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03/04: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 17/04/04, 3.00pm
Rotherham United
Local bluntness
By Matt Rowson

Rotherham United will have a new look about them next season because they will be wearing a different shirt from the current one

Though far from the most successful Yorkshire club, or even the Yorkshire club that we've faced most regularly over recent seasons, Rotherham are surely the club that stand for this county more than any other. Leeds are big time charlies cum financial supernova; Sheffield United are Colin's lot; Bradford always beat us at their place despite being rubbish; Barnsley have psychotic stewards; Wednesday are on a slow train to hell. Rotherham are Yorkshire. Gritty, no-bullshit, call-a-spade-a-spade, wheel-out-every-stereotype Yorkshire. Which is no bad thing, really.

The matter-of-fact statement above is the headline on the club's official site linking to a story which, well, you'll have figured out by now. Even the identikit Premium TV official cloak cannot totally mask the local bluntness... compare and contrast this headline to how the equivalent news item might be presented on Watford's site. "Your chance exclusive brand new be the first very exciting, etc, etc". No window dressing here. Not necessary.

The shirt itself is causing a bit of a stir though, as it happens. No white sleeves, you see, just standard red top with big white collar which is going down about as well as you'd expect, despite the outcome ostensibly being the result of a supporters' poll. A poll from the John Gurney school, perhaps.

That next season's kit is the chief topic of debate on Millers messageboards does suggest that the shadow of relegation has lifted slightly from Millmoor. Like ourselves, Rotherham aren't out of it yet, but on the back of a strong if unrewarded performance against Ipswich and an impressive win at Stoke City over the weekend our hosts will fancy their chances of beating the drop.

Former Watford target Mike Pollitt will be in goal for the Millers, with cover provided by ex-Coventry reserve Gary Montgomery who stood in for the suspended Pollitt at Vicarage Road earlier in the season.

Another, more recent Watford target, Robbie Stockdale, on loan from Middlesbrough, will play right back in the absence of Rob Scott, out for the season following a cruciate ligament operation. Former West Ham, Chelsea and Benfica (woooo) full back Scott Minto will be on the left - Minto is good going forward but his positioning is suspect defensively. When playing at Benfica, incidentally, Minto had his full name spread across his shoulders in the Portuguese monicker stylee... "Joćo Pinto", "Sa Pinto", "Scott Minto". Tee hee. The experienced Paul Hurst(o) is likely to be on the bench.

In the centre, Chris Swailes is the main man, player-of-the-year elect and brutally effective in the air in either penalty box. With Martin McIntosh also out with cruciate ligament trouble, on-loan Phil Gilchrist has been filling in on the left side. His loan from the Hawthorns was due to expire after Monday's game, nobody seems terribly sure whether Ronnie Moore was successful in extending his stay. Should Gilchrist go back his place is likely to go to season's find Shaun Barker, without whom the central defence is a bit vulnerable to pace in any case. The versatile mullet-sporting defender can also fill in at right-back, and did a very effective shielding job in front of the back-four at Stoke. Guy Branston is missing however, on loan at Peterborough.

Another option for the defensive midfield role would be Frenchman Julien Baudet, who seems to have picked up local nuances if his unequivocal Q&A on the official site is anything to go by: "Nickname - Hammer, because I am said to be able to kick the ball hard..."

Barker's shielding role has permitted more freedom to Rotherham's latest recruit, the lovable Jody Morris, who has signed until the end of the season. His effectiveness has increased with every performance, and he had a very tidy game at the Britannia Stadium on Monday. The energetic John Mullin moved from a central position to the left flank to accommodate Barker; another option here would be the talented but erratic Andy Monkhouse.

Chris Sedgwick is a key attacking weapon on the right flank, and was missed during a recent injury absence. His return has seen Paul Warne drop to the bench.

Rotherham's attack is surprisingly lightweight... Martin Butler was recruited from Reading in the wake of Alan Lee's sale to Cardiff, whilst Michael Proctor arrived from Sunderland in a straight swap deal which saw Darren Byfield heading the other way. On the bench, Richard Barker certainly has physical presence, but very little in the way of mobility. Teenage striker Will Hoskins has also turned some heads this season, but he's only made one appearance off the bench since early January.

Fifty points appears to have been missold as a target for safety, but fifty-three would surely see either side home come Saturday evening. There are sides that you'd wish relegation on above the Millers - our adversaries from last Monday, off the top of my head - but if it's down to them or us, let's face it, it's them.

Which is as uncomplicated as I can make it.