Rotherham United: Time for talking to start as Millers narrow down manager search

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart

After one of the most momentous weeks in the recent history of Rotherham United, here comes another.

Last week saw the departure of one of the club’s most successful ever managers as Steve Evans left his post on Monday.

This one will go a long way to deciding who the man to replace him will be.

It may be that the final decision on the next boss won’t be made until after the weekend as interviews drift into the second half of the international break.

But the name of the eventual chosen one will, barring the late entry of a particularly appealing candidate, already be on the club’s shortlist and he could have his chance in the next three days or four days to make his mark.

Interviews are likely to begin tomorrow, and chairman Tony Stewart places great emphasis on them, believing they are a time when potential employees really reveal their inner selves.

Neil Redfearn

Neil Redfearn

Ex-Leeds United boss Neil Redfearn is an early front-runner, while Burton’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink appears to have ruled himself out, yet there have been more than 60 expressions of interest, including several from abroad and some thought to emanate from Scotland, so the name of the club’s final choice could quite feasibly not even have been publicly touted yet.

Stewart says he is hugely impressed by the quality of the applicants. But then this is a very appealing job, and he is a big part of the reason why.

A Championship club, with a fabulous modern stadium and an honest, straight-talking, supportive owner prepared to trust in his manager’s expertise to handle the football side of the relationship?

You can see why they’ve been beating a path to the door of AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Eric Black

Eric Black

This is a very different Rotherham United proposition to the one Evans walked into back in the League Two days of April 2012.

Much was said last week about his shock exit last Monday, and conspiracy theories abound among some supporters as to whether his fate was already sealed when he walked into that final meeting of irreconcilable differences with Stewart, but it is time to draw a line under that and move forward.

As Evans, a winner of two promotions used to say himself when he was in charge: “No matter what’s been achieved, it’s always the future that counts.”

The chairman-manager partnership had become strained as both men saw the club moving in different directions, with Stewart particularly keen to develop the club’s youth policy, and the pair parted company as friends.

Eric Black

Eric Black

Evans was all about the first team and a high turnover of players, while Stewart is a community person, a man of Rotherham who sees the club playing a major grassroots role in the town and beyond. Probably only Premier League football would give him more satisfaction than seeing home-grown talent being developed under the Millers banner and one day gracing the New York turf.

Stewart, as he has always done, will back his man, but probably not to the tune of the 88 signings of Evans’ three-and-half-year tenure.

The next boss will be one willing to embrace and implement the chairman’s vision of the future.

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For now, the reins are being held by Eric Black, a well-respected figure at the club despite arriving as first-team coach only in the summer.

He is a thoroughly decent man, popular with the players who have warmed to him personally and been impressed by his coaching skills, and his calm, composed manner was just what the club required in the days after Evans’ exit.

Black has held the boss’s job before in his career - at Motherwell and Coventry and, temporarily, at three other clubs, including a six-match stint at Blackburn - but coaching is his real love and he has made no attempt to push himself into the managerial frame.

“I have no intention of seeking anything out,” he said. “ I have been asked, and I was flattered to be asked, by the chairman to take his team.

“So I am doing that at the moment and will just carry on until the decision is made. I am sure the chairman will make the right decision to take the club forward.

“I am here, employed by the club, and I am happy to do what is required. It gives the club a chance to reflect going forward, which is always good. I will go along with that and see where it takes us.”

After a week of huge upheaval, culminating in the Millers giving top-flight contenders Burnley a real test last Friday evening, Black emerged with his reputation enhanced.

There were big plus points to be taken from the televised encounter with the Clarets, who have quality in all areas and are, for my money, the best team Rotherham have faced this season.

The Millers were full of spirit and endeavour, let down only by some wayward passing and the quality of their final ball, while centre-half Kirk Broadfoot came on as a late substitute, to one of the loudest cheers of the evening, for his first appearance since completing his 10-match ban.

Greg Halford provided the night’s only sour note, the utility player who has been on the bench in recent games reacting on social media to being dropped from the squad completely with a couple of cryptic tweets an hour or so before kick-off.

“Politics absolute shambles” said the first, followed by “I can’t wait till everything comes out”.

Both were later deleted from his Twitter page, but the former captain can expect a response when he turns up for training today.

“I have got to pick the team in terms of what I see fit for the club. There is no bias or any personal thing at all,” Black said after Friday’s game.

“I picked the seven subs. Lewis (right-backBuxton) had a bit of a problem before the game so we put (Frazer) Richardson on the bench just in case he came off.

“I am interested only in the 18. It’s never nice. That’s modern-day football, people have their own opinion on things, I won’t lose any sleep.

“I will focus on the players who were there and I will address that on Monday morning.”

How ever that situation plays out, it’s a mere sideshow to the Millers’ main event before they resume action at Brentford on October 17.

Much more important matters await this week.