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READ | The Class of 2021/22 – and why they will go down in Rotherham United history

10 May 2022

The Rotherham United rollercoaster rattles on.

We all know that following the Millers can be turbulent at times, although the last 10 years of our history – which coincides with when our Chairman Tony Stewart took control of the club - has been ladened with success.

For youngsters who have grown up watching their side play their football in the plush surroundings of what was a brand new ground in AESSEAL New York Stadium back in 2012, they have only really known the exhilarating highs of the club’s rise from Sky Bet League Two to the second tier. Championship survival and promotions back there at the first time of asking.

There have undoubtedly been some brilliant times in the last decade and of course, we hope we can make plenty more memories over the course of the next 10 years, too.

Supporters from older generations will fondly regale stories of the Ronnie Moore teams, whilst the side of the early 80s has always been regarded as one of the greatest in the club’s history. That’s before you start talking about the League Cup finalists of the 1960s and the band of Merry Millers who were just goal difference away from a place in the top flight, around 10 years before them.

So where do the current crop rank? We understand that a lot of how a team is perceived is subjective. Nostalgia often means that we find a greater appreciation for teams gone by as the years roll on. Football is an emotive game and sometimes our perspective can be skewed with a defeat here or a bad performance there. 

However, the Class of 2021/22 – led by an adopted Miller in Paul Warne and a coaching staff who were all born at the very least within the confines of South Yorkshire – deserve to be recognised now.

 

Not only are they another group to be crowned as promotion-winners in the club’s history, but they’ve broken all sorts of records along the way.

Let’s take a look at just some of what the Millers of the modern era, have achieved…

 

A double trophy-haul for the club…

It is fair to say that before a ball was kicked in 2021/22, the main target was promotion and an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.

The Millers’ league status meant that they would be involved in the Papa Johns Trophy, as well as coming into the Emirates FA Cup in the First Round.

This meant for a packed fixture schedule from Day One and a big ask of a small, but competitive first team squad.

However, once Paul Warne’s men got into the habit of winning, they refused to give it up.

Alongside their excellent early season league form, they cruised through the group stages of the Papa Johns Trophy, whilst also overcoming tricky assignments against Bromley and Stockport County in the Emirates FA Cup.

QPR would eventually end the FA Cup journey, but the wins continued to come in the Papa Johns. Port Vale, Cambridge United and Hartlepool United were all toppled in the competition to set up a date in the showpiece Wembley final against Sutton United which the Millers triumphed in on Sunday 3rd April 2022.

With injuries beginning to accumulate within the squad, it looked as though the club’s cup exploits may have impacted their league form, but after a couple of disappointing results, Warne rallied the troops once more, to finish the season with impressive performance against the likes of Ipswich Town, Oxford United, Sunderland and a final day victory over Gillingham, to seal promotion.

The Millers played a staggering 58 games in total in all competitions, and despite their all-action, high octane style, managed to sustain their physical output throughout the campaign to land two trophies, making it one of the club’s most successful seasons ever.

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A day which will never be forgotten at Wembley added further shine to the Millers' achievements this season

 

 

A record-breaking 21-game unbeaten run across all competitions…

Paul Warne had been no stranger to a good streak of results in charge of the Millers, having steered his team of 2017/18 to a 13-match run without defeat before they eventually went on to get promoted to the Championship via the Play-offs at Wembley.

This year’s group however, obliterated their manager’s previous effort, surpassing it by a further eight games as they went without tasting defeat from September 2021 until Boxing Day.

As if winning most weeks wasn’t enough, the Millers fans were treated to their team dismantling Sunderland with a thumping 5-1 win and hitting Manchester City’s U21s for five in the Papa Johns Trophy – which made up just two of an excellent run of results.

In that time, they also successfully navigated their way through the FA Cup First Round.

 

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21-games without defeat - Dan Barlaser is mobbed in the final winning-game of the sequence at Cambridge United

 

 

The clean sheet record on the road…

Millers fans who have been able to follow their side around the country, have been treated to witnessing the club’s best ever defensive record on the road.

The meanest Millers’ defence away from home had previously come in 1988/89 – a season in which the team of the era finished as Champions – when Billy McEwan’s men conceded just 17 on the road.

The Class of 2021/22 though, were much, much meaner than that, conceding just 11 league goals away from home throughout the campaign. In fact, that record stood at just five before they travelled to Portsmouth on 12th April 2022.

To add further gloss to an already-impressive statistic, Warne’s men had not conceded a first half league goal on the road until Clark Robertson’s 35th minute header at Fratton Park, which came in that meeting with Portsmouth in April.

 

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Blessed with two great goalkeepers and an incredibly mean defence, the Millers have been outstanding in the clean sheet department this season

 

 

Overall clean sheet tally…

Even fans who haven’t been able to hit the road with any regularity in 2021/22 have seen more than their fair share of resilience.

The club also set a record best all time record across all competitions, recording 27 throughout the season, bettering the 26 set by the famous 1980/81 side - who, for clarity, didn't have the Football League Trophy to compete in.

 

Second highest points total…

The 2021/22 season also saw the modern-day Millers hit the club’s second highest ever points total in the league – since the introduction of three points for a win – which sees them join the 2000/01 team in the history books.

Ronnie Moore’s promotion-winning side at the turn of the Millennium managed 91 points, ironically including Paul Warne, Richie Barker and Rob Scott, all of whom have been a part of the current success.

Warne’s 2021/22 side managed 90.

Both sides recorded these totals in the third tier of English football and finished as runners-up in their respective years to earn promotion to the Championship.

 

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90 points. A tally that points them second in the club's history books for a league season since three points for a win was introduced

 

 

Second lowest goals conceded…

We’ve already talked clean sheets, but how do they contribute to the overall tally of goals conceded in 2021/22?

Well, as you’d imagine, it correlates pretty kindly.

The Millers conceded just 33 league goals this season, meaning they are second only in that department to the 1980/81 side who bettered their record by one, letting in just 32.

Any side containing the legendary John Breckin at left back was always going to be tough to beat though, wasn’t it?

 

Three players in Sky Bet League One Team of the Season and a nomination for the Sky Bet League One Player of the Season...

The recent EFL Awards saw three Millers players celebrated for their achievements in 2021/22 as Michael Ihiekwe, Dan Barlaser and Michael Smith were all voted to be included in the Sky Bet League One Team of the Season by an independent panel of judges.

For context, no other side in the division had three players named in the team. 

Meanwhile, Smith was nominated in a three-man shortlist for the Sky Bet League One Player of the Season, being edged out by MK Dons' Scott Twine for the award.

 

The intangibles…

Okay, so we can’t call these ‘official’ records, but there has been loads more to proudly shout about this season – even if they are a touch ‘intangible’ in terms of comparing them with previous seasons.

Despite an influx of injuries towards the back end of the season, the club’s Sports Science and Medical department have had an unbelievable year – on the whole – keeping the treatment room as quiet as it has been for many a year at Rotherham United.

Whilst not measured against other clubs throughout the season, you would imagine that the current side’s physical output is right up there with anybody in the division, such is the industrious nature of how this group operates.

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There has been so, so much to be proud of this season and with the 2021/22 Sky Bet League One season drawing to a close with just the Play-off final to be played, we thought it would be appropriate to put down in words all the amazing achievements that Paul Warne, his coaching staff and players have completed along their way to automatic promotion and an immediate return to the second tier.

 

We want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the Class of 2021/22. Some will return to parent clubs, some will part ways and we’ll see the rest in the summer, but whatever happens, this group of players and staff will quite rightly take their place in the Rotherham United history books.

Up the Millers.


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