Eleven games to go, maybe another ten points required, around eight clubs involved, all to play for ... Rotherham United and the survival challenge

Manager Matt Taylor talks to the Advertiser about the run-in.
Matt TaylorMatt Taylor
Matt Taylor

“WITH 11 games left, we know we’re in a relegation battle. We were in a relegation battle six weeks ago, 12 weeks ago, at the start of the season.”

For more than seven months, Rotherham United have had one thing on their mind: survival.

First it was under Paul Warne and since October it’s been under Matt Taylor who delivered the quote above as he assessed the Millers’ prospects of staying in the Championship for the first time in four attempts.

Eleven games to go, maybe another ten points required, around eight clubs involved, all to play for.

Rotherham are clear of the drop zone and in a healthier position at this stage of a second-tier campaign than they ever have been during Tony Stewart’s near-15-year reign as chairman.

“It’s not just about matchday. We have to make the players smile on the training pitch, make the environment an enjoyable and positive one to be in,” said manager Taylor.

He acknowledged that pressure could be a bigger opponent than any of the sides around his team in the table.

“You can see how stress takes its toll,” he said. “As much as you can talk about trying to negate it, it still has an effect on anyone at any level.

“The Championship is where we want to be and we have to fight so, so hard to sustain our place. We want the opportunity to improve in this league as opposed to just being a team that’s trying to avoid relegation.

“That’s the long-term plan. In the short term, we have to keep on picking up points. We have to enjoy the battle, enjoy losing a game, enjoy winning a game, enjoy being involved in this league.”

He didn’t really mean enjoy losing a game, but you get the general message.

At the moment, there is little stress. Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers — and the size of the gap to the bottom three it opened up — has seen to that.

If the Millers are still a second-tier team after May’s final day, much of that will be down to what happened in January. 

Stewart funded an intense recruitment drive that brought in quality the club simply haven’t had in recent times.

Tariqe Fosu, Leo Hjelde, Jordan Hugill and Conor Coventry have shone and, to a lesser extent, Bailey Wright has also had an impact.

Add them to the likes of Viktor Johansson, Ollie Rathbone, Lee Peltier, Cameron Humphreys and Chiedozie Ogbene — all of whom either weren’t here or played hardly any part two years ago — and this is a squad significantly stronger than the relegation one of 2020/21.

That group of players fought valiantly under Warne and were undone, in large part, by the Covid schedule that left them playing too many matches in too few days as a cruel season drew to a close.

This time around, all the midweek night-time travelling is already done and Rotherham have more matches left at AESSEAL New York Stadium than they do on the road.

“Players can sleep comfortably in their own beds,” Taylor said. There’s no getting back from games at five o’clock in the morning.

“We have to make the most of our home fixtures. We’ve got a feeling of what brings us success at home. It’s all-out effort, it’s quality on top of that, it’s the fans getting involved and getting behind us, it’s the fans understanding that it’s not always easy for a (small) club like Rotherham at Championship level.

“We’re stronger together. We need a feeling of positivity around the stadium, in the changing room as much as in the stands.”

The Millers have half a dozen more points at this stage of the season than they did two years ago when they came within six minutes of staying up on the final day.

Six sides — QPR, Birmingham City, Cardiff City, Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Huddersfield Town — are already below them and a likely six-point deduction will bring Reading crashing into the mix.

“We can’t concentrate on other teams, we have to focus on ourselves,” Taylor said. “We’re targeting the teams above us, that’s all I can say. We have a run of fixtures coming up in the next ten days or so weeks where we have opportunities to pick up points.

“Any wins we can obtain at an early stage of the run-in take the pressure off. Pressure does affect the way you act and play. The strain and demands of the league are absolutely huge. The more we can release that by picking up wins as soon as possible, the better.”

Huddersfield have Neil Warnock but that is all that is giving them hope. Blackpool haven’t responded well enough to Mick McCarthy’s appointment and are struggling. Wigan have picked up under new manager Shaun Maloney and aren’t out of the survival reckoning while Sabri Lamouchi’s presence in the Cardiff hot-seat is starting to take effect.

QPR and Gareth Ainsworth are too soon into their relationship for anyone to call their progress or otherwise, Birmingham are being dragged down by off-field issues and Reading will either be fuelled by adversity or trapped by it.

The Latics v Rotherham on May 8’s last day might yet be a bit tasty but, in truth, something would have to have gone horribly wrong for the Millers not to be safe by then.

“The 11 games will go in a flash, even more so in three-game weeks,” Taylor said. “Physically, we’ve been in a good place, Structurally, we’ve been excellent.

