Football: Fan's Eye View: Millmoor or less happy: No. 32: Rotherham

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The Independent Online
FANS of the makeweights will know exactly what I mean. 13 March (what else?) Rotherham versus Plymouth and John Buckley, our recently returned winger, suffers horrific injuries in a clash of heads. For several minutes we all fear the worst, I mean, the worst. At half-time we are told that John is in a coma and has been rushed to hospital for an emergency operation. We forget the game, forget the score, who cares? Once home and greatly concerned, I flick on the Ceefax headlines: 'Newsflash, player injured'. I tap out the numbers and read 'Ian Wright limps out of game'. As for John Buckley, not a mention.

I should have known better of course. The events of last month had gone to my head, you know, when David Mellor, Putney's own secret Millers fan and Ecky Thump expert on slag heaps and flat caps, had put us back on the map. Forget Chelsea, too upper class by half, let's have mud up to the knee-caps (could be worse in the gents) or, for a real treat, a block of lard on a stick.

Of course, we have had our moments, and recognition, no matter how limited, has to be clutched, cherished, cosseted and generally manhandled whenever it comes along. Take 1954-55: third place in the old Second Division and level on points with the top two. As I recall we needed to beat Liverpool by 10 in our last game and could only manage six. Similarly, in 1976-77 we had to beat Port Vale away by six and, playing the bulk of the game with 10 men, only got four. By way of contrast - and, as if to prove that God is a Wednesday supporter - in 1972-73, five teams finished level on 41 points for the final relegation place in the Third Division, the most points by any relegated team. You guessed it, we went down on goal difference.

High spots, therefore, have tended to involve one-off games. The Millers, for instance, took part in the first League Cup final, admittedly at a time when the competition had the sort of coverage enjoyed by the East Grinstead frog chewing championships, but a Cup final nonetheless. In the truest Rotherham tradition this one was lost over two legs, after extra time, at Villa Park.

Then came 1966 and Manchester United (Best, Charlton etc.) in the FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford, 0-0 (after hitting the post twice) followed by a 1-0 defeat at Millmoor, inevitably after extra time. To make matters worse, the so-called top referee, Jack Taylor, took the match and failed to allow a goal when Nobby Stiles cleared a shot from at least a foot over the line. As I understand it, a photograph of the incident still exists within the files of the Rotherham Advertiser. Taylor, if he ever visits the ground, does so in a Donald Duck mask.

Next, in 1971, came Leeds United (Bremner, Giles, etc.) at Millmoor, 0-0 then a replay at Leeds before losing 3-2 with another so-called top referee, Jim Finney, playing centre forward in the home attack. Jack Charlton - who should have been off the field in the first match after punching Dave Bentley (he still had a black eye in the replay) - demonstrated the perfect art of goalkeeper-squatting while Giles scored the winner. Don't talk to us about top-class referees.

Being in the Second Division (Third really) we have done quite well but still have some way to go. In Phil Henson we have a manager who likes to play football, which must have come as a relief to the players who can't bat to save their lives, and so far it has been quite entertaining.

A few weeks ago we had a better team turning out in the physio's room than on the pitch. Rumours have it that Shaun Goodwin, Mark Todd, Nigel Johnson, Billy Mercer et al are going to have special wooden legs fitted next week in order to get them back before the season deteriorates further. Happily, John Buckley is beginning to recover; promotion would help him along no end.

Ian Hoyle, Chairman of Rotherham Vice-Presidents' Association

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