A definitive history of Rotherham United
The Early Years
When the Football League was resumed in 1919, Rotherham County applied successfully to join for the first time while Rotherham Town's application was turned down but they were allowed back into the Midland League. The first league game took place at Millmoor and County beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 but it proved to be a season of struggle and they finished in 17th position out of 22. When it was decided to introduce Division Three, Town were hopeful of becoming Rotherham's second League club but they received just 13 votes, not enough to gain admittance. Rumours had already been spreading that the two clubs might amalgamate and when County were relegated in 1923, the move looked more likely.
With Town's outlook becoming more and more bleak with ever-mounting financial problems, a resolution was passed in March 1925 that Town would be wound up and a new club to be named Rotherham United was officially born on May 27, 1925. The new club was officially given League status but the first season wasn't a particularly good one and they finished 14th. That was to be the pattern over the next few years as the lack of finances proved to be an ongoing problem and in an attempt to give a boost, greyhound racing was introduced in May 1931. But that was brought to an end a year later by the Football League and the next decade saw little improvement on the playing front with sixth in season 1937-38 being the best they achieved.
Football continued during the Second World War when teams had to introduce guest players but the last of those years brought some much awaited success for Rotherham as they won the Third Division Cup and the Division Three (East) league trophy. That set the scene for greatly improved fortunes and when normal playing resumed, United finished in the runner-up position for three successive season from 1946-47. In that first season Wally Ardron scored 38 league goals in 40 appearances and the attendances were regularly in five figures. After three narrow failures in their efforts to gain promotion with only one team going up to Division Two, Rotherham slipped down to sixth in 1949-50 but the following season they clinched the championship in superb style hitting 103 goals in 46 games.
That took them into a higher status and they quickly showed they were capable of coping with some outstanding performances including wins against Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, West Ham United and Southampton. They finished in ninth position but in 1953-54 they did even better as they moved up to fifth. Along the way, the team produced some outstanding results with none better than the 3-1 win at Newcastle United in the FA Cup third round in January 1953. The Magpies had won the cup in the previous two seasons and they were optimistic of making it a hat-trick - but Rotherham shattered those dreams.
However, the best was yet to come and in 1954-55 they missed promotion to Division One - the current Premiership - by the narrowest of margins. They finished level on points with champions Birmingham City and Luton Town who both went up but they missed out on goal average. That was to be Rotherham's pinnacle and the next few seasons saw them struggle to make a similar impact.
In 1959-60 they were involved in some epic FA Cup battles with mighty Arsenal. The teams drew at Millmoor in a third round tie and against the odds they drew in the replay at Highbury in front of a crowd of 57,598, the highest ever for a Rotherham game. The Millers won the toss to stage the second replay, which was staged at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground, where they pulled off a memorable 2-0 win.
More success was to follow when Rotherham reached the first ever League Cup final but the two-legged final against Aston Villa was held over from the end of the1960-61 season to the beginning of the next campaign when they were beaten 3-2 on aggregate after extra time. Rotherham were involved in another titanic cup game against the mighty Manchester United in 1965-66 when they drew 0-0 at Old Trafford only to suffer an agonising 1-0 win defeat in the replay at Millmoor. But in 1967-68 matters on the pitch worsened and they were facing the prospect of relegation when the famous Tommy Docherty was brought in as manager. He made a promise to get United out of Division Two and he was true to his word - although it was the wrong way, with relegation coming at the end of the season.
Matters got even worse when another relegation followed in 1972-73 with the team going down to the basement division. But two seasons later with Jim McGuigan now in charge, promotion was achieved and in 1976-77, the team came within a whisker of going up to Division Two, missing out on goal average again. Several seasons of mediocrity followed and off the field there were major upheavals when Anton Johnson took over the club from the Purshouse family.
The new chairman brought lan Porterfield in as manager and he guided the team away from the relegation area in 1979-80. The following season he brought in several newcomers and his signings reaped rich dividends as the team went on the win the Division Three title with an unbeaten home record which saw a mere eight goals conceded in 23 games at Millmoor. Unfortunately Porterfield was lured away to take charge of Sheffield United during the summer, with former England international Emlyn Hughes taking over at Millmoor.
In his first season his team was struggling at the wrong end of the table before he guided them to a remarkable sequence of nine successive victories to shoot up the table and raise hopes of promotion. But they fell away again and finished in seventh spot before more dismal results the following season led to Hughes' dismissal with new boss George Kerr being unable to prevent relegation.
Behind the scenes the club was now in great turmoil with huge debts threatening to bring an end to the club's existence after some shady dealings and, after the departure of Johnson, the club changed hands a couple of times before it was placed in the hands of the Administrator. Only the intervention of chairman Ken Booth saved the club from folding but since May 1987, he has been faced with ever-increasing financial problems and has regularly had to keep the club going.
