Rotherham United: £100m test when Millers hit the road

Aston Villa fans on their way to relegation last season
Aston Villa fans on their way to relegation last season

Rotherham United face a £100 million challenge as they look to launch a push for the Championship top 10 under new boss Alan Stubbs.

After opening the new season a home to Wolves on August 6, the Millers travel to Aston Villa for their first away match the following Saturday.

Villa Park

Villa Park

The Midlands giants were relegated from the Premier League last season and start life in the second tier with a nine-figure windfall.

Combined TV and merit money from their top-flight campaign last year amounts to more than £66m while their first parachute payment since the drop adds another £34m to their coffers.

Nevertheless, Stubbs, who is closing in on his first signings since his June 2 appointment, can’t wait for the action to begin.

“People might look at Wolves, Villa away and then Brighton away as a tough start, but I think that it is an exciting start,” he said.

It will be Rotherham’s first league visit to Villa Park since October 1971 when they triumped 2-1 in the old English Division Three, although they lost to Villa there 3-0 in the Capital One Cup in August 2013.

“I don’t think we’ll know if it is a good time to play them until we get to that game,” Stubbs added.

“All we need to focus on is us starting the season as well as we possibly can. We are going to have to go to those grounds at some point.

“The fixtures are what they are and we are going to approach them with positivity.”

New Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo

New Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo

The ambitious 44-year-old, who led Hibernian to Scottish FA Cup glory before joining the Millers, believes he can build a squad capable of threatening the play-off places.

Villa, under new manager Roberto Di Matteo, a Champions League winner while in the Chelsea hot-seat in 2012, are one of the favourites for promotion.

Last season they received £55.5m in ‘Equal Share’ TV rights, £9.5m in facility fees for their 11 games televised life and £1.2m in merit money for their last place in the top flight.

Rotherham are well supported by chairman Tony Stewart as they prepare for their third season in the Championship but can’t hope to match the budgets of the division’s bigger clubs like Villa and Newcastle who can attract crowds in excess of 40,000 and 50,000 respectively.

The first relegated side to visit AESSEAL New York Stadium will be Rafa Benitez’s Magpies on Saturday October 1, with the Millers heading to St James’ Park on Saturday January 21.

Rotherham head back to Hillsbrough, where they triumphed 1-0 in last season’s South Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wedneday, on December 17 for their final match before Christmas, while the Owls will be make the short trip across the M1 on Tuesday April 4.

Opening day could see a return to New York for ex-Millers loan favourite Nouha Dicko in Stubbs’ first match at the helm.

The Wolves striker, who bagged six goals in six games during Rotherham’s 2013/2014 League One promotion march, missed most of last season with a knee injury but is back in training.

Meanwhile, Stubbs’ side have been drawn at home to League Two Morecambe in the first round of the EFL Cup. The tie is likely to take place on Tuesday August 9.

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