The trauma of relegation left Rotherham United feeling like they kicked off the season with a points deduction, assistant boss Richie Barker has revealed.
The Millers dropped out of the Championship last May after a disastrous campaign as they finished well adrift at the bottom of the table.
Barker insists that, even thought they are ninth in League One this term, they were left playing catch-up by the horrors of 2016/2017.
“Without being negative, my opinion is that we didn’t start on zero points, we started on minus 10,” he said.
“I know people will say ‘what’s he on about?’. But coming off the back of a very difficult season and getting 20-odd points, we had a lot of players who were still mentally scarred from that.
“We needed to teach them how to win football matches again. I was told a stat that since 2015 Rotherham United have lost more games than any team in the country, so losing had become a habit at this football club and that doesn’t turn around in three games.”
The Millers entertain 22nd-placed Plymouth Argyle tomorrow after a rollercoaster season under manager Paul Warne and Barker.
They recovered from a slow start to climb as high as fourth, then suffered a dip and are now three places off the play-off positions following last week’s 2-1 victory at Blackpool which ended a seven-match winless league streak.
“We’re trying to win football matches again, trying to change the mentality,” Barker said. “The majority of these players played in a team that conceded almost 100 goals last season, and that wasn’t going to change overnight. We have put plenty in place that we think will change it.
“If people look at the last 17 or 18 games, they come in two different blocks - one very successful, seven wins out of nine, and one not as successsful, with one in eight.
“If we’d have gone along won one, drawn one, lost one and stayed in ninth, everybody said that would have been a fair season.”
Barker says the aim is to stay in touch with the play-off pack and echoed Warne’s opinion that a top-10 finish would represent significant progress as Rotherham rebuild.
“Due to the fact we spent a couple of weeks fourth and spent a couple of weeks at 17th and have now settled at ninth, ninth is probably where we should be, I think,” he said.