Rotherham dropped into Division Four again at the end of the 1987-88 season but manager Billy McEwan guided them back as champions at the first time of asking. But yet again the higher status couldn't be maintained and it was back down again in May 1991 with McEwan joining the list of sacked managers during the season. Assistant Phil Henson took over and he achieved immediate success with second place being good enough to take his team from Division Four straight into the newly formed Division Two. However, Henson's reign came to an end just into the 1994-95 season when he was replaced by Archie Gemmill and John McGovern but they were unable to bring league success to the club.
But they did take the Millers to Wembley for the one and only time in the club's history when they won the Auto Windscreens Shield in April 1996 by beating Shrewsbury Town. The duo joined the long list of sacked managers early into the 1996-97 season and Danny Bergara who wasn't able to prevent United's worst ever season and the inevitable relegation replaced them.
Return of the King
Former goalscoring heroin the successful 1980-81 season, Ronnie Moore, took over in May 1997 amid a blaze of publicity. He only had a handful of players under contract but gradually rebuilt the team and in his first season the new manager guided his squad to ninth position, just outside the play-offs, which were achieved the following season. But they were beaten in a penalty shoot-out by Leyton Orient.
That was to herald a remarkable climb up the Football League ladder and two successive promotions saw the team in Division One at the end of the 2000/01 season. They were clear favourites to make a speedy return to Division Two but they yet again defied the odds by surviving even thought it was by the narrowest of margins, goal difference. The seemingly never ending progress continued once more and after flirting with the possibility of reaching the play-offs in 2002/03, they finished in a creditable 15th position, the lowest they had occupied all season.
The 2003-04 season saw the Millers sell their prolific striker Alan Lee to Cardiff City and they clearly struggled without the Irish international's goals, finishing a disappointing 17th. The season was one of inconsistency with the Millers always looking over their shoulders at the bottom end of the table, but they gained enough points to ensure safety in the penultimate game thanks to a fine 3-0 home win against Burnley that helped them to finish 3 points and five places clear of the drop. The highlights of the season were a 1-1 draw with Arsenal in the League Cup - with the Gunners winning 9-8 in the a penalty shootout and the first win of the season which came in the 3rd game when one goal was enough to send West Ham United packing. The result was overshadowed with the news that the visitors were so dissatisfied by the facilities at Millmoor that they chose to get changed in a nearby hotel.
The 2004-05 season was worse still, and finally Rotherham were relegated. Ronnie Moore resigned during the relegation campaign with Mick Harford taking over, which saw Rotherham at the foot of the division for almost the whole season with just 5 wins from 46 league games. What's more, once they slipped into the bottom place after just five games, they remained there until the end.
Off the field activities took the attention more than anything on it with takeover talks concerning a newly formed group called 'Millers 05' who were interested in taking over from owner Ken Booth. This change of ownership was confirmed on 1st Jan 2005, the £3m deficit was wrote off and the club was loaned £600,000 so they could get through the final 3 months of the season.
Relegation was confirmed with three games left to play and at the end of the season the team was 21 points adrift of safety.
The 2005/06 campaign kicked off with renewed hope for the future, but once again these hopes were to disappear in yet another campaign of struggle of both on and off the field. Mick Harford was sacked after a run of 17 games without a win, to be replaced by Alan Knill who won his first game in charge - the teams first victory in 18 games. Even with a new manager in charge, the Millers hovered above the relegation zone throughout the majority of the season. It went down to the final game of the season against MK Dons and was a winner-take-all relegation showdown. A scoreless draw, combined with a Hartlepool United draw with Port Vale, kept Rotherham up and consigned both MK Dons and Hartlepool to the drop.
Trouble off the field and points deductions
Early in 2006 it was announced that the club faced an uncertain future unless a funding gap in the region of £140,000 per month could be plugged. The problem was compounded as Rotherham had already sold their ground to Ken Booth in return for clearing £3m of debt and had no tangible assets, so administration was not a viable option. This led to the launch of a "Save The Millers" campaign, aiming to raise the £1m needed to complete the season. It was also estimated that another £1m was required to complete work on the new stand. South Yorkshire neighbours Sheffield United offered their support by paying the wages of Stephen Quinn and Jonathan Forte during their loan spells at Millmoor, and also donated profits from the beam-back of the Sheffield derby. Many local clubs also held collections.
An eleventh hour intervention by local businessman Dennis Coleman and Dino Maccio injected new investment along with a new business plan into the club and averted a possible dissolution of the club However, even with the new takeover, the new board didn't have enough financial backing to prevent the club from entering a Company Voluntary Arrangement - a form of administration, for which the club was docked 10 points at the start of the following season.