“Now we’re looking for those bits and pieces to get us over the line in games. If we aren’t going to win a game, we have to make sure we don’t get beaten. That will be a recurring theme to the end of the season. It won’t always be pretty football.”

Who knows where the Millers would be if injuries to Ben Wiles, Sean Morrison — who had the potential to be a huge player at New York — and Grant Hall hadn’t happened. But then every club will have their own hard-luck stories about absentees.

Rotherham will go for it: forward march, not backward steps. “We have to risk a little bit,” Taylor said. “We have to be quite bullish and bold in our approach in games. We have to keep thinking that our best platform is an attacking one.”

The rate at which the Millers have accumulated points since the win over Blackburn Rovers on January 14 re-ignited their season — 13 in nine matches — is superior to that of any team caught up in the relegation run-in.

Only a daunting April fixture schedule would appear to stand in their way.

“We know we’re in a relegation battle.” They are, but it’s a battle they’re on course to win.



MATT Taylor is calling on supporters and players to come together at AESSEAL New York Stadium as Rotherham United negotiate the run-in that will decide their Championship fate.

The manager believes the crowd can make a crucial difference now that the survival campaign has reached its most important stage.

“The New York backing is going to be massive,” he said. “We’ve got to set each other off. We need their noise and we hope that our energy on the pitch will be replicated in the stands.

“We need to make it uncomfortable for the opposition and our fans can do that as much as the players can.”

Six of Rotherham’s last 11 matches are on home soil and the visitors to New York include West Bromwich Albion, Burnley and Middlesbrough who will all bring sell-out followings with them.

Taylor welcomes that prospect, saying the Millers players and fans rise to the occasion when the South Stand away end is packed.

“It helps the whole atmosphere around the ground,” he said. “It makes us know we we’re in a game, it made our fans know they need to stand up and be counted.”



MATT Taylor is refusing to look too far ahead as Rotherham United bid to consolidate their place in the second tier.

The boss acknowledges what a huge feat it would be to keep the Millers in the Championship after a trio of previous attempts ended in relegation.

Since 2017, under the previous management regime, Rotherham have suffered the drop three times and come straight back up from League One on every occasion.

Taylor prefers to remain in the here and now rather than ponder on the enormity of what May might bring.

“I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “I’m thinking only about what’s next in terms of the games coming up.

“Staying up is certainly the hardest thing to do, hence why we’ve not been able to do it in the last three attempts.”

The manager took charge only in October but is well aware of what a successful survival campaign would mean to the Millers and the town.

“A lot of fans and a lot of people who work at the club are talking about staying in the Championship as our biggest challenge — and that’s no disrespect to the achievements of the promotions from League One,” he said.

“If we’re successful, it will rank so, so highly in the career of anyone here, not just mine or the players.”



ROTHERHAM United’s Championship safety could be on the line on the final afternoon of the season, believes Matt Taylor.

The boss would like to have survival wrapped up before the Millers head to Wigan Athletic for a bank-holiday showdown on Monday May 8.

But he accepts there might be everything to play for as the Millers go up against one of their rivals in the scrap to avoid relegation at the DW Stadium.

“Looking at where we are, how many games we’ve won this season and how difficult it is to be consistent, we have to expect it to go down to the wire,” he said.

“We don’t want it to go down to the last game or second-last game but we have to be prepared for the fact that it might well do.”

With two of the next three matches at home, the manager wants his side to strengthen their position before they go into the fortnight-long international break following the clash at AESSEAL New York Stadium with Cardiff City on March 18.

Rotherham are on an encouraging run and have lost only twice in their last nine outings.

“March is a good opportunity to pick up points,” Taylor said. “We’re giving ourselves a chance at the moment and if we keep on producing performances like we have been doing we’ll pick up the points we need.”



FORTY-FOUR points would have been enough to keep Rotherham United up two years ago but manager Matt Taylor believes his side will need to hit the half-century mark this time around.

The Championship is a tighter division in 2022/23 compared to 2020/21, with every club capable of picking up results.

No side has been cut adrift in the fight for safety and around eight teams are caught up in the relegation mix.

“The points return needed to stay up is probably going to be the biggest it’s been for years,” Taylor said. “A lot of clubs will get to 44 and above. Realistically, it is going take around 50 to survive

“That sounds high but that is what we have got to have in our minds. We need to aim high. Teams will pick up different points at different stages.

“We have to remain level and retain the belief we can collect enough points ourselves.”



