Rotherham v Norwich: Evans stands defiant as Millers docked points in survival battle

Rotherham United manager Steve Evans (Picture: Steve Uttley).
Rotherham United manager Steve Evans (Picture: Steve Uttley).
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AS a proud Glaswegian raised by the banks of the Clyde, showing streetfighting qualities is part of Steve Evans’s DNA.

Problems merely represent challenges to overcome and if his community is threatened, the Rotherham United manager takes it as a call to arms and a personal affront.

As the son of a shipyard welder and a big trade union man, you would expect nothing less.

At times this season for the Millers, left to rail against perceived injustice after coming out on the wrong end of a plethora of refereeing decisions, it has felt like a case of ‘us against the world’.

Just like this week.

While it is pushing it to suggest Evans would not have it any other way, it is something he is used to.

Just when the Millers’ Championship survival mission looked close to being completed after eight months, fielding ineligible Farrend Rawson in the win against Brighton resulted yesterday in a three-point deduction.

The Football League decision, which follows precedent, leaves Rotherham only one point above Millwall in 22nd place and two clear of Wigan, but with a game in hand on both.

The Millers have also been fined £30,000, although half of this has been suspended until the end of next season.

It makes it yet another huge afternoon today against the considerable Championship might of promotion-chasing Norwich City.

Evans is ready for the fight. He said: “We will win and lose games. But we will never be defeated at this football club, never.

“It is a lot of people against us, isn’t it? I have said that many times. We just have to focus on Norwich, that’s tough.

“And when we have completed Norwich, we will focus on Reading and that will be tough enough and then we go up to Leeds United.

“Of course, we will be aware of what is happening elsewhere (today), the atmosphere will tell us. But we must be completely focused. If we lose our focus by one per cent against Norwich, we will lose the game.

“We can’t affect what Millwall, Wigan or any other club do. We can only affect what we do ourselves – not what has happened in a Football League disciplinary meeting.”

If the Millers need a spot of reassurance ahead of a seven-day spell which will decide their fate, a perusal of their previous form over the past few years makes for gratifying reading.

When Evans’s side have had to deliver since he arrived at the club just over three years ago, they invariably have.

Think Aldershot, Preston North End, Sheffield United and Leeds United at home. Leyton Orient on penalties. Bradford City and Plymouth Argyle away, Ipswich, Bolton, Blackburn at the NYS – the list goes on.

But given this week’s build-up and the disciplinary ruling, victory today would top everything, according to Evans.

Likening the game to the definitive home promotion assignments against Aldershot and Preston, Evans said: “I think this (Norwich) is in that bracket, if not above it.

“We were fighting for a possible prize at the end of Aldershot and Preston. This time we know the prize.

“If we get three points against Norwich, it would be the best result I have had as a manager given the circumstances. I think it would leaves us a gnat’s whisker away from safety.”

One thing is for sure, nerves will be jangling among both sets of supporters this afternoon, with the packed contingent from Norfolk in the away end desperate to see their heroes claim points for wholly different reasons to the Millers.

Evans is savvy enough to appreciate that his side are unlikely to have things their own way for spells during a tense 90 minutes. But he will handle that.

He said: “Do we love big occasions? I go back three years ago when I walked into this football club.

“If someone then had said we’d be playing Norwich at the end of April in front of a full house at the New York and then have Reading and Leeds as you try to stay in the Championship, well, yes, okay, every manager in the country would have taken it. Tony Stewart (chairman) would have taken it and he’s told me that a million times.

“No one has to build up what the prize is for Norwich – £200m for promotion, which is the dream if you are in football.”

Evans’s pre-match words – if he really needs to say much after the events at the back end of this week – will be delivered with his trademark passion.

But they will also be calculated with this sort of scenario being something that a fair few of his players who have been with him on the club’s rise through the divisions will know plenty about.

The likes of Craig Morgan and Lee Frecklington are unlikely to require Churchillian speeches and neither are experienced professionals such as Paul Green, Kirk Broadfoot and Matt Derbyshire.

Evans added: “In the bigger occasions, a lot of it comes from the heart and the type of person you are inside of you.

“You hope what you say affects the people inside.

“But we have got some quality footballers who, up to this season, were used to winning a lot of matches.

“It is my job and the staff’s to prepare them in the best fashion.

“I will be calm and measured and focused on what I am saying to individuals and have a plan to combat a club who a lot of people in the Championship think have the best squad.

“Experience is important on these type of occasions. Big-game players are known for that for a reason as they produce big performances when it matters.

“We are fortunate in that we have a number in the dressing room who we believe are big-game players.

“We are going to need them.”