Steve Evans is a man in the know.
The Rotherham United boss knows who the next Millers captain is, although he’s not telling for now.
He knows MK Dons will be awkward opening-day opponents tomorrow.
And he knows his new-look squad have the talent to prove the bookmakers very wrong.
The Millers begin their Championship campaign at home to Karl Robinson’s Dons, with a new man leading them on to the AESSEAL New York Stadium turf after the departure of Craig Morgan, but fans won’t discover who the skipper is until a few minutes before kick-off.
“I know who my captain is going to be. Paul Raynor (No 2) and Eric Black (coach) also know, and my chairman (Tony Stewart) knows,” Evans said. “No-one else will know until five to three when the match official brings the teams out of the tunnel.”
Evans believes the newly-promoted Dons were the best footballing side in League One last season and would have chosen different opposition against whom to start the new season if he could have.
Last season, in their first match under Evans in the second tier, the Millers went to Premier League contenders Derby County and gave them an almighty scare before succumbing 1-0.
“I don’t think any manager in the Championship would pick to play against a promoted team,” Evans said.
“I can remember Steve McClaren’s words when we went to the iPro Stadium last year that if he could pick a fixture it wouldn’t be against a promoted team at home, and who am I to discount Steve McClaren who is now managing at a club like Newcastle?
“The MK Dons boys will come here with a real enthusiasm. If we win there will be no raised eyebrows and if we don’t there will be a little raised eyebrow.”
After 12 summer signings, Evans believes the Millers are ready to push for midtable and make a mockery of the bookies who have made them favourites for the drop.
“The new lads have obviously added to what we have got in terms of the old guard,” he said. “We’re in good shape and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve got better players. Our recruitment process has been fantastic. We’ve signed more experienced players for this level and players proven at the level.
“You must always respect the competition you’re in. The minute you don’t respect it, you’ll get punished, It’s a really tough league, but when we’re saying that we’re acknowledging it, we’re certainly not scared of it.
“We think we’ve improved. We had to improve. We think we’ve improved sufficiently to be okay.”
Rotherham have almost a full-strength squad to pick from, with only left-back Joe Mattock a major doubt as he recovers from an injury picked up in the pre-season tour of Scotland.
Forward Danny Ward is training again after an ankle knock, while right-back Lewis Buxton is in contention after impressing in Tuesday’s practice match at Sunderland.
On the issue of the next skipper, Evans added: “It’s never an easy decision to pick your captain because you pick them for perhaps different reasons to what a supporter would pick them for.
“You look for someone who can help integrate and manage the dressing room. It doesn’t mean being the boss. It doesn’t mean shouting and bawling. Sometimes you want a captain who can lead by example, who can bring issues to you nice and early. You want someone to come and work with you.
“Every captain I’ve had, I’ve had a wonderful relationship with and been able to sit down, have a cup of tea with them and talk openly. That’s what you like in a captain.”
The Dons sold out their initial allocation of 500 tickets and have been given more.