IT may have ended in relegation but the 2018/19 season was still a year of success for Rotherham United.
The Millers won praise for the courageous fight they waged against the drop in the Championship as they took their battle to the penultimate weekend of the campaign.
Now, with the publication of their accounts covering that period, Rotherham are receiving further plaudits for being a model of sustainability in an era when others clubs are risking their futures because of wild over-spending.
The Millers’ prudent approach under owner Tony Stewart generated a profit of £2.7 million.
Strip out the effect of transfer income and stadium sales and they were the only second-tier side to end the season in the black, says Kieran Maguire, head of football finance at Liverpool University and the expert behind the acclaimed PriceofFootball Twitter account.
His figures show how Paul Warne’s side defied near-insurmountable odds to come within four points of staying up.
* Rotherham spent £7.8m on player wages, meaning members of their first-team squad were earning an average of £3,600 a week compared to a Championship average of £16,200. Aston Villa’s players were the top earners at an average of £30,400 a week.
* The Millers paid £56 in wages for every £100 of income in a division where the average was £107 for every £100 of income. Only Hull City, at £51, achieved a better figure. Most clubs were beyond £100, with Birmingham the worst at £202.
* Rotherham’s squad was put together for the smallest 2018/19 cost in the second tier: £1.4m. Derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday’s cost was £34.8m while Middlesbrough spent the most at £94.1m.
“Overall, Rotherham are likely to have been the only club in the Championship last season that achieved both profitability and sustainability,” Maguire said.
Warne, now leading a play-off push in League One, said: “I honestly don’t look at last season as a failure. We couldn’t have worked any harder.
“The lads gave everything they had. I still regret the fact that we weren’t able to refuel a little bit in the January transfer window.
“I came back for pre-season without any shame. I wasn’t walking round Meadowhall with a bag on my head or anything like that.”
The accounts, which were made public last Friday, show a £2.7m profit on a record turnover of £13.9m made up mainly of television money, season-ticket sales and commercial income.
Player purchases totalled £600,000 and player sales were £1.75m, a figure generated by Cardiff City’s initial payment for midfielder Will Vaulks.
Semi Ajayi’s move to West Bromwich Albion came too late to be included in the figures.
Maguire says the Millers made a £1m operating profit in a season when the Championship average was a loss of £24.2m
He added: “Rotherham live within their means. Everyone there is pulling in the same direction.
“Revenue was up significantly, mainly on the back of the different TV deal you get for being a Championship club rather than one in League One.
“The fact that Rotherham competed so effectively for so long is an achievement. Some clubs were on parachute payments worth £41m.
“The level of losses in the Championship is obscene. Some owners have decided that, whatever it takes, they’re going to shoot for the moon.
“I think Rotherham should be given a huge amount of credit for the approach they’ve taken. Sooner or later some club in the Championship are going to go ‘pop’. If you’re a Rotherham fan you know that while the current people remain in charge you’re going to have sustainability.”
The opening statement from the Millers in their accounts said: “With collectivism and togetherness at AESSEAL New York Stadium and a feeling that the players could have done no more to secure their Championship status, we enter into League One with peace of mind that every player and member of staff will focus on winning games to gain promotion.”
Follow PriceofFootball on Twitter at @KieranMaguire