Big but exciting challenge ahead: Barker

ROTHERHAM United have been reminded they will have to scrap for every single point on their return to the Championship.

The 2018/19 fixtures, released yesterday, emphasised the scale of the challenge.

Although the Millers could have been handed a more testing start than Brentford away and the first month doesn't look the most daunting, there are clashes against Leeds, Aston Villa and Stoke before the end of September.

The run-in is extra tough, taking in successive away games against Stoke, Swansea and West Brom, the three teams relegated from the Premier League season, before a home finale against last season's play-off candidates Middlesbrough.

Assistant manager Richie Barker admits he has struggled to find an easy run among the fixtures. That said, he's excited by the matches to come.

"Once the fixtures come out, it shows, firstly, the enormity of the task and, secondly, the reason the club wanted to compete at this level," he told the Advertiser.

"It was proved last season there were no easy points, and this season we are going to have to fight for every point.

"I have looked at the fixture list trying to find an easy month but there aren't any, so it does show the size of the task ahead and it's an exciting one.

"Every team is packed with top players and there are a lot of ex-Premier League clubs in the division; you are probably only ever a couple of weeks away from playing an ex-top flight club from recent years.

Stoke City's bet365 Stadium: one of the Millers' destinations next season.

"I know Rotherham has visited some of the clubs before but, certainly for me, it's an opportunity to go and test yourself (as a coach).

"It is great going to the stadiums but I want to test myself against the best coaches and managers that are there. That's an exciting thing."

The Millers expect to have their first new signing through the door next week admidst speculatuion linking them Scunthorpe United's Duane Holmes, Derry City's Aaron McEneff and Norwich City's Ben Godfrey, among others.

Added Barker: "Because we were in the play-offs, we had to delay some of our conversations a bit longer but we hope that by the middle of next week we will have one or two over the line.”

The first team squad report back for pre-season training on Monday, July 2.