20 years on since Ronnie Moore returned to lift Rotherham United out of the gloom, PAUL RICKETT remembers an astonishing homecoming.
IT WAS billed as the great homecoming, the day when Rotherham United’s fortunes would finally begin to turn.
And it was astonishing.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the night Ronnie Moore met the battle-weary fans at the now-demolished Zone Nightclub on Main Street.
Millers fans eager to get into the Zone
The goal hero of a decade-and-a-half before had been appointed as Millers boss in a blaze of publicity several weeks beforehand and the new-found fervour among the fans exploded when the Ronnie’s Coming Home bash was held.
Fans, young and old, were there, all held together by the common bond of wanting to see their club lifted out of the gloom after one of the most miserable chapters in it’s modern history.
For those new to Millers-watching, the mid-Nineties were hard going. Very hard going.
If you think last season was bad, then you really had to be around two decades ago to appreciate how deep in the doldrums the club was.
Under managers such as John McGovern and Archie Gemmill and then the likeable but ineffective Danny Bergara, the club was only heading one way....deep down.
In 1996-97, McGovern and Gemmill were sacked and Bergara went the same way at the end of a campaign which saw the team crash out of the third tier, 12 points adrift having scored just 39 goals in 46 games. The fact that Earl Jean was the top scorer with SIX summed it all up and the fear — a realistic one given the threadbare, quality starved squad— was that Rotherham would plummet straight through and out of the Football League.
The fans were clear that they wanted Ronnie back after the Advertiser put the legendary former striker in the frame — he couldn’t because he was already in a job at Southport, so we said it for him — and we did our bit to press home an increasing groundswell of support, even though he’d only been in management for a year at the Conference club.
The publicity campiagn was racheted up and when we ran an “I’d crawl to Millmoor on my hands and knees” story, the board, despite some initial reservations, decided to give Ronnie a chance.
It proved to be one of the best moves they’d ever made.
The new-found upswing in hope all came together at the Zone on Tuesday, July 8.
Over a thousand fans, some who had been queuing for hours, packed in to the nightclub, sang heartily and listened intently as Ronnie promised them that he’d do his level best to bring the good times back to Millmoor.
He did — and those who were there will long remember a pivotal night in the club’s history.
The Millers, meanwhile, take on Parkgate at Roundwood today (2pm) in their opening pre-season friendly.