DM: First off, let's get this out there in the open: I was born and bred in Rotherham and am familiar with names such as Tony Grealish, Tony Towner, John Buckley (to whom I once gave a lift after an FA coaching session - nice chap), Shaun Goodwin and of course, Bobby Williamson. These are the stars of yesteryear but who, apart from everyone's favourite Alice band wearer Ben Pringle, are the current terrace favourites?
JV: Well as you’d expect the players that have delivered such a memorable couple of years are among the favourites, though with Steve Evans bringing in 21 players since the summer, you sometimes forget who those are. But the likes of Alex Revell, Adam Collin, Craig Morgan etc. are all loved.
DM: Let's turn our attention towards the weekend. The Millers come into this game with a very respectable point and clean sheet earned at Cardiff. Will the team come into this game with a little more confidence than they previously might have done?
JV: Perhaps, the manner of the performance at Cardiff was very reassuring given the disappointing return of just one point from previous home games with Birmingham and Blackpool. They haven’t won since beating Leeds in October, though, so confidence can’t be too high. But maybe fans can be more optimistic than previously.
DM: After seeing the Millers see off Leyton Orient in that belter of a League 1 play-off final at Wembley and the pre season friendly against Forest, I honestly thought Rotherham would be safely ensconced in mid-table with a few notable local scalps under their belt. You've certainly achieved the latter (step forward, Leeds United) but you seem to have slipped perilously close to the foot of the table. Is there serious cause for concern?
JV: Yes. It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Millers were losing 5-0 at Dagenham just two years ago, but that shows how quickly they have progressed. That issue has been a bone of contention for some fans, who are not willing to accept the club’s quick rise as reason for failure (or potential failure) this season. I’d say that would be an unrealistic attitude had it not been for some pretty strong propaganda from Steve Evans and chairman Tony Stewart over the summer saying they weren’t just going to accept coming into this league to just survive. They have sort of made a rod for their own backs in that sense. Plus Evans has had carte blanche on bringing players in (and he has made the most of it) so the resources have been there. The problem has been with the lack of endeavour and enterprise that was a hallmark of the promotion campaign last year. Cliché alert, but most fans will accept losing to better teams as long as their side works hard.
That said, the margins are very fine. The bottom half of the table is so congested that it only needs a couple of wins and you’re up in 14th and sitting pretty, thinking this Championship lark is easy. There have not been many games where the Millers haven’t been in contention, and so you’d have to think a win is coming soon and that could kick-start the campaign.
DM: Mr Steve Evans...discuss. Actually, that's a little unfair since whatever one may feel about him as an individual, he's done a sterling job for Rotherham United. Apart from flooding the club with loan players, what are the tactics that have served him so well?
JV: Well traditionally Evans has been brilliant at building a siege mentality and that has served him so well. He has demanded a 100 per cent work rate, high-energy and pressing performances, with a determination to score more goals than the opposition. Last season was littered with games that finished 4-3, 4-2, 3-3 and it was really entertaining to watch. However, he has stepped away from that mantra this season and has been far more concerned about not losing than winning at any cost. Plus, quite how you build a squad with an ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality with 21 new signings is a mystery to me and, in my opinion at least, that is a major contributing factor to the Millers’ struggles this season. Not to mention not having a settled team, he’s made 44 changes in 20 league games and if my research is correct, has never kept the same side.
DM: But we'll always have this:
DM: Obviously, the Sheffield clubs are your main rivals. Where do Forest sit in terms of rivalry? After all, we're reasonably geographically close, managed to avoid too much contact with each other (apart from your time in The Championship a few years back) and have both enjoyed the exploits of Wally Ardron and Ian Breckin (and Steve Blatherwick, but I didn't think this worth mentioning). We are NOT a scalp (not the form we are in) but is there a sense that beating us would be seen as a hugely satisfying achievement?
JV: No offence, but I wouldn’t say you come on the radar at all in terms of rivalry, just as Rotherham wouldn’t to Forest. First of all we never beat you, so what fun is it to have a rival that you always lose to? We have plenty of other teams to be concerned about. However, there is guaranteed to be some chanting of ‘Scabs’ on Saturday from idiots who weren’t even born in the 1980s. I’m sure you get it everywhere in Yorkshire.
DM: We do. I pity the fools. Here is Nathan Tyson just about salvaging a very fortunate point in one of the many draws between the two sides:
Despite the lack of rivalry, there’s no denying that Forest are one of the biggest names in the division, with a rich history, and with your summer spending spree you are one of the big guns. Any win in the Championship this season would be hugely satisfying but a win against the ilk of Forest would be a particularly good feather in the hat.
DM: We won the European Cup twice, you know – did we mention that? Matt Derbyshire...how's that working out for you? He can score goals but he does oftentimes fall over his own feet, somewhat inexplicably once inside the penalty area.
JV: So far a flop. He was the first signing post promotion and given his pedigree it sort of highlighted that the Millers were now swimming in different waters. It produced great excitement, but unfortunately it has fallen flat on its face. He has yet to score in the league, can’t get a run of regular games and his miss in the 3-3 draw against Fulham was probably the biggest sitter I’ve ever seen.
DM: The New York Stadium...I miss Millmoor - both the Tivoli and the Railway End. For those who haven't had the pleasure of the New York Stadium, what can we expect and where will we be herded to for a swift pre-game half? And on decidedly more mundane and practical matters, where should I park the car?
JV: No idea where is best to drink for away fans, sorry! As for the stadium, it’s fantastic for what Rotherham need. State of the art, yet produces a fantastic atmosphere with its steeping terraces ensuring the fans are on top of the action.
DM: What are the chances of seeing a Chuckle Brother on Saturday? (Please say 'high')
JV: High……ly unlikely. They are currently in Panto at Darlington, so will probably be midway through a Matinee performance of the Chuckles of Oz by the time we kick-off.
DM: Panto at Darlington…blimey. And finally, looking into your crystal ball, what do you foresee on Saturday? Realistically, it's got a draw written all over it but apart from a second half performance at Wolves, our away form has not been great - we got a right tonking at Huddersfield recently and even managed to lose at Birmingham, who hadn't chalked up a home win since Bruno Brookes did the Top 40 countdown on a Sunday night and a generation hovered expectantly over the 'play' and 'record' button simultaneously (young guns, ask the 'rents).
JV: It’s impossible to predict a Rotherham score. Notoriously, and even twice this season, these are the sorts of games that Rotherham are up for and do well in, see Blackburn and Leeds. But they haven’t won in eight games, they are a youngish team and the pace of your side could annihilate a particularly slow central defensive pairing. However, you could be right with a draw, Rotherham don’t score many so let’s go for 1-1.
DM: That’s what I was going to say. Although the stage is set for a screamer of a Derbyshire goal in the last minute of the game. Cue cupped ears towards the away fans, followed by numerous missiles. If it goes against us and you see a father and son weeping uncontrollably, that'll be the old man and me. All the best.
Jonathan runs the magnificent www.itsmillerstime.co.uk and also wrote, ‘Reliving The Dream’ – a hugely entertaining account of the Millers’ promotion season. You can purchase it from the website above. If you have a friend or relative who is a Millers fan, I suggest you buy it for them for Christmas. They’ll love it. He’s on the twitter too: @jonathandveal83