Rotherham United: Neil Redfearn calls for Millers derby calm

Lewis Buxton
Lewis Buxton
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Rotherham United boss Neil Redfearn has already experienced the highs and lows of a derby clash with Sheffield Wednesday.

He scored against the Owls during a Premier League encounter in December 1997 when he was a Barnsley midfielder ... “You could hear a pin drop at Hillsborough when it went in,” he recalled.

But Wednesday, thanks to an 88th-minute Paulo Di Canio winner, went on to triumph 2-1.

Now the 50-year-old gets to try out the South Yorkshire showdown as manager, and he’ll be asking his side to show one of the qualities he prided himself on possessing during his own playing days: calmness amid the storm.

“You have got to keep your composure and keep your cool. It’ll be white hot, there’ll be tackles flying about,” he said.

“There’ll be times when they have a split second on the ball longer than they think, and what they don’t want to do is get caught up in the hurly-burly.

Tom Thorpe excelled against Reading and could keep his place

Tom Thorpe excelled against Reading and could keep his place

“If they get the chance to play, they have to play, because that could be the difference between opening somebody up and scoring a chance or not scoring.”

Redfearn, in only his second match in charge, saw the Millers produce their best performance of the season in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Reading and wants his side to build on that tonight in the sold-out frenzy of AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Rotherham are next to bottom in he Championship and the Owls are close to the play-offs, but he said: “I know through previous experiences of being in derbies, as a player and manager, that size of clubs and form sheets and everything like that, they go out of the window.

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Harry Toffolo is one of the players under 22 who may be given a derby start against Sheffield Wednesday

Harry Toffolo is one of the players under 22 who may be given a derby start against Sheffield Wednesday

“It is about the 11 on the day, and if you have got your game-plan right and you have got your side up for it then anything can happen.”

Redfearn is renowned for his work with young players and, with Joe Newell hopefully available again after injury, the Millers could, conceivably, have six players in their starting line-up who are 22 or under.

“What I am strong at is giving young players belief, giving them a chance to go and express themselves,” he said, “Sometimes it won’t work because they’re young and they’re going to make mistakes but if they’re not frightened of making mistakes, if they have that belief and backing, then they start developing.

“They’ve got that youthful endeavour. And young players are infectious. They make people work hard and want to run about.”

Neil Redfearn

Neil Redfearn

But the man who made his debut at 17 and played until he was nearly 40 knows the value of experience as well, and older heads like Lewis Buxton, playing in his first derby for the Millers fater leaving Wednesday in the summer, will have crucial roles to play.

Rotherham sent the Owls packing 2-1 in the Capital One Cup in 2013, but haven’t beaten them in the league at home since 1976 when Dick Habbin wrote himself into Millers folklore in a 1-0 victory.

Redfearn is a big admirer of the job Carlos Carvalhal has done at Wednesday and acknowledges the size of the task he and his men face against a side with four wins and two draws from their last six outings.

But there are encouraging signs that his squad are buying into a new style of play, and they got at Reading som well in midweek that Royals boss Steve Clarke admitted his centre-halves hadn’t been stretched like that all season.

Message one from the new man to his players? “I am very vocal in the importance of the nitty-gritty bit and how that needs to be right, the ugly stuff,” he said.

Yet he also wants his team to be brave enough to advocate the principles that, 12 days into the job, he is in the process of laying down.

Message two as he looks to become the first boss since Jimmy McGuigan to engineer a home league success in this fixture: “Pass the ball and play.”