Millers lay blueprint for exiled Titans to emulate

Rotherham versus Leeds at Abbeydale last month. (Picture: Scott Merrylees SM1002/92)
Rotherham versus Leeds at Abbeydale last month. (Picture: Scott Merrylees SM1002/92)
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Lee Blackett was among the rank and file on a famous night at the New York Stadium on Thursday.

The Rotherham Titans head coach was one of 11,576 paying punters who celebrated wildly the progression of the town’s football club to a Wembley play-off final later this month.

Blackett was able to contain his excitement at full-time, resisting the urge to join the over-exuberant in invading the pitch to celebrate the Millers’ triumph.

But a repeat accomplishment by his own team tonight and he might not be able to keep his emotions bottled up.

“There won’t be any of that from me,” he laughed at the thought of losing his cool and running onto the field to salute his conquering heroes. “I promise! I went to the game on Thursday, it was a really good atmosphere, a great game and you just saw how elated the Rotherham public become if they have a successful team.

“So hopefully we can do exactly what they did and provide the town with another special occasion.”

Like United, Rotherham Titans have upset the odds consistently this season, defying bigger budgets and greater expectations to prolong a challenge for promotion.

Unlike the Millers, the Titans will not be able to celebrate potentially the greatest day in their recent history in their home town.

For the only sadness in this remarkable Rotherham renassaince is that the Titans have to attempt to complete their promotion dream in nearby Sheffield.

So far away in fact, that they now play their ‘home’ games closer to the Peak District than they do their home town.

Rotherham Titans have been a victim of their own success this season. Because of a long-standing agreement over their Clifton Lane home, they have to bow to Rotherham Town Cricket Club in the summer months who have priority over fixtures.

That same New York Stadium that Blackett was sat in on Thursday – a shining beacon of the town’s re-emergence on the sporting scene – doesn’t want them.

So the Titans have faced a bump in the road on their journey to the Premiership.

This will be their second ‘home’ game at Abbeydale Stadium, a smart little sports complex rising up a hill towards one of Sheffield’s most affluent neighbourhoods.

On their first visit three weeks ago, Rotherham were steam-rollered by Leeds. This time, with a three-point deficit to chase against Bristol, Blackett insists they are better prepared.

“I just think last time it didn’t feel like home,” he said.

“Having spent all week at Abbeydale it feels a lot more like home and we’re looking forward to playing there.

“The realisation that it’s not at Clifton Lane has set in. The boys don’t have that disappointment over that any more.”

Should they win against promotion favourites and big-spending Bristol today and continue their rise with a victory in the two-legged promotion final, then Rotherham will play their home games in the Premiership next season at Barnsley’s Oakwell football stadium.

At some stage, Rotherham need to address where to lay down their roots if they do in fact concede they have outgrown Clifton Lane.

But with such an opportunity before them tonight, Blackett says that is a debate for another day.

“Everyone knows our base is at Clifton Lane. It would have been nice to play there but it’s not a focus,” he said. “Abbeydale is our home at this moment in time.

“The biggest thing about a home game is you have your home crowd there and we’re expecting a big crowd here in support of us on Saturday. It will be one of the biggest the club’s had for years, some 3,000 to 4,000 which is fantastic. We’ve had to put more seats in for this game.

“Like Clifton Lane, the fans are right on top of you at Abbeydale.”

Having given Bristol a fright last week, Blackett knows they have to be more clinical as an attacking force today if they are to complete the job.

“We’ve got to have it in our minds that we’re three points down,” he said of the narrow deficit his side face. “Bristol will be disappointed with the way they played last week. Everyone knows they are the best team in so we’re going to have to front up for that first 20 minutes.”