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03/04: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 01/11/03, 3.00pm
Rotherham United
When in Rome...
By Matt Rowson

We studied Latin at school, peculiar and implausible as that seems now. Some even studied Latin beyond the age - fourteen - to which it was compulsory, but not me. Nor Duncan Robertson, as I remember, whose lack of interest in the subject was revealed by his attempt to translate a passage in an examination phonetically resulting, I seem to recall, in a narrative that had something to do with eggs and toilet rolls flying to the moon.

I can only imagine that this effort came under the supervision of Greg Lane, a mild-mannered man (and a Watford fan, incidentally). The other gentleman to attempt to inspire us with enthusiasm in this ancient language would not have stood any such nonsense, nor would you have wanted to test his patience. Ken Booth was a large and imposing no-bullshit Yorkshireman, the very stereotype of an intimidating Grammar School master dressed invariably in a suit and flowing black gown. His temper was notorious, on occasion punctured with flying bullets of chalk or board-rubber grenades. I've long forgotten any Latin that I ever learned, but I've not forgotten Ken Booth... or the sense of resentment he provoked by forcing concentration on a subject that few had any intention of pursuing.

The chairman of Rotherham United for the past sixteen years is also named Ken Booth, but I can only assume that, Yorkshire or otherwise, this isn't the same guy - even if 1987 marks both the disappearance of one from my consciousness and the arrival of the other at Millmoor. Apart from anything else, you don't make millions as a Latin master at an Essex grammar school. More pointedly, the current rumblings and disquiet amongst the Rotherham faithful regarding the continued lack of investment in the United side would not be contemplated were their Ken Booth as formidable as the one I remember. Not worth the risk. The metal in the scrapyard adjacent to Millmoor could with a bare minimum of effort be gnarled and crushed by one of his scowls.

One can only assume that whichever Ken Booth will be having a scowl or two at the current state of the United squad... small at the best of times, but also ravaged by injury and further stymied by suspension this coming weekend.

Mike Pollitt is United's regular keeper, but is due to serve a suspension for an Alec-esque sending off at Palace a fortnight ago for handling outside the area. An appeal against the dismissal is supposedly pending, but it's difficult to be anything but sceptical about his chances. Being sent off for the same offence at Highbury on Tuesday night seems, in the circumstances, slightly surprising also... you'd have thought he'd be being careful. Assuming that the appeal is unsuccessful, Gary Montgomery should stand in... he was never terribly highly thought of at Coventry but impressed in extra time in the Arsenal game.

In defence, United have been further hit by suspension, this time to industrious centre-half Chris Swailes who was also sent off at Crystal Palace. Frenchman Julian Baudet, a summer signing from Oldham, should come in alongside Martin McIntosh, a scorer in both our meetings last season whose form hasn't been up to its usual standard so far this time. Right-back should be long-throw expert Shaun Barker; he can also play in the centre but with Rob Scott out long term with cruciate ligament damage Barker looks like staying on the right for the time being. On the left, Scott Minto is expected to recover from the thigh strain which kept him out of the Arsenal game, otherwise the diminutive Paul Hurst should continue.

The pivotal figure in the centre of midfield is Welsh international Carl Robinson, on the latest stop of a pan-England loan tour from Portsmouth. Robinson was suffering from severe cramp after the game on Tuesday, but is expected to play at the weekend. He should be partnered by the aggressive Stuart Talbot, a previous acquaintance of Paul Robinson during his Port Vale days, with set piece man John Mullin on the bench. Nick Daws would be another option, but he's been on loan at Grimsby until a failure to agree wages curtailed an extension, and looks to be on his way out.

Chris Sedgwick should play on the right; plenty of pace but not always an end product he needs to develop from the "prospect" that he's been for a while. On the left, Paul Warne's industry makes him popular but his lack of left foot doesn't do him any favours in this role. The erratic Andy Monkhouse would be an alternative, and is likely to start on the bench.

Up front, the absence of Alan Lee, sold to Cardiff earlier in the season, is being seriously felt... Lee was the outstanding player in United's win here last season. Martin Butler, whose penalty for Cambridge put us out of the League Cup a few years back, has been signed from Reading as a cut-price replacement but has missed a couple of games with a virus. Otherwise, former Macclesfield man Richie Barker can be relied on for industry whilst Darren Byfield has plenty of pace but little else. Thirty-four year-old Mark Robins is still around also, but will be a substitute at best.

Rotherham haven't won an away game since the match here in February but have drawn the last three including the tie with Arsenal's youngsters on Tuesday. With a tough November coming up, these are three points that we can't afford to spurn. Flying board rubbers or otherwise.