The odds don't lie

Thursday 16th August 2012 14:09

Evans: best manager in the league?

Evans: best manager in the league?

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Rotherham FanZoner Niall Geoghegan lists the reasons why the Millers are destined for promotion.

Bookies right to make Rotherham favourites

As the League Two squads started to take shape ahead of the 2012/13 season and the bookies began offering out odds on the league winners, there was a notable anomaly amongst the pack. While the Bradfords, Chesterfields and Southends of the division were priced up between 12/1 and 20/1, perching there, top of the list, heading the table at a frighteningly short 7/2, were Rotherham United.

Any reactions that those are awful odds are justified; no football league team should ever be that short priced to win the league, let alone a team with a manager who's been in charge for four months and who finished last season in 11th place. And yet the bookies didn't make us favourites for no good reason. Even though the odds are pretty rubbish, I actually think we will win the league. Here are five reasons - of varying validity - why we'll do it.

We've got the best stadium in the league

Ahh, The New York Stadium. The beacon of light at the end of the tunnel that was the soul-crushing, mind-numbingly depressing hellhole of a home at the Don Valley Stadium has finally arrived. And, despite what we all feared, that light didn't fade into a picture of Bowser, a headline saying Drewe Broughton was returning or a notice from the Football League to say we'd failed to return to Rotherham in the timescale provided and would be booted into non-league.

It arrived, in a friendly against Barnsley on July 21st, in all its unbelievable, tangible glory. Those under the impression that the New York is just another soulless new stadia clone would undoubtedly alter those views upon setting foot inside the 12,000 capacity stadium. Where Shrewsbury's Greenhous Meadow is situated out of town, Chesterfield's b2Net could well be a misconstrued as a talented giant's game of lego and Darlington's Reynolds Arena crippled them, ours is ridiculously perfect.

Firstly, we've got the capacity right; we're likely to more than half fill the NYS most weeks but we've also the extra capacity for a meteoric rise through the leagues or a mouth-watering tie against a top club should we ever decide it might be worth winning a second round tie in the FA Cup for the first time since 2001 (honestly).

Clichéd as it sounds, the new ground has also brought the town back together again. The buzz around Rotherham is back. Saturday's game against Burton Albion is expected to be a sell out and that, monumental occasion or not, would be an exceptional achievement for a club who averaged roughly 7000 crowds in the halcyon days of the Championship.

The supporters seem unstoppably positive, hopefully meaning that the unforgiving attitude held towards the team at the DVS - the groans at every misplaced pass, the sneering at managerial decisions and the merciless jeers in the direction of underperformers - will be replaced by the right kind of passion. All of this combined with the fact that we no longer have to pay the Don Valley 'tax', the inflated wages to sign average players as we needed some way of competing with rivals who actually had a football stadium, and it almost feels as if our new stadium will single-handedly win us the title. And if that sounds daft, consider Chesterfield's romp in 2010/11.

We've got the best midfield in the league

A stadium might not be able to win titles, but midfields can. One of our midfielders is an experienced, classy player who's notched over 200 appearances for Huddersfield at a higher level and also played regularly in the Championship with Millwall. What is this player currently doing? No-one's quite sure; he's somewhere between our reserves and training with the kids. Indeed, while Steve Evans' snub of Danny Schofield's appears ruthless and unkind, our capacity to treat a player of Schofield's calibre in that manner is a testament to the quality of our other midfield options.

David Noble is showing encouraging signs of being the ball playing midfielder we've lacked for years, Kari Arnason looks likely to go til Christmas without making a mistake and Ben Pringle's pre-season performances have made Andy Scott's decision to leave him out in the cold last season look laughable. That's all ignoring the talents of Crewe graduate Michael O'Connor and the wide options of Lionel Ainsworth and last season's brightest spark Gareth Evans.

Behind this midfield, we've got Ian Sharps - who, with Ainsworth, won promotion from this division last year - and Johnny Mullins, the most improved RUFC player of recent years who won the player of the year award at a canter last season. Our only apparent weakness is a lack of punch up front, but our keen pursuit of Matt Tubbs and then Celtic Tony Watt suggests that Steve Evans is aware that we're probably one final piece of the jigsaw away from a title assault.

We've got the best manager in the league

Well, I don't actually think that's true, it just went nicely alongside the previous two sub-headings. But while Steve Evans has a fairly sordid past, a fairly mediocre managerial record and is not the figure I want in charge of my football club, recent history suggests he knows how to succeed. His CV boasts two consecutive promotions (essentially) with Crawley and for those keen to point out that those successes were backed by considerable financial muscle, it's worth remembering that our wage budget is likely to be as strong in proportion to the rest of the league as Crawley's when Evans was with the Red Devils.

Any fan whose side have faced Crawley in the last few seasons will need no introduction to the personality of our Scottish gaffer, but there's an argument that having finally secured a managerial appointment with a big club (or at least big relative to his previous clubs), Evans might tone down the touchline mania and media attacks and quietly get on with his job. An ambitious expectation I know, but we can but hope.

Somebody's got to win it

A quick look at our competition suggests our ambitions of winning the title are entirely reasonable, despite our own shortcomings. Chesterfield might find it hard to overcome a losing mentality and a fairly catastrophic season in 2011/12, Bradford are perennial bottlejobs and would finish in the bottom half if they signed Ronaldo, Northampton and Bristol Rovers will have to significantly better last season's finishes to challenge and surely the string will snap on the lower league yoyo known as Wycombe Wanderers. The likes of Fleetwood, Oxford and Southend might be strong challengers, but the truth is that you'd be brave to back any of them to finish above us.

We're due

The not-very-famous-but-it-should-be notion known as 'due's law' applies to us. We've meandered around this league for five years, each season starting like a train before derailing after Christmas, and the law of averages, or the law of being due, suggests we're eventually going to see a promotion push through. Yes, there are a number of clubs who've spent longer in the basement division, but none who've spent as much (financially and morally) trying to get out of it. Football's just a big seesaw with success at the top and despair at the bottom and we've grazed our feet in the sand for far too long. After relegations, administrations and the Don Valley, it's our time to fly back up again.

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