Revival of Rotherham restores Yorkshire pride

Steve Evans drums up feelgood factor while Leeds and Sheffield stagnate

It was Yorkshire Day on Friday, but whether many football fans in God's Own County felt inclined to join in the celebrations is a moot point. After all, in Yorkshire's two biggest cities, Leeds and Sheffield, top-flight football is becoming a fast-receding memory.

The seven years since the relegation of Sheffield United – now a League One side – from the Premier League in 2007 is the longest period since 1892 without top-flight representation from either of these two cities, and for Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday events this summer offer little reason to believe this exile will end in 2014- 15.

Up at Leeds, Massimo Cellino – the convicted Italian fraudster whose takeover was finally ratified in April – has sold last season's 28-goal top scorer, Ross McCormack, to Fulham and appointed a continental-style head coach, David Hockaday, with no managerial experience in the Football League.

Wednesday, meanwhile, have spent the summer in limbo as owner Milan Mandaric's proposed sale to Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov, announced on 10 June, has dragged on and on, leaving manager Stuart Gray unable to complete several transfer deals amid the uncertainty.

Set against this pair, the rude health of Championship newcomers Rotherham United shines like a beacon. Leeds and Wednesday can still draw big crowds – their highest attendances in 2013-14 surpassed those at Hull City, Yorkshire's solitary Premier League side – but their long-suffering supporters could be forgiven envious glances at the ambition and direction provided by Rotherham's owner, Tony Stewart.

Six years ago, shortly after Stewart's arrival, the South Yorkshire club kicked off the League Two season with a 17-point penalty and as temporary tenants at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium. Today they are entering their third season at a new home, the New York Stadium, and preparing for a first Championship campaign since 2005 buoyed by the "feelgood factor" that Stewart – owner of a local lighting company – has brought with his £30 million investment.

As manager Steve Evans tells The Independent on Sunday: "He said when he first took over he would bring Championship football in five years. He is in the office every morning till early evening and drives such a momentum. We've got a fantastic infrastructure, with a new stadium and a chairman who has built that stadium with his own money."

In the wake of Rotherham's League One play-off final shootout win over Leyton Orient – their second successive promotion – Evans, the former Crawley manager, looked at the recruitment strategies of experienced Championship managers such as Mick McCarthy and Dave Jones. He then brought in 12 new players, most with Championship experience and all with "a little point to prove", including striker Jordan Bowery, signed for a club- record fee from Aston Villa.

This could hardly be more different than the recruitment policy of Leeds's owner, Cellino, who after offloading big earners such as McCormack has signed four players from Italy with no English football experience, with another two likely to follow. Next Saturday's trip to Millwall could prove some baptism of fire.

Rotherham's productive working relationship between owner and manager is something else Leeds may struggle to achieve given Cellino's record of sacking 35 managers in two decades running the Italian club Cagliari. "If you look at the successful clubs there is always a relationship between the chairman-owner and his manager," adds Evans. "The chairman wants what the manager wants and he wants what our supporters want."

This has evidently not been the case elsewhere in Yorkshire this summer. Paul Dickov had to rethink his transfer plans at Doncaster Rovers after the collapse of the planned takeover by One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson and businessman John Ryan.

At Hillsborough, manager Gray remains unsure what direction Wednesday are headed in, with Mandaric looking to sell after four years and, by his estimate, £30m invested in clearing debts. And then you have Leeds, who, after their post-Ridsdale meltdown, endured the damaging reigns of Ken Bates and then Gulf Finance House prior to Cellino's arrival. The Italian has since overseen a spate of redundancies at a club that had reportedly been losing £1m a month.

Ten years after Leeds's relegation from the Premier League, Paul Keat, secretary of the Leeds United Supporters' Trust, would be grateful for small mercies this season. "We just want some stability," he says. "We want a team we can shout for on a Saturday, something to be proud of, because there's been a lot of things within Leeds United that we've not been proud of."

County championship

Leeds United

Owner Massimo Cellino has spent the summer offloading staff to cut costs. He has sold top scorer Ross McCormack and signed four players from Italy. In a Yorkshire Evening Post poll, 85 per cent of fans were against his appointment of head coach David Hockaday, who was previously manager at Forest Green Rovers.

Sheffield Wednesday

Entering a 15th season of Premier League exile, they face another period of struggle unless Azeri businessman Hafiz Mammadov's takeover goes through in time to let Stuart Gray add firepower to a team who scraped 16th place last term thanks to the goals of loanees Connor Wickham and Matty Fryatt.

Rotherham United

Owner Tony Stewart took over a club in administration six years ago but £30m later has brought a new stadium and Championship football. Manager Steve Evans has added experience with 12 new signings and admits that while consolidation is the goal, Stewart dreams of "doing a Wigan Athletic".

Simon Hart

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin