'A year on and we’re back where we started' ... David Rawson's Rotherham United fan column

TWELVE months have passed, a lot's gone on, and nothing's happened.

This time last year, we were sinking. Passively standing off an ordinary Huddersfield team, giving them more respect than they deserved. Giving away leads at home. Struggling with injuries. Afraid of losing our best player for less than his market value in January, and afraid of how we cope without him.

Memories of early-autumn afternoons lit by warm sun and a semblance of swagger long-faded, replaced by the dreary grey reality of opponents just that little bit more able to make just that little bit of extra quality count just when it matters.

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Twelve months later and here we are again, although perhaps not so much sinking this time as sunk. A month of drift saw to that, turning a difficult job into something close to impossible.

New Rotherham United head coach Leam Richardson seems like a decent sort. Picture: Jim BrailsfordNew Rotherham United head coach Leam Richardson seems like a decent sort. Picture: Jim Brailsford
New Rotherham United head coach Leam Richardson seems like a decent sort. Picture: Jim Brailsford

The squad is thin, comprised of long-term absentees, borrowed youths learning hard lessons in real-time, players in the last few months of contracts and players with mysterious injuries that keep them in a strange suspended animation: forever a week away from being available, but never quite ready, even to make up the numbers on the bench.

Richardson seems a decent sort. He speaks the modern coaching language of culture and growth and journey, seemingly choosing his words in public to say as little as possible without sounding rude or obstructive. When he takes care to praise values like punctuality, and talk about helping players to help themselves recover from injury, you notice and you wonder quite what he might say off the record about the state of what he's inherited.

It's to his credit that he's very quickly added a basic level of diligence and organisation. Opponents receive fewer gifts, spend more time flicking tetchy sideways passes across the edge of our penalty area, less time collecting free shots at goal and stupidly-conceded free-kicks. This is all good. We're becoming basically competent; there's something, perhaps, to work with.

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Which begs the question of January - use it to try to patch the ruin of this season, or lay the foundation of the rebuild next year? A dilemma for any head coach, possibly made trickier by the not yet announced (but still, presumably, impending) restructuring of football operations, which ought to play some sort of role in that kind of strategic decision.

But, essentially, the challenge is to let the new man begin to build a squad to his liking and see if that's enough to arrest the slump and get us to safety.

Much like this time last year, then.