Rotherham United: Fans play their part in Millers’ historic day

Young Millers fans show off their colours
Young Millers fans show off their colours
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He sat on the luxury coach travelling down to Wembley to watch his beloved Millers, about to tuck into a bacon sandwich delivered to his lap by waitress service.

Life, at this moment, simply couldn’t get any better for my 15-year-old. They even had brown sauce.

Yet, only a few hours later, it did. Oh how it did. Rotherham beat Leyton Orient at the national stadium after a gut-wrenching penalty shoot-out for a place in The Championship next season.

And that was a result that didn’t need sauce, red or brown, to be just perfect. Bacon and the beautiful game. This was him living the dream. His dream. His club. Together, their day.

He and the Millers have come a long, long way since the dark days at Don Valley Stadium and relegation to the bottom tier of the Football League.

Chairman Tony Stewart has revitalised the club and, with it, the town as the stunning New York Stadium rises majestically from the industrial decay around it like a beacon of hope for those who once feared Rotherham was mired in terminal decline.

The fans have bought into his and manager Steve Evans’ vision, making the matchday town centre a buzzing, vibrant place to be and Wembley the only place to be as the Millers went for back-to-back promotions.

Yesterday wasn’t a mere footballing event. 20,000 travelling kindred spirits meant that this was a day that transcended sport. This was Rotherham on tour, a public outpouring of the pride people now feel in their (Toy)town. Stewart not only built a new stadium, he built a whole new way of thinking.

Defeat wouldn’t have changed any of that. But victory was sweet vindication of the Stewart way.

They packed into the East end of this fabulous footballing arena and sang out their hearts. There is a song the regular 8,000 faithful at New York Stadium have made their anthem this season.

“Eee eye eee eye eee eye oh,

“Up the Football League we go,

“When we win promotion, this is what we sing,

“We are Rotherham, we are Rotherham,

“Evans is our king.”

This time it was strangely absent. A 2-0 first-half deficit saw to that. Instead it was “C’mon you Reds” as desperate Millers fans urged their team to fight back. And of course the players did. This is Rotherham United after all. It’s what they’ve done all season.

Then it surfaced briefly right at the end along with a joyful, chaotic, almost disbelieving, never-ending: “The Reds are going up.”

The words rained down on the lush playing surface, the “We are Rotherham, we are Rotherham” line spat out with particularly proud, almost venomous passion. A thing of chest-thumping, communal beauty, made even more special by an additional 12,000 voices joining the chorus.

Ahead of kick-off, there were happy, hopeful scenes on Wembley Way. Red and white everywhere, although, in the interests of fairness, perhaps I ought to point out that Orient also wear the same colours.

Yesterday was a day when families showed they were families, when myriad strands of the town’s rich and varied community came together as one.

For the first time in 36 years I shared a coach with my Old Man. Back in 1977, before a school trip to Scarborough when I’d just turned 11, he’d been the one checking toilet duties were out of the way before we set off.

This time, with my dad now in his 70s, it was me pointing out where the facilities were on the coach, making sure he was settled in his seat.

How times change. How some things don’t. The love we had for the Millers back then was still bonding us now

And oh how we love them just a little bit more after yesterday’s amazing scenes. Alex Revell’s second goal was ecstatic stranger-hugging time; winning the shoot-out after being behind almost too much to comprehend.

Afterwards, on the long journey home, the atmosphere among supporters was predictably jubiliant. Their team, like so often this season, had risen to its biggest challenge, and relief, joy and optimism, not bacon sarnies, were now the order of the day. Chatter. Incessant chatter. Laughter. Incessant laughter. Revell. Revell.

So much good has happened in the last two seasons. One man, followed by so many. Stewart, the town’s footballing Pied Piper. The resurgence in the club is real and, with him at the helm, will continue. He won’t settle for just surviving in the Championship.

And so the trip back flew by faster than Kieran Agard dashing down the right wing.

You couldn’t actually hear the words this time, but you could sense the fierce pride burning in supporters’ hearts as a silent but palpable sentiment hung unmistakeably in the air-conditioned cabin amid the happy banter.

“We are Rotherham, we are Rotherham.”