Rotherham United: Millers starting 11 is anyone’s guess!

Millers No 2 Paul Raynor
Millers No 2 Paul Raynor

Rotherham United are happy to play the guessing game over their Championship starting line-up with opening day just eight days away.

The Millers kick off their campaign on August 8 at home to MK Dons and the management team aren’t even giving hints to their own players about their plans.

Danny Collins

Danny Collins

“We look at different partnerships, different people in different positions working together in tandem,” said assistant boss Paul Raynor after Rotherham had impressed in a 2-1 defeat against Premier League Leicester City on Wednesday.

“I don’t think anybody could pick our first 11 for MK Dons at the minute and that’s the way we want it, We want the opposition guessing, we want players guessing, we want all of the squad thinking ‘I’ve got a chance’.

Pre-season has gone well for Rotherham as they integrate boss Steve Evans’ 11 new signings, and there could be more new faces to add to the selection mix before the Dons arrive at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

“We are hopeful we might have something before the weekend. I know The Gaffer would like to do something,” Raynor revealed. “The chairman (Tony Stewart) has been incredibly supportive already, and I am sure he will be again.

Tom Thorpe

Tom Thorpe

The Millers No 2 said the club are looking for permanent additions, adding: “There are things bubbling under the surface. As we get closer to the start of the season, there will be players who aren’t going to figure in their respective teams or free agents who are worrying about getting fixed up.

“It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty now. There might be one or two surprises out there that we might be able to get through the door, I know The Gaffer is working hard.”

The club have yet to name their new captain, after the departure of last season’s skipper, Craig Morgan, and an announcement is expected next week.

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Liam Moore (right)

Liam Moore (right)

“The Gaffer’s obviously had his thoughts,” Raynor said. “There is some real experience in the squad. There are different types of leaders in there. There are people who lead by example, good talkers, inspirational guys, and there are the quiet guys as well.

“There is a number of options. There is not just one candidate that is sticking out at the moment, We have spread it around in pre-season, just to see different qualities. It’s not just how they are in the games but also how they are in and around the club - how they use their experience, how they put things across.

One contender is 34-year-old Danny Collins, who has previous captaincy experience at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest and showed up well in central defence against the Foxes with Tom Thorpe, 22.

“I was particularly impressed with Tom,” Raynor said. “I thought he put in an assured performance and was good in possession. I thought his positional play in the box was excellent. He snuffed out a couple of dangerous moments.

“Danny shows his experience in every game, so that looks a good combination. There may be a better one out there for us on August 8. We will wait and see.

“It’s all about getting the right team together for opening day. “There are good combinations all over the pitch, so it’s taking shape and looking very positive.”

Left-back Joe Mattock is said to be progressing well after picking up an ankle injury on the club’s tour of Scotland, and right-back Lewis Buxton is back this week after a calf problem.

“Competition for places is going to be fierce,” Raynor added. “We are absolutely delighted with the quality we have got in the door at the minute, and hopefully we could add a couple to that.”

Forward Chris Maguire made a 45-minute debut against Leicester, just two days after meeting up with his new teammates, and the player who has been working out by himself after leaving Sheffield Wednesday will now undergo an intensive bout of training.

“Chris will be sore, I’m sure. He has been doing a lot of work on his own and he has been running in the park,” Raynor said. “But facing Leicester was totally different to running in the park, I don’t think there is Jeffrey Schlupp running away from you in the park like that!

“Chris will benefit from the 45 minutes, but we will get some work into him. He is a little bit rusty, but I think in that 45 minutes he showed everybody what a class act he is, He will be a real plus for us and he will get better and better. We will work hard in the next 10 days to get him as fit as possible.

Teenage loan centre-half Farrend Rawson should arrive at New York Stadium in the next few days after having treatment for an injury at parent club Derby County, while the Millers are hoping the ankle knock striker Danny Ward sustained early on against Claudio Ranieri’s side is nothing serious.