Everyone at Rotherham United has been deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our former player and manager Billy McEwan, aged 70.
Billy was the last Rotherham United manager to win a title, the club finishing as Division Four champions in 1988/89, his first full season in charge.
Previously a player at the club, he was appointed in April 1988 with relegation from Division Three looking almost certain with only three games left.
He inspired victories in his first two matches and would have almost certainly prevented the drop but for the fact the final game was against the runaway champions Sunderland who beat them.
As it turned out, it wasn’t such a bad thing. Billy was able to regroup aided by a quartet of shrewd signings that close season in Billy Russell, Des Hazel, Pat Heard and a striker who was to prove the star signing, Bobby Williamson.
Picked up on a free from West Brom, Williamson was a prolific scorer, ending with 27 league goals as McEwan drove a well-coached and organised side to the Division Four title - the last time the club finished as champions and one of only three titles in its history.
The following season they played some exciting football with lots of goals and in one spell of six home matches in the Autumn racked up a total of 24 goals.
He gave regular opportunities to young players such as Martin Scott and Shaun Goodwin and among further notable signings were Shaun Goater - helped by his friendship with Sir Alex Ferguson - and Ally Pickering.
A week before Christmas in that first season up, he had the Millers lying second with a game in hand and he felt that was the right time to strengthen the squad and make a push for promotion. Unfortunately, as has been chronicled previously, he crucially did not get that backing and the team gradually slipped out of contention to finish ninth.
The following season saw the side unable to recover from a bad start and after a heavy defeat at Swansea on New Year’s Day 1991, Billy was relieved of his duties.
He joined the Millers as a player in the Summer of 1979 and was a regular in midfield but a serious back injury sidelined him for 18 months and meant he missed the whole of the 1980/81 promotion season.
He eventually returned to become a regular and the last of his 106 appearances was in March 1984.
Born in Cleland near Motherwell, he played for Hibs before subsequently playing for Blackpool, Brighton, Chesterfield, Mansfield and Peterborough from where he joined the Millers.
He had a passion for football and an intense desire in his work which he took into a coaching career which began at Sheffield United, appointed by his old Millmoor manager Ian Porterfield whom he actually succeeded as Blades manager in March 1986.
Two years later he became Rotherham boss and subsequently had many years coaching including several at Derby County where he was first team caretaker manager twice and won the Central League title as coach of Derby Reserves.
He had spells in charge at Darlington, York and Mansfield and also managed in the Caribbean with Antigua at the start of the last decade having been Technical Director of the Antigua and Barbuda FA.
Everyone at Rotherham United would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to all of Billy’s family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.
Once a Miller, Always a Miller.