Rotherham United: Night for Millers fans is a game of two halves

Steve Evans, (right), and Mark Thomas, chairman of the Rotherham United Supporters Trust.
Steve Evans, (right), and Mark Thomas, chairman of the Rotherham United Supporters Trust.
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It seemed like a night when the promotion season officially ended, with due deference made to it, and the focus switched to the next campaign and the challenge of League One.

Of course, memories will linger through the summer and beyond for Rotherham United followers and those back in New York Stadium for the fans’ forum certainly weren’t ready to box up last season and forget it.

In fact, the Millers Trust - organisers of the function healthily attended by some 500 diehards - got it just right. The first half majored on the promotion achievements then, after the break, the look ahead to League One.

Each of the four principal guests got their own little introduction.

Tony Stewart, Steve Evans, assistant Paul Raynor and chief operating officer Paul Douglas walked in, formally and a touch solemn, before fans rose to continue the ovation.

What better for next up, then, than to pop on the highlights DVD (abridged version) and enjoy some special moments topped by what’s become promotion’s iconic image - the second goal against Aldershot and Lee Frecklington submerged by invading fans. It included the chairman’s highlight - opening day at ‘his’ stadium against Burton which, he said, made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.

Thanks were given. Acclaim offered. The feelgood mood was heightened. Not that there isn’t usually someone around to dampen it.

Questions often become statements and one fan, clad in Millers shirt, had his say then opined it hadn’t been a great season.

“We finished runners-up, got promotion but it’s not been a great season ...” a querying Evans sort of gently replied.

You don’t have to go far to find those who reckon that, for very long, it didn’t ‘feel’ like a promotion season. But no one person would ever knock the magnificent finale of five straight wins which carried them gloriously home - the longest winning finish in the club’s history.

“I said it’d be a roller-coaster but didn’t think it would be one that size,” chuckled Evans who added he never doubted they’d go up.

Millers Trust chairman Mark Thomas, who led the proceedings, noted a few stats. Most League Two wins, 24; 43 points at home, topped only by two others, neither of whom went up. Yes, perhaps it was the eight home defeats, a number to lowly teams, which clouded a few judgments.

Douglas, a survivor from the administration days when the gates would have been shut on any business but football, reflected it had been “a long, interesting but incredible journey”. And he offered up this:

“When Tony Stewart got involved, if you’d told him he’d have to spend £20 million on a ground and fund the club for five years, he might have had a different thought process,” he said.

There’s no wonder many questioners began by “thanking Tony for what he’s done”.

And the fans were thanked too - “the support has been great, the noise unbelievable at times.”

They love their stadium, of course. At the halfway break, some gazed out over a relaid pitch, the first new green shoots coming through. They were even watching the grass grow!

Amid serious queries, the light-hearted moments. “What did you think when Claude Davis was sent off in his first game?,” Evans was asked.

“If he’d been 5ft 5, I’d have punched him; but he’s 6ft 5ins, so you say ‘well, it can only get better’.”

Player of the Year? Evans went for Ben Pringle, Raynor for Alex Revell.

So to the look ahead. Back-to-back promotions like last time?

“Yes, I think we can,” offered up the manager but tempered it ... “We have to be realistic, we have some absolutely huge clubs in League One.”

Daniel Nardiello? “I know the pluses but if he doesn’t work hard enough he’ll not play,” said Evans. “When he works hard he gets goals.”

More signings? Perhaps three or four (talks ongoing) with strikers on the radar, and Raynor talked of young, hungry players.

Budget? “It’ll be a good one but we’ll stay inside it; we’re sensible people, we won’t overspend,” promised the chairman.

It was a late finish but they happily rolled off home reflecting on one top stat.

The average attendance, just seven under 8,000 (count the Press guys and it’s over!) was 128 per cent up, the highest increase of any league in Europe.

So, the Millers - best in Europe. Official.