shoulders, but too many idiots headed for the halfway line and Gillingham fans angry at relegation. Punches, plastic bottles, even a steward’s stool were thrown. Chiedozie Ogbene ushered away fans back.

The refusal of fans from both sides to get off delayed on-pitch celebrations by an hour. Some brain donors whiled the time away abusing a Gillingham fan on crutches stumbling down the terraces. An angry supporter yelled for people to get into the stands as others chanted “Off! Off! Off!”

After the players finally had their moment for the cameras, fans came back on for hugs, selfies and celebrations the footballers will have appreciated hugely.

These were the scenes Rotherham should be known for, not videos of fighting, or a moron barging Accrington Stanley penalty-taker Henry Pell in February, or the object thrown at a linesman from Crewe Alexandra’s away section, or the minute’s silence disrupted at Fleetwood Town.

To just talk about these incidents risks encouraging them but turning a blind eye is worse.

Two points deducted would have cost automatic promotion.

Rotherham are run properly, their team a wonderfully consistent mix of flair, pragmatism and team spirit. My friends who are Millers fans are terrific, kind human beings and, as the hospice is about to find out, far from the exception.

The sooner the numbskulls leave supporting the club to them, the better.