Rotherham United. Proper football team. With proper fans. Grr. To celebrate Rotherham's visit, Jon Rogers speaks to Rotherham fan David Rawson about Colin, Vadis and lashing of blancmange.
Jon: SO! Rotherham, or. Rovs, as no-one calls them. I haven’t looked at the league for ages...Where are you guys? 10th? ...11th maybe?
David: Yes. Exactly that. Just outside the playoff hunt. In the same way that Edinburgh is just outside Brisbane.
Jon: Ha. Well you know what they say during the festival up there G’day...ya dingo....Let's get into it . As we talk, Colin is back in management. Are you bit annoyed with Warnock leaving you and joining Cardiff this week? As I think you could have been a strong force with him still at your controls.
David: It's hard to be annoyed after the incredible job he did. But it was a big irritant that he ummed and ahhed about whether to extend his contract in the summer. By the time he decided it wasn't for him (or we ran out of patience, depending on how you think it went) and we'd got Stubbs in, we'd lost a good month of the close season.
Jon: Sorry, do you know the Colin thing yes?
David: Oh yes. But we've always had a bit of a soft spot for him. Ex-player, of course and he helped us out with loan players for nowt when (one of the the times when) we were about to go out of business. So, he's more Uncle Neil to us, than Colin. It was a perfect thing for us last year. There was a real unity. He couldn't have topped it, really, so in a way it's good he didn't stay.
Jon: I heard him on Danny Baker’s Five Live radio show and he came across again as a honest, talented gent who loves football. I do like him, he doesn't like Norwich. So, are you looking forward to the game Saturday?
David: Actually, it's hard to say. Until the last two games, I'd have said a hammering of biblical proportions. We've been playing a strange style of sitting back, holding off from tackling, vaguely lurking around our penalty area, like Donald Trump on a presidential debate stage, and relying on Lee Camp's saves to win possession back. Results have been predictable, for a team relying on their keeper as the first point of challenge for the ball. But, second half at Huddersfield and against Newcastle, we started to harry and scrap. And when we do that, we're not as bad a team as you might imagine. We've some attacking threat. Taylor ferrets away really well and can stretch a full back, Ward is indomitable (not many players deserve that label, but he embodies it) and Izzy Brown (Chelsea loanee) has been the outstanding player on the pitch, for either side, in pretty much every game. So, if we stand off and blunder, it could be embarrassing; if we press and Brown plays like he can, we could do OK.
Jon: See Norwich have started well in most games, got a decent lead....but we seem to drift out of the game, and play a game of pass the parcel with the slippery fish, haphazardly throwing it about, until the opposition win the prize of a goal. Basically, you’re never out of a game. You’ve talked about your danger men...do you have anyone you’re particularly worried about from Norwich?
David: We can play ourselves out of a game. No trouble at all. We can give away leads more easily than a closing down sale at PetsRUs
On the "who worries you" front, it's like every week: I look at the squad list and go "oh, goodness, they've got him and him and him", and remember why it's simultaneously brilliant and terrifying to be in this division. Pritchard has always impressed. He seemed to rise up the leagues as we did, via various loans and always looked a class act, despite being titchy by modern footballer standards. Shame, by the way, that none of the various loanees we've from you are around. Andreu found things all a bit too frantic for his liking, and Toffolo was a bit caught in the headlights by it all, but Odjidja-Ofoe looked a real star: thought he'd be an asset this year. He'd have worried me: vigorously determined, skillful types bother us enormously.
Jon: Interesting note of Toffolo. He was mooted as the next best thing by some. As for Vadis, people believed he was the second coming. He wasn't. You mentioning its great to be in the division, is relatable to most Norwich fans. It's tricky to talk about Norwich in the Championship without sounding like an Arsenal supporter in the Premier League. Obviously things are going well for us currently, and not so well for you, When we were in the Premier League, we were like you, a financially poorer team playing well, but struggling to pick up points. Basically I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. I do. Do you think you can survive, and what will it take?
David: Can? Yes. We've thrown away leads in so many games by mistakes that you'd scold an U11s team for (check out Huddersfield's first goal online; it's the first highlights package issued by the FL with the mandatory accompaniment of the Benny Hill theme tune); even basically ordinary competence would see us with 6 or 8 more points. But it's not just mistakes. We've been sitting back and not challenging; a lovely shape, but no effort to actually win the ball back until the 6 yard box. So far, we've tried to build an elegant, architectural structure on foundations made of blancmange. In truth, the season to date has been our preseason, because we recruited so late, so the hope is that the real Millers are starting to show themselves. So, I'm not despairing. But, we've been so abject at times against some fairly mediocre opponents on the day, that I'm not exactly confident. We have to be in touch with fourth bottom by mid November to have any real chance of staying up, because we'll need to strengthen in January and the lowest paying club at the bottom of the league is hardly going to be attractive.
Jon: Hey come on...I won’t allow anyone to say Rotherham isn't attractive. Anyone! I just won’t let you. So, let’s sum up. How do you think the game will go...and a score prediction?
David: The standard pattern goes something like: we'll be bright on the ball for 20 minutes, maybe score once or even twice, then drop back, ever back, cede the initiative after 35 minutes and concede before half time. Second half, sit sullenly in our own penalty area, allow shots to rain in and tamely drift out of the game to an inevitable defeat. If that's the game we see then 3-1 Norwich, after an shock Ward goal on the break after 18 minutes. But if we play as obstinately and as focused as we did against Newcastle(big, big if) and if we don't yield up a big gift goal (bigger if), I think we could scrap out a draw. Realistically? Norwich to win by a goal or two, but having been made to work for it.
Jon: Right. I'm gonna bet all my life savings on the above. Only way.
David Rawson tweets here