Rotherham United began their second successive year in League One with a 10-point deficit as a result of the CVA which saved the club from liquidation. At one point during the close season, the team had only seven full-time professionals on the books but Knill made a number of signings during this period to bolster the squad. It took the Millers until mid-October (14 games) to get off the bottom of the table. However, a run of 18 league games without a win towards the end of the season saw the dismissal of Alan Knill. Mark Robins replaced him, however, the ten points deficit proved too much to overcome and relegation to League 2 was confirmed with 3 games remaining.
The Millers spent the majority of the 2007-08 season in the automatic promotion places, winning eight consecutive league matches towards the end of the year. However, in mid-March 2008 it was revealed that Rotherham had again entered administration and would be deducted 10 points. This was a accompanied by a drop in form and Rotherham finished ninth in the league. Towards the end of the season, it was revealed that local businessman Tony Stewart was to take over as Chairman and Club Owner, but was advised not to exit administration via a CVA, meaning an additional points deduction for the following season.
A new Chairman, and farewell to Millmoor
On 6 August, just three days before the start of the season, the Football League threatened to block Rotherham (as well as Bournemouth) from participating in League Two for the 2008-09 season, because the club had not yet exited administration or completed the process of transferring ownership. The Football League ruled that accepting the 17-point deduction would be a condition the team must obey to be eligible to play, which was accepted.
In addition, Rotherham United were forced to leave Millmoor, their home of over 100 years, after disputes with the landlords. Being further into debt, Rotherham also sold their training ground at Hooten Roberts and now train at Doncaster Rovers' Keepmoat Stadium renting out one of their pitches.
This led to further complications after the Football League demanded a £750,000 bond for the team to play outside of the Town's boundaries for a maximum of four years. The club must move back to Rotherham within this time period, or face losing their Football League share.
Under the new ownership of Tony Stewart Rotherham kicked off their first game of the 2008-09 season at the Don Valley stadium with a 1-0 win against Lincoln City.
Despite the odds, the Millers had an impressive season under the new regime, quickly wiping out the point deficit and being in contention for a play-off place until very late in the season. Rotherham were also involved in two cup runs, reaching the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Final, and the Carling cup last 16. This included some very impressive victories over higher league opposition, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton, local rivals Sheffield Wednesday, Leicester City and Leeds United.
The Millers started their second season at Don Valley with Mark Robins in charge full of optimism, capturing Adam Le Fondre from League Two rivals Rochdale. However, before the season reached Autumn, manager Mark Robins departed for neighbours Barnsley, and following a brief spell on caretaker-charge by Steve Thornber, club legend Ronnie Moore returned at the helm.
His first season saw the Millers, led by Le Fondre’s goalscoring exploits, the club fired into contention for promotion, and eventually finish in fifth position, qualifying for the end of season play-offs. Le Fondre was again on target to take his total for the season to 27, and the Millers overcame Aldershot over two legs, to book their place at Wembley for the play off final.
Sunday 30th May, and the Millers made their second appearance at Wembley (first at the ‘new’ stadium), looking for a similar result to their Auto Windscreen Cup final. However, despite two goals from hometown boy Ryan Taylor, the Millers were beaten 3-2 by Dagenham & Redbridge to condemn them to another season in League Two.
Ronnie brought Ryan Cresswell to the club as captain in the summer, looking to galvanise his troops for another assault on the top three, and again with Le Fondre leading the line, the Millers made it through August unbeaten, sitting pretty at the top of the league. However, progress slowed down through the winter, and the club had a spell of just four wins in 14 games dropping them into the play off positions, and after a 5-0 defeat to table topping Chesterfield, he left the club, allowing Andy Scott to come in as his replacement.
During the summer, land was acquired and building work began at the Guest and Chrimes site in the centre of the town, and Tony Stewart revealed plans for a brand new state of the art iconic stadium in the heart of Rotherham.
On the field, Andy Scott prepared for his first full season as Millers boss by making a number of changes. However, much like the season previous, the club topped the table at the end of August, with Scott picking up the Manager of the Month award. However, this was as good as it got for the former Brentford manager and he was dogged by inconsistency throughout the season. Le Fondre was sold to Reading, before later firing them to the Premier League, and the Millers boss was eventually dismissed. Darren Patterson, assistant manager to Scott had an unbeaten spell in caretaker charge before Crawley Town manager Steve Evans (whose side did win promotion in the same season) took the reigns at the Millers, bringing assistant Paul Raynor with him.
New York Stadium - A new era
New York Stadium opened its doors for the first time for a pre-season friendly between Rotherham United and Barnsley, which was won 2-1 by the Millers after being behind early on. Evans and Raynor showcased their newly built squad including Icelandic international Kari Arnason and Northern Ireland star Michael O’Connor amongst 10 summer signings.
Friendlies against Doncaster Rovers, Heart of Midlothian and Sheffield United followed before the first official league game at the stadium saw the Millers beat Burton Albion 3-0.
Still United - The History Of Rotherham United
Gerry Somerton (2008)