Rotherham United Season Preview

rotherhamThe Football Lab interviewed Rotherham United correspondent Russ Vernon, who shares his views ahead of the new season. You can follow Russ on Twitter @_sportscoverage

Last season was a difficult one for Rotherham United. Could it be argued that the club stayed up due to the inadequacies of Blackpool, Wigan and Millwall, rather than on its’ own merit?

I think Rotherham stayed up due to the performances they put in against Norwich and Reading in their final 2 home games of the season, despite the inadequacies of Blackpool, Wigan and Millwall.

Manager Steve Evans used a total of 43 players over the course of last season. Do you think he will aim to keep a more consistent line-up during this campaign?

I think during pre-season he’s been trying to find his best and consistent line-up for the 2015-16 campaign and I think Evans will play what he thinks is his best XI against Leicester on Wednesday (29th July) and FSV Mainz on Saturday (1st August), to give them a tough test and see if the are capable of playing every week.

Rotherham have appointed Eric Black as the club’s new first team coach. Do you think this is a good move, given Black’s experience of coaching in the Premier League with Birmingham, Sunderland and Blackburn?

I think Black’s appointment will be a top appointment for Rotherham with his PL experience, and having seen the performances so far in pre-season his experience is helping the players.

Your defensive record last season improved when keeper Adam Collin was dropped in favour of Emiliano Martinez, who joined on loan from Arsenal. With Martinez having left, what do you make of your current goalkeeping options?

With the signing of Kelle Roos from Derby and already having Adam Collin at the club I think the options are quite good, Roos is a great player and his performances are beginning to show this in pre-season.

Rotherham loaned in 6 full-backs over the course of last season, and you have signed 4 more this summer: Greg Halford, Lewis Buxton, Aidan White and Joe Mattock. Do you think Evans should have gone for quality, rather than quantity, in these areas?

I think Evans has gone for these players because they know the Championship and he feels there needs to be strength in depth in those areas, without loaning any full-backs into the squad this term.

With key man Craig Morgan leaving, Rotherham have signed centre-backs Tom Thorpe and Danny Collins. Thorpe was highly rated at Manchester United, while Collins helped Forest to victory in 6 of the 8 games he played last seasons. Are these good additions if they can stay fit?

Having seen them in pre-season action so far I think they will be great signings to the squad. Thorpe brings a wealth of experience into the team having featured for Manchester United in the PL, and Collins knows the Championship well and can bring some experience into the back line.

Defender Kari Arnason was part of the club’s rise from League Two to the Championship. Are you saddened to see him leave for Malmo FF?

Arnason was a big player during his time at Rotherham and will be missed this season for sure. I was sad when Arnason’s departure was announced but i think we have got replacements in the squad already. Good luck Arni.

Richard Smallwood looks a solid holding midfielder, with his aggression, determination and willingness to break up opposition attacks. Are you pleased he is staying on?

Smallwood was a great player for Rotherham last season so I am delighted he’s staying on at the ASSEAL New York Stadium and he will only get better.

Grant Ward joins on loan from Tottenham until January. Do you think he will add energy to the midfield?

Ward has been a great player in pre-season so I’m happy to have signed him on loan he certainly does bring energy to the midfield and will continue to develop his game.

Ben Pringle was highly rated in League One, but does not seem to have cut it at Championship level. Would you say he is a player the club can cope without?

I think Ben played well in League One but didn’t manage to cut it in the Championship which I was a bit disappointed about, but at the end of the day each player has got his league where he performs the best and Ben’s was L1.

Lee Frecklington’s performances seemed to improve in the final few weeks of last season. Do you think this year, we will see more of the Frecklington that helped Rotherham to promotion from League One?

Frecks was poor tbh at the start of last season but picked up towards the end of last season hopefully he can kick on from where he left off and start really well this term.

Rotherham lacked creativity last season. To what extent do you think the signing of Emmanuel Ledesma will solve that problem?

I think if Ledesma and White can provide the services for the strikers this season then Rotherham will create more chances they need to get the balls out wide a bit more for me and create the chances for the strikers which they didn’t do a lot of last season.

Each of Matt Derbyshire’s 9 league goals last season came after Alex Revell’s January departure to Cardiff. Do you think Derbyshire benefited from being the focal point of Rotherham’s attack?

I do think he benefited from being the focal point but I think he played better when he had a partner alongside him like Bowery, Clarke-Harris, Danny Ward etc but if he can continue his goal scoring form then who knows what will happen.

Where will you finish?

I think Rotherham will finish around about midtable this campaign and I’ll say 15th for Steve Evans’ men.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Rotherham will go down. The absence of a decent goalkeeper, injury prone defenders, the departure of Craig Morgan, tactical inconsistency and a lack of attacking quality will culminate in a relegation season. 23rd