A PLAYER arriving at Don Valley tomorrow with promotion on his mind will serve as a reminder of one of Rotherham United’s finest hours whilst, for him, bring recall of arguably his most enjoyable time in the game.
It’s 10 years ago that Rotherham completed a second successive promotion and, against the odds, secured a place for an unheralded bunch of players in The Championship. A key figure in Ronnie Moore’s team of battlers, interspersed with touches of quality, was Guy Branston who will be in the Torquay United side seeking to cement a League 2 Play-off place tomorrow. This is a very different Guy to then... now a senior figure in a side who have soared into promotion contention on the back of an 11 match unbeaten run.
Branston, now 32, is Torquay’s Player of the Year. That may not surprise Millers followers. But this might - he hasn’t been sent off this season! His (in)disciplinary record is well known but he is set, for the first time in 15 years, to complete a season without a suspension.
That indicates the maturity of the man Millers fans loved for his combative defending but would at the same time despair at his recklessness. They still love to chuckle over the incident at Hull’s old Boothferry Park ground when, having been sent off, he smashed his fist into the window panel of the dressing room door and, whilst his Millers teammates got their half-time talk, he was off in an ambulance with a gashed arm!
He speaks fondly of his time with the Millers and those back-to-back successes, the 2001 promotion secured by the last minute Alan Lee winner against Brentford. Branston formed a formidable, committed back three with David Artell and Rob Scott (Andy’s brother).
Artell and Branston, then short of experience, are still playing as are Alan Lee and Chris Sedgwick whilst Paul Warne, back with the Millers in the twilight of his career, is the only other regular remaining, although Andy Monkhouse made a number of sub appearances. Much has happened to the Millers since - plenty of it bad - and that might apply to their former player including dropping out of the League altogether when going to Kettering. But he has grabbed his opportunity at Torquay with both hands and has mended his ways this season and never played better.
His fellow professionals recognised his performances by naming him in this season’s League Two PFA team of the season (alongside Ian Sharps) and the one year contract he signed looks sure to be followed by an extension. It was Branston, more than anyone, who denied the Millers victory in the 1-1 draw at Plainmoor at the beginning of March.
Afterwards, he applauded the Millers fans. No doubt, there’ll be those showing their approval tomorrow to say “thanks for the memories.”
For the record, Torquay will secure a play-off spot with a win and could do so with a draw or even defeat.
That will depend on the results of fellow play-off rivals Stevenage (at home to Bury) and Gillingham (at Chesterfield).
Basically, if the Gulls match the result of just one of the other two, then they finish in the top seven.