Half-term report

Wednesday 26th December 2012 20:38

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Rotherham FanZoner Niall Geoghegan says Steve Evans has deliverered a rollercoaster ride already!

Life under Steve Evans is anything but dull

When Steve Evans was appointed as manager in April following the sacking of Andy Scott, he immediately - a bit like his predecessor - started saying a hell of a lot. Alongside some rather sickly gushing about the club being a revving Ferrari and the promises of record-breaking signings, sprinkled with some shameless name-dropping about his best pals in the business, Evans told us that the forthcoming season would be a rollercoaster ride.

As hard as it is to not be slightly charmed by the Glaswegian patter in which Evans tries to break records for how many different ways he can complement the club/supporters in interviews, it would take some fortitude from even the most devoted disciple of Big Steve to contest that a considerable ratio of his words can be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.

And yet, we're just halfway through the season and here's a selection of our results to date: beat a promotion rival 4-0; lost to a promotion rival 6-2; lost to a promotion rival 0-3; beat a League One side 3-2; lost to a team in the bottom half 5-0; beat a promotion rival 4-2; lost to (then) bottom of the league 2-3; beat a League One side 3-0.

Rollercoaster? Sounds about right, actually.

Being an eternal optimist (sort of), I've found myself focusing more on the highs than the lows, drooling over our attacking prowess whilst ignoring the fact that good sides don't concede fives and sixes in games under any circumstances. For some reason, I can't help but convince myself that this team is brilliant.

Any two of Ian Sharps, Craig Morgan and Johnny Mullins can form formidable partnerships behind the ever-reliable figure of Andy Warrington, while either Kayode Odejayi or Alex Revell act as more than capable foils for the trickery and guile of leading scorer Danny Nardiello.

But if we do crank up the tempo after Christmas and gain promotion, I strongly suspect it'll be the quality of our midfield that does the damage. Lee Frecklington, who currently seems likely to join the club permanently in what would be one of the coups of recent RUFC history, is probably the best midfielder in the league.

He can tackle, he can shoot, he can pass and he moves with pace, purpose and penetration; it's difficult to argue we've had a more complete midfielder since Lee Williamson. Not far behind him is Ben Pringle, who combines unfathomable energy levels with a wand of a left foot and an increasingly impressive penchant for getting on the scoresheet (he's notched six already this season - only Nardiello has more).

Jason Taylor is having his best season in a Millers shirt and showing why he's won promotion from this league twice already, while Micky O'Connor cuts a classy figure with a fine passing range and a ferocious shot.

And although Kari Arnason's undisputed quality has recently been brought to us from defence with the Icelandic international carrying the ball out from the back and playing in a style more symptomatic of European giants than League Two sides, the option of having The Prince control games from higher up the field remains another string to Evans' tactical bow.


When watching this team at its best, it's difficult not to get carried away with the possibilities of what can be achieved. Earlier this month, the current league leaders came to town and proved exactly why we've absolutely nothing to fear. Gillingham fouled, cheated, hoofed and bullied their way to a 2-1 victory thanks to a combination of unfathomable luck, an abysmal referee and two moments of quality from the only player in their starting eleven with any.

The manner of the defeat re-opened the seemingly never-ceasing debate about our need for a goal scorer to ensure we don't continue to be so wasteful as the season progresses, but there was plenty to be encouraged by as we were streets ahead of the visitors in the way we played football.

So what of the man that has put this team together? Evans has got plenty right so far, but certain decisions have been baffling and he's demonstrated a few worrying traits not dissimilar to those of the much-maligned Andy Scott. For example, the one-error-and-you're-gone culture that Scott instilled seemed to be making a worrying return when Evans seemingly ended Laurie Wilson's RUFC career because of a howler at Port Vale in September.

Granted we don't know the ins and outs of what happened with Wilson, but those who frequent Twitter will have been aware of the Scouser's bemusement at his treatment and his utter dejection at how his brief affiliation with the club had unfolded.

It all felt a little unsavoury and it was difficult not to sympathise with Wilson when (the admittedly superb) Bob Harris and Josh Morris were drafted in on loan and thrown straight into the side without Wilson given a second chance to prove his worth. Then came the final straw as the same happened with Liam Ridehalgh.

Similarly, there's been a few pretty arbitrary loan signings (Luke Rooney being the pick of the bunch) while it took too long for the manager to realise that having a perfectly capable centre half on loan at a divisional rival while we had Jaybo waddling around at centre half was a colossal mistake. But mistakes can be forgiven if they're learnt from, and Evans largely deserves credit for what he's performed in his opening six or so months.

Will we be promoted? I think so, but, minus 17 season aside, I've thought it every Christmas since we've been back in the basement division. Whatever happens, the key, for me, is to just sit back and enjoy it. It'd be brilliant if for the 2013/14 season we could be playing at a level more fitting of our home surroundings and, to be honest, the majority of our players. But too many people in football have tunnel vision for tangible success and can't accept simply enjoying the excitement along the way in trying to achieve that success.

Keep enjoying the brilliant stadium, keep enjoying the exciting football and keep enjoying being an RUFC fan. Whatever happens, this has been the most fun it's been in ages.

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