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Club News

Gaffer on a Sunday

29 July 2012

This week's Gaffer on a Sunday, Steve Evans reflected on what was a tough week for the Millers, and looked forward to the big local derby with Sheffield United on Tuesday at the New York Stadium.

Q - Last week was extremely tough with matches against Doncaster Rovers and Scottish Cup Winners, Hearts; what were your thoughts in relation to those matches?

Both matches will stand us in great stead as we get nearer the start of the season. Team selection for both was difficult in the sense that we had different players at different times of the week missing training with a virus but hopefully we have seen the last of that for now.

Against Doncaster Rovers we retained possession of the ball really well and we created enough chances to have won the match far more comfortably than we did but I was very pleased.

The match against Hearts brought a big step up in class of opposition and they start their own league season next Saturday, so in terms of sharpness I thought they were a little ahead of us at times.

I had to get some match time into Michael O' Connor and although he will benefit greatly from his 45 minutes, he looked fit but in need of minutes on the pitch. Pre- season matches are important for a number of reasons but they are never about the result although winning is always the objective.

At times in the match we looked a little tired but I did expect that after the hard week the players have put in, and the illness that has been in the camp. From now it is about getting some sharpness into the players and they will benefit hugely from that work.

Q - On Tuesday we host local rivals Sheffield United and although it is a pre - season match it is expected to be competitive for the South Yorkshire derby?

The match will hopefully be played in front of a 10,000 plus crowd and the atmosphere will be electric. Both sets of players will want to play and win so hopefully the supporters of both teams should enjoy a cracking evening, this will be a great night for all Millers.

I have the highest regard for Blades manager Danny Wilson, his players, and everyone at Sheffield United. There is no doubt this will be our toughest test of pre-season and of course the local bragging rights for the supporters of both clubs are up for grabs, I want the Millers fans to come out on top and be smiling at work for the remainder of the week.

We travel to face Hull City in the Capital One Cup in less than two weeks, so from now on the team will start to be selected on merit. Up until now it has been about ensuring all the players get the same amount of time on the pitch and all bar Lionel Ainsworth and Gareth Evans who had extra-time off with a virus then we have managed to do that but from now that strategy has gone.

I would say we have decided on around eight of the starting XI for the match at Hull City but there are still a few places up for grabs; it is up to the players to ensure they get a place in the team.

Q - Kieran Agard has signed for us, how many more players would you expect to arrive before the start of the season ?

At the very most, one. My attempts to sign young Glasgow Celtic striker Tony Watt either on loan, or on a permanent basis have at this time come to nothing. I have spoken to Neil Lennon and he has told me the lad is part of his plans and we must respect that.

Neil has been very honest and genuine with me since we first spoke earlier in the summer and I accept his decision fully.

There are other players that we are considering but we will only move for them if they are better than we have. The Chairman was prepared to spend good money on Tony Watt and before that Matt Tubbs, but they are not for sale and we respect the decisions of the clubs involved.

We have great options within the squad we have put together, and competition for a starting place in the team is fierce. We have plenty of ability and it will come down to whether we can deliver three things on a regular basis. They are effort, passion and a desire to win football matches; the ability is not in question!

Q - After the big match on Tuesday night we have matches at Stocksbridge, Mansfield Town and Stamford, what strength of teams will play?

These 3 matches are important to us. At Stocksbridge on Wednesday it will mainly be the youth team but I will add perhaps three first-team squad players who will need some match time.

At Mansfield Town next Saturday I will take the opportunity to perhaps look at a few things and I will do the same against Stamford a week on Tuesday so in all honesty it will be mixed in those two. I am looking for three or four players to step forward and grab a shirt for the match at Hull City, and subject to no injuries or illness I have already got seven or eight players pencilled in to start.

Q - Looking towards Tuesday again and Sheffield United, do you have a message for the supporters ahead of the game?

Our supporters have been awesome at the New York Stadium, the atmosphere has been fantastic and every one of them deserves a big thank you.

Almost 18,000 supporters have watched us inside a week and with a near capacity crowd on Tuesday expected it is unbelievable. Millers fans deserve a team to be proud of and by being together we can all have the success Rotherham United deserves.

On Tuesday let's win on the pitch by playing the quality of football we can, and let us win off it by out singing the Blades fans. We are proud to represent such passionate supporters, let South Yorkshire be aware on Tuesday night that Rotherham United is back home, loud and proud for sure.

I really do believe we are going to have a fantastic season, interestingly, so have all the managers we have come up against this pre-season. Let's hope Danny Wilson is thinking the same about us on Tuesday night because his team are very good so let us see if we can match a team expected to mount a challenge for promotion from League One this season, this is a vital yardstick for us all.

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