Chairman Tony Stewart talks to www.themillers.co.uk...
Rotherham United Chairman Tony Stewart says the latest Championship season highlighted many positives from which the club can build on going into next season.
The Millers took their battle for survival until the penultimate fixture, and despite seeing their tenure in the second tier come to an end, Paul Warne’s side received many plaudits in their fight against the odds.
Warne will be leading the Millers in League One next season, but despite dropping down a league, the Chairman saw enough over the past 10 months to suggest the club is still moving forward on a number of fronts, ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
Mr Stewart told www.themillers.co.uk: “Having suffered a difficult season when we were relegated from the Championship the last time, it was so fulfilling to see the team very quickly get back on track. There was a lot of shared optimism about getting back into The Championship, and despite an early shock at Brentford, I thought we attacked a tough division in the right manner, and won plenty of admirers on the way.
“We saw huge development in a number of players, which was recognised with international call ups for the likes of Semi Ajayi, Kyle Vassell, Marek Rodak and Will Vaulks. Some of these players were playing at the level for the first time, others were returning as much improved players, and Paul Warne and his staff must take a lot of credit for this. We also saw the emergence of our own home-grown players. Ben Wiles showed his potential with some impressive performances, whilst Jerry Yates also played his part too.
“There have been so many positives to take from the experience. I feel, despite relegation, the club has moved forward both on and off the field.”
After being favourites with the bookmakers to fall well short of the safety line, the Millers gave a strong account of themselves with some notable victories in the early months of the campaign.
The fighting spirit from his players was noted by many an opposition manager following some epic battles against some of the Championship’s elite clubs.
The Chairman recounts victory over Derby, who have gone on to achieve a place in the Play-off final, as one of the highlights, and whilst he acknowledged the end outcome to the season might have been different, he is only looking towards the future as preparations continue for the 2019/20 season.
He added: “We have been entertained, especially at home. We have shown that we can compete with all the teams in this highly-competitive division. The victory here over Derby was a real highlight, and there were other fantastic performances. I don't think the players and staff could have given any more, they are a credit to the club, and despite the season ending in relegation it feels like we have achieved so much by the way we have gone about our business.
“Of course when you look back, there are always things you think you could do better. We really wanted to add more players in January. It didn't happen, it certainly wasn't down to lack of effort, but it is something that we won't let happen again.
“Overall, it was a very entertaining season. I've heard that echoed by supporters. In fact, at the awards night, it didn't feel at all like a relegation. It felt like an upbeat atmosphere because I think we could all see how far we had come since our last season at the level.
“Obviously, I am disappointed we went down, but I think we can all see, under Paul Warne, the club is still progressing.
“Maybe we could have had some more luck on the way? I am not one to dwell, but perhaps we could have had a few more decisions go our way at crucial times? There were a couple of games when we conceded in time added on when it was felt the whistle should have blown. Let us not forget we also drew against Bolton when the player who scored for them, it can be strongly argued morally should not have been playing. I can say, we did approach the EFL about that particular issue. I think people need to be made aware we did ask the question.
“That said, it has gone now and I am only interested in the future. I am looking forward to next season, with a manager, staff and group of players who I know will leave no stone unturned in their quest for success. The journey continues.”