                             P             W           D            L             F             A             GD          Pts         

Burnley                35           22           11           2             68           28           40           77          

Sheff United        35           20           7             8             56           31           25           67          

Middlesbro’         35           18           6             11           61           40           21           60          

Blackburn           35           18           4             13           39           38           1             58          

Luton Town         35           15           12           8             43           34           9             57          

Norwich City       35           16           7             12           51           39           12           55          

Millwall                35           15           9             11           45           38           7             54          

Coventry City      35           14           10           11           41           34           7             52          

West Brom          35           14           9             12           45           38           7             51          

Watford               35           13           12           10           41           38           3             51          

Sunderland         35           13           10           12           50           43           7             49          

Preston N E        35           12           11           12           30           38           -8           47          

Bristol City          35           11           12           12           43           43           0             45          

Hull City              35           12           9             14           40           48           -8           45          

Reading              35           13           5             17           38           54           -16         44          

Stoke City           35           12           7             16           44           42           2             43          

Swansea City      35           11           10           14           47           52           -5           43          

Rotherham          35           9             13           13           40           47           -7          40                         

Birm’ham City     35           10           9             16           39           47           -8           39          

QPR                    35           10           9             16           36           52           -16         39          

Cardiff City          35           10           8             17           27           38           -11         38          

Blackpool            35           7             11           17           33           51           -18         32          

Huddersfield T    35           8             8             19           30           51           -21         32          

Wigan Athletic    35           7             11            17           31           54           -23         32




Sat Mar 11: Birmingham A  

Tue Mar 14: Preston H

Sat Mar 18: Cardiff H

Sat Apr 1: Hull A

Fri Apr 7: West Brom H

Mon Apr 10: Norwich A

Sat Apr 15: Luton H

Tue Apr 18: Burnley H

Sat Apr 22: Bristol C A

Sat Apr 29: Middlesbrough H

Mon May 8: Wigan A


Sat Mar 11: Rotherham H

Tu Mar 14: Watford A

Sat Mar 18: QPR A

Sat Apr 1: Blackburn H

Fri Apr 7: Reading A

Mon Apr 10: Stoke H

Sat Apr 15: Sunderland A

Tue Apr 18: Millwall A

Sat Apr 22: Blackpool H

Sat Apr 29: Coventry A

Mon May 8: Sheff Utd H


Sat Mar 11: Watford H

Tue Mar 14: Blackpool A

Sat Mar 18: Birmingham H

Sat Apr 1: Wigan A

Sat Apr 7: Preston H

Mon Apr 10: West Brom A

Sat Apr 15: Coventry  H

Wed Apr 19: Norwich H

Sat Apr 22: Burnley A

Sat Apr 29: Stoke A

Mon May 8: Bristol C H


Sat Mar 11: Preston A           

Wed  Mar 15: West Brom H

Sat Mar 18: Rotherham A

Sat Apr 1: Swansea H

Fri Apr 7: Blackpool A

Mon Apr 10: Sunderland H

Sat Apr 15: Sheff Utd A

Wed Apr 29: Watford A

Sat Apr 22: Stoke H

Sat Apr 29: Huddersfield H

Mon May 9: Burnley A


Sat Mar 11: Millwall H

Wed Mar 15: Blackburn A

Sat Mar 18: Hull H

Sat Apr 1: Bristol C A

Fri Apr 7: Birmingham H

Mo Apr 10: Preston A

Sat Apr 15: Burnley H

Wed Apr 19: Luton H

Sat Apr 22: Coventry A

Sat Apr 29: Wigan H

Mon May 8: Huddersfield A


Sat Mar 11: Bristol C A

Tue Mar 14: QPR H

Sat Mar 18: Coventry H

Sat Apr 1: Preston A

Fri Apr 7: Cardiff H

Mon Apr 10: Luton A

Sat Apr 15: Wigan H

Tue Apr 18: West Brom H

Sat Apr 22: Birmingham A

Sat Apr 29: Millwall H

Mon May 8: Norwich A


Sat Mar 11: West Brom A

Wed Mar 15: Norwich H

Sat Mar 18: Millwall A

Sat Apr 1: Middlesbrough H

Fri Apr 7: Watford A

Mon Apr 10: Blackburn H

Sat Apr 15: Swansea A

Tue Apr 18: Sunderland A

Sat Apr 22: Sheff Utd H

Sat Apr 29:  Cardiff H

Mon May 8: Reading H


Sat Mar 11: Burnley A

Tue Mar 14: Coventry H

Sat Mar 18: Watford A

Sat Apr 1: QPR H

Fri Apr 7: Sheff Utd A

Mon Apr 10: Swansea H

Sat Apr 15: Blackpool A

Tue Apr 18: Stoke A

Sat Apr 22: Millwall H

Sat Apr 29: Reading A

Mon May 8: Rotherham H