Sorry, Steve, I fear Miller time is over

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - Adam Virgo

ALEX Fer­gu­son al­ways said that win­ning a ti­tle was the easy bit. Go­ing again and de­fend­ing it was the tough part. The el­e­ment of sur­prise is gone. Ev­ery­one takes you that bit more se­ri­ously. And the mo­ti­va­tion to put ev­ery­thing on the line maybe just dips a touch.

He was talk­ing about win­ning the Premier League, but many of the same prob­lems face clubs who win pro­mo­tion.

Adren­a­line

You come up on the crest of a wave, fight tooth and nail to stay up. Then the adren­a­line wears off. Pro­moted clubs al­ways seem to suf­fer from sec­ond sea­son syn­drome – and for Rother­ham that spells bad news.

The Millers stayed up by the skin of their teeth last year and, hav­ing watched them lose 2-1 at Brighton this week, I’m not op­ti­mistic of a re­peat.

They didn’t keep the ball well enough. They don’t carry a threat. They’ve lost their most dan­ger­ous player in Ben Pringle, who was cher­ryp­icked by Ful­ham in the sum­mer.

And even at this early stage in the sea­son, they seem to be go­ing away from home and putting ev­ery­body be­hind the ball, just try­ing to stay in games.

Mak­ing things un­tidy, get­ting phys­i­cal and go­ing for the smash and grab is fine ev­ery now and then, but you’ll get found out over 46 matches.

I also worry what kind of im­pact Steve Evans’ de­ci­sion to strip Greg Hal­ford of the cap­taincy will have on morale.

Evans brought him in. Evans made him cap­tain. Then seven games later he says, ‘Sorry, I’m hand­ing it to Lee Freck­ling­ton’. What kind of mes­sage does that send out?

If Hal­ford had gone out and got drunk, beaten some­body up or got ar­rested, fair play. But as a way of rec­ti­fy­ing the re­sults, it just makes the man­ager look like he’s clutch­ing at straws.

Rother­ham gave it a go, but they never looked con­fi­dent at the Amex. They haven’t won all sea­son. They’ve got the joint-worst de­fen­sive record in the Cham­pi­onship.

They con­ceded four against QPR, four against MK Dons on the first day of the sea­son. Three against Ful­ham. That af­fects the de­fence and against Brighton it was amaz­ing how many times the play­ers just switched off.

Danny Collins was a prime ex­am­ple. He’s a very com­pe­tent de­fender but it’s clear his con­fi­dence has been bat­tered.

But the big­gest thing for me is the op­po­si­tion. When you look around the Cham­pi­onship, who is bad enough to save them?

Strug­gle

There’s no cri­sis club like Black­pool. No fallen gi­ant like Wi­gan, strug­gling to shift play­ers on Premier League wages.

Given that Rother­ham haven’t im­proved – and Evans was say­ing af­ter the match that the funds won’t be there to in­vest in qual­ity this sea­son – I just don’t see how they can fin­ish above three other teams.

In short, then, they’ve lost their best player, they strug­gle to score, they con­cede bad goals and con­fi­dence is shot. I can only see it end­ing one way.

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

MILLER LITE: It was a mis­er­able night for Steve Evans af­ter Tomer Hemed, inset, nets Brighton’s first in their 2-1 mid­week win against Rother­ham

ROOKIE: Dar­ren Kelly

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