For the first time since 2016, Rotherham United have avoided relegation from the Championship.
Rotherham United are a proverbial ‘yo-yo team’. Winning promotion from League One one year, relegated from the Championship the next. It looked like an endless cycle under Paul Warne, but under Matt Taylor, the story is different.
Warne left for Derby County in September last year. He moved on with the best wishes of Rotherham United fans who’d celebrated three League One promotions under his guidance, and many memorable moments during his six-year tenure which totalled 293 games.
The Millers then made a surprisingly strong start to this season. Warne’s final game was a goalless draw at Middlesbrough which left Rotherham United in 8th place of the Championship table after their opening nine games of the season. Hopes were high for Rotherham in their age-old fight to stay in the Championship, but realistically, expectations were low.
Rotherham under Warne had been relegated from the Championship three times already. The South Yorkshire team took their time before announcing Taylor as Warne’s successor, and immediately the odds were stacked against the former Exeter City boss who was largely expected to continue the relegation/promotion trajectory of the Warne era.
Like Warne, Taylor left a long-term job. He was at Exeter City for four years and he’d guided the Grecians to promotion from League Two just last season. And like Rotherham, Exeter started this season well, but Taylor left to challenge himself in a higher, much tougher division. Filling the shoes of Warne was going to be a tough assignment whoever came in but already, within just seven months of taking over, Taylor has achieved what Warne never could.
Taylor’s appointment, if at all underwhelming at first, has turned out to be a very smart one. The changes he’s made weren’t drastic in their first instances, but they’re quite clear now. He’s taken the more fast-paced and pressing game that saw his Exeter City side prevail and slowly but surely implemented it at Rotherham, replacing the old and often uninspiring style that saw Rotherham toy between League One and the Championship under Warne. In other words, Taylor has made Rotherham United into a Championship side.
And Rotherham’s business in the January transfer window can’t go unnoticed either. Jordan Hugill and Tyler Blackett arrived on free transfers, whilst all of Bailey Wright, Tariqe Fosu, Domingos Quina, Conor Coventry, and Leo Hjelde were all brought in on loan – don’t forget the departure of Dan Barlaser too, which so far hasn’t hindered the Millers. Rotherham gave it a go that month and now, with Championship survival tied up, a huge amount of credit must be given.
That credit isn’t just reserved for Taylor or the players either. Chairman Tony Stewart deserves a huge amount of praise for having the foresight and the courage to appoint a different style of manager in Taylor, and for also giving him the backing he needed in the January transfer window.
A new standard has been set at Rotherham United. The Millers may remain one of the favourites for relegation next season – as things stands – but if they go about the summer transfer window like they did the January transfer window, then a mid-table finish could soon become the default for Rotherham under Taylor.