Rotherham United: Loan players on way as Millers boss Neil Redfearn looks and learns

Neil Redfearn watches the derby. Pictures: Richard Parkes and Steve Ellis
Neil Redfearn watches the derby. Pictures: Richard Parkes and Steve Ellis

He pledged he had no favourites, he promised he’d give everyone a chance and he said he’d learn much about his players during a hectic spell of three games in six days.

Now, after what he described himself as a baptism of fire, Rotherham United manager Neil Redfearn is ready to act.

The moving 81st-minute tribue to Eric Mullins

The moving 81st-minute tribue to Eric Mullins

The 50-year-old boss starts his third week in the job today knowing that he has to strengthen the Millers squad he inherited from Steve Evans if he is to lead them away from the Championship drop zone.

He was satisfied in defeat in his first match in charge, a 2-1 loss at Brentford, and pleased with the 1-1 draw last Tuesday against promotion contenders Reading. But a 2-1 derby defeat against Sheffield Wednesday last Friday confirmed that new blood is required.

“These boys need some help. We need to look at bringing one or two in to give these lads a lift,” he said after goals from Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri had kept his side second bottom of the table.

“There is imbalance in what we have got.

Jonson Clarke-Harris up against Tom Lees

Jonson Clarke-Harris up against Tom Lees

“We stayed up last season; we just scraped it. We are down there again this season for a reason. That’s why I am here.”

Redfearn, who led Leeds United away from any relegation worries and into midtable last term despite the unstable regime of Massimo Cellino, has already met with chairman Tony Stewart and other directors.

“These boys need fresh faces and we need to rejig it and go again,” he said.

“To be fair, we have had a couple of technical board meetings already and we are on with it.

The Millers fall 2-0 behind as Fernando Forestieri scores

The Millers fall 2-0 behind as Fernando Forestieri scores

“We need to carry that threat and at the moment we don’t. We just don’t have that firepower, that poke, and it is putting pressure on us at the other end.

Redfearn, a thoroughly decent man, is nobody’s fool. He gives his men the kind of support he appreciated during his playing career of almost 1,000 matches, but isn’t afraid to vent his displeasure.

As centre-half Danny Collins spoke about the quality of his Dewsbury-born new boss last week, he said: “He’s I what I expected - a typical burly Yorkshireman. I think he’s got a good row in him at half-time if he needs it.”

Words were obviously exchanged after Friday’s defeat when two quickfire goals at the start of the second half killed any Millers’ hopes of a first home league success over their rivals from S6 in 39 years.

Tom Thorpe scores deep into time added on

Tom Thorpe scores deep into time added on

Redfearn was as calm, measured and approachable as usual, but there was a keener, harder edge to him than had been seen in the first 12 days of his reign.

“I have left them in no uncertain terms that I want to take this club in the right direction,” he said. “If you want to come with me, you come with me. They are disappointed and everyone in the heat of the battle says things.”

After a Herculean second-half effort against the Royals in midweek, the Millers, with injuries still keeping out key players, were unchanged against Carlos Carvalhal’s side. The Owls, with the advantage of a much bigger squad, were able to make six changes from the team which had drawn at QPR three days earlier.

The freshness told.

“I thought, first half, we did well enough. I thought we locked horns with them,” Redfearn said. “I didn’t think there was anything in it. We created one or two half-chances, as they did. We got ourselves halfway there, but we ran out of steam.”

Carvalhal reckons there are “10 or 12” teams in the Championship better than his own, but maybe that’s just a clever heach coach playing down expectations. The Owls were impressive in the second half when goals after just 33 seconds from Joao and Foresteiri in the 50th minute - both the product of poor home defending - left the Millers needing to do something they haven’t managed all season: score three times.

“You need three to win, and it becomes psycohological,” Redfearn added. “I was disappointed with the reaction for the 10 minutes after the goals. I was looking for a front-foot reaction, but maybe Tuesday did take a lot out of us and left us a little bit weary.”

The first-half atmosphere at a sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium was one to savour, with both sets of fans in full voice. The second half belonged to Wednesday on the pitch and in the stands, but the stadium rose as one in the 81st minute to remember Millers fan Eric Mullins who had lost his battle against cancer the week before.

Fair play to the visiting supporters. Talk of Toytown, tin sheds, pigs and sties may surround this South Yorkshire rivalry, but it stopped when it really mattered.

Defeat ruined Rotherham goalkeeper Lee Camp’s weekend, but the occasion had made an impact on him.

“Fantastic. Fantastic,” so good he said it twice. “I’ve played in some derbies throughout my career and that was up there with the best of them.

“Wednesday are a big club and they bring a big following wherever they go. There was obviously a little bit of added spice tonight. I thought the Rotherham fans turned out and were noisy and it made for a great atmosphere.

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“To concede two so quickly knocked us out of our stride. It hurts. It’s disappointing. Anyone who says you just move on straightaway ... well, you don’t.

“You’re always vulnerable when you concede. You want to consolidate for five minutes really, stay in the game. The second goal obviously gives them a great advantage. It’s always going to be uphill from there.”

Now Rotherham move on, and Redfearn’s reputation as a quality coach and a developer of young talent will do him and his club no harm as they look to enter the loan market.

Also, a week with no Tuesday-night game should see skipper Lee Frecklington, Danny Ward, Joe Mattock and Joe Newell all fit by the time the next match comes around on Saturday.

It’s gets easier now for the Millers ... promotion favourites Derby County away and then a trip to ... er, promotion favourites Middlesbrough the following Tuesday.

Redfearn, whose presence with No 2 Eric Black has given the training ground a real lift, describes improving Rotherham’s team and reviving their fortunes as “a process”, and it’s one that has only just begun.

He knows points have to be put on the board and that time is at a premium as he finds a way to do that. As keeper Camp says: “We’re in a results industry.”

But the Millers have a manager who understands the game, who is adding more organisation and fluency, and who can identify the right talent to bring in while also, crucially, making the absolute most of the players already at his disposoal.

Look how Reading struggled last year when Steve Clarke first took over last term and look at them this season. The most important thing you can give the right person is time.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, that’s obvious,” Redfearn said. “But what we need to do is keeping pecking away at it. We need to pick points up when we can. We’ll just keep persevering.

“I knew when I came in that it might be two steps forward, one back, and tonight was one back.”

The most important indicator, the league table, has yet to show it. But, in every other respect, the honest, straightforward man who has a row in him when he needs it is taking Rotherham United in the right direction.