The pain of ‘The Plan’ that takes out the emotion ... David Rawson's Rotherham United fan column

IT'S either a complex puzzle, or really obvious. The 4D chess problem is how to create a team that can, from nowhere, show play-off form.
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You have to do it with a squad that lacks the depth and quality of most of the other teams in the division, and has, at the same time, three identikit targetmen and about half a dozen sitting or defensively-minded midfielders.

You have to do it with a team that leaks goals unless everyone is wholly concentrated on defence, but which carries no spark of imagination or threat unless it can throw opponents off balance by putting them under pressure high up the pitch.

The more obvious approach is to recognise that’s impossible. That we’re down.

Safety first under Rotherham United head coach Leam Richardson. Picture: Jim BrailsfordSafety first under Rotherham United head coach Leam Richardson. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Safety first under Rotherham United head coach Leam Richardson. Picture: Jim Brailsford

That the only real question is the manner of the relegation. In that sense, you can sort of see it. We’re going to lose, so let’s not lose by much. Let’s see if the opposition self-destruct in frustration and let us steal a point, or even three.

There’s been a lot of thought and it has made The Plan. If they do this, you do that. The Plan is tweaked opponent by opponent, but is basically the same each week. The Plan won’t save us. We’re too far behind. But it will limit the humiliation. The Plan demands much thinking, and much discipline. Feeling? Not so much

That’s not to say there’s a lack of care, or heart, or emotion. It’s there, just ruthlessly suppressed in service of The Plan.

No spark of anger at a needlessly misplaced pass, just a raised thumbs-up to approve the attempt to execute The Plan. No hint of petulant frustration at being done by a bit of skill from an opponent, just a rueful nod of appreciation and a scuttling run to get back into the position dictated by The Plan.

But The Plan risks excluding us, the fans. We can’t cheer the chasing of a lost cause into an act of heroism. The Plan does not allow the chasing of lost causes.

We can’t boo the ref for a soft free-kick. The Plan does not approve of loose challenges. We can’t roar approval of individual skill. Losing the ball one on one offends The Plan.

I want us to go down raging, kicking, screaming defiance at the insurmountable challenge. If we can’t survive, I want to feel robbed. The Plan targets quiet dignity.

It’s not enough.