Boss Alan Stubbs has assured Rotherham United fans he never intended to pick a fight with them when he stood up to the boos at New York Stadium last Saturday.
The Millers manager declared “Bring it on” when supporters voiced their frustration after the final whistle of the 2-2 Championship draw with Bristol City during which their side gave up a two-goal second-half lead.
His comment angered some followers, but Stubbs told The Star today: “I understand fans are frustrated 100 per cent. I’m frustrated, because I know the players are putting a lot of effort in and not necessarily getting the rewards that they should. That’s the disappointment.
“It’s not about picking fights. I didn’t mention one word about picking fights, so I don’t know how that has been misinterpreted in the press conference.
“‘Bring it on’ means I’m up for whatever’s thrown at me. That’s not picking a fight. That’s me saying I’m prepared to roll my sleeves up. Simple as that.”
Rotherham, who have five points from their opening six matches, are in home action tomorrow night against Nottingham Forest and Stubbs wants the Millers to present a united front against Philippe Montanier’s team.
“We need the fans to get right behind the players and keep pushing them on because they can be the difference at times,” he said.
Rotherham should be boosted by the return of midfielders Lee Frecklington and Tom Adeyemi after calf and thigh injuries respectively, while forward Izzy Brown has recovered from cramp, goalkeeper Lee Camp looks to have overcome a back spasm and winger Jon Taylor trained today after picking up a knee knock against the Robins.
The Millers will leave a decision on Joe Newell as late as possible after the left midfielder picked up a freak triple injury as he helped set up the second goal against City.
“It was a strange situation,” Stubbs revealed. “When Joe’s gone for the challenge, he’s had three whacks. He had one to the face as the ball’s ricocheted off him, then the lad’s stood on him, so he has a fracture in his hand, and as he’s done that he’s stood on his toe as well, so he’s got a bruised toe. It’s a bit bizarre!
“The toe seems fine. The hand, we can get a cast or protective sleeve for it. We just need to see how it settles down before the game.”
The Rotherham boss knows a win tomorrow would go a long way to alleviating the tension caused by Bristol’s fightback, which came in the game following the Millers’ derby defeat at Barnsley.
“Results change everything,” he said. “You’re never happy that you lose a local derby, and I think a little bit of that filtered through on Saturday. I can’t fault the players’ effort on Saturday.
“When you look at the big picture, we’ve missed a great chance to go 3-0 up, and that’s game over. Then we give a silly free-kick away, which gives them the opportunity to put a dangerous ball into the box. From a potential 3-0 and game out of sight, they get a goal and it gives them something to go after. I think both teams were happy they got a point out of the game in the end.
“We know we’ve got to roll our sleeves up and it’s going to be a tough, long season. I don’t think there is any team in the division that doesn’t think this is going to be another tough season.
“We win together and we lose together. Me, my staff, the players, we will always do that. I think you can see the players were disappointed. If I invited people to come into the dressing room at the end of the Bristol game, they’d see there is real disappointment there; disappointment and frustration at not getting a hard-earned three points.”