Q&A: Josh Yeardley on Rotherham, Rovers and the return of EFL football
Football remains suspended due to the ongoing global pandemic. Since this weekend should have seen Rovers taking on local rivals Rotherham at the New York Stadium, we sat down with Millers fan Josh Yeardley to discuss both teams, as well as the continuing impact of coronavirus on the sport.
ITEN: This weekend should have seen a hotly anticipated South Yorkshire derby between Rovers and Rotherham, most probably with big implications for the promotion race. What were you expecting from the game, pre-pandemic?
Josh: As you say, both sets of supporters would have been looking forward to a high intensity local derby this Saturday with both still having plenty to play for. Derby games are never easy and given what could have potentially been at stake for both clubs – us going for automatic promotion and you going for the Play Offs – I was expecting an end-to-end game of football, plenty of chances and tackles, cards flying about: a proper derby game as the old school fans would call it.
Given there could have been a huge chance for us to potentially clinch automatic promotion in this game, I imagine Darren Moore would have told his players to raise their game given your supporters class us as your main rivals and you wouldn't have wanted us to clinch promotion against you lot.
Both sides are often compared, due to the rivalry and similar standing that they share. What are your thoughts on Rovers and how they have adapted under Darren Moore this season?
Judging from what I've seen – on Quest, the Sky game against Sunderland a couple of months back in particular – it certainly seems like Moore has got you playing good stuff at times; you seem pretty solid defensively, although you'd expect that when your manager is a former defender.
I think you've adapted very well considering what happened in the summer, and you didn't really replace your star striker until the end of January, so whether you guys will finish in the Play Offs this season is unknown of course but you can see that Moore is building something with you guys. He will find it difficult keeping hold of your key assets – Ben Whiteman, Tom Anderson and Kieran Sadlier especially – and I read somewhere that Rovers have 17 players either out of contract or returning to their parent clubs in the summer so it seems like it could be a big rebuilding job for you guys.
I imagine your fans trust Moore and your new Head of Recruitment (Adam Henshall) to build a competitive squad that can compete at the top end of League One and stay in the Championship if you make it there in the future.
Paul Warne has had time to build a true philosophy around Rotherham United. What do you think are the key reasons for his longevity and success at the club?
One thing in football that you don't really get is time, and prior to Paul Warne being the manager our Chairman wasn't known for being the most patient man. That showed by sacking Alan Stubbs and Neil Redfearn after a short amount of time, but he's been different Warne.
He has fully believed in what Warne and the staff are building at the club and it shows by the backing and the support he's given him, even when we've gone through rough spells. Warne and Barker’s philosophy is very similar to that of Ronnie Moore back in the day, and Steve Evans from a few years back: fast-paced, great attacking football and a never-say-die attitude.
We have a clear way of playing, lining up mainly in a 4-4-2 formation with two quick wingers, a target man, and a poacher up-top. Then you have a playmaker and ball-winner in central midfield, two energetic full backs and a tough tackling centre back partnered by a more ‘modern-day’ defender.
Our style is often criticised by opposition supporters and managers but it has got us promoted from this league before on quite a few occasions, and as that famous saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don't fix it.”
Solving the issue of finishing the 2019-20 season is obviously of keen interest to the Millers, who sit in an automatic promotion spot. How do you think the EFL and football authorities on the whole can remedy the impact of coronavirus on this season?
As of right now I have no idea how or when the season will end, for that matter everyone thinks the same really. We've heard they want the season to continue in June, with 9 games to be played in 56 days, no supporters allowed in the ground, but I'm not sure if that will work. It seems the EFL and the FA aren't really caring about their players’ welfare, because in two months’ time this virus will still be about so players and staff members will be putting themselves at risk, because you can't really stay two metres apart on the pitch or in the dugouts.
The other way the season could end is on a points-per-game (PPG) basis which has been mentioned. That would mean us and Coventry going up with Wycombe finishing 3rd, but then again that would probably cause uproar with the rest of the teams that could still go up automatically or finish in the Play Offs.
For me personally, I don't know when it will restart and at the moment as much as I'm missing the beautiful game, the safety and wellbeing of everybody is more important. Over the next month or so the EFL and the FA have to come up with a solution that benefits everyone in the fairest way, although I don't trust them to make the best decision.
Looking longer term, how do you think the financial impact of the pandemic on clubs at our level will reshape the game when this crisis has passed?
Unfortunately, I think this could potentially be the end for some League One and League Two teams, especially if this pandemic continues for a while.
You saw Macclesfield Town and Southend struggling before the coronavirus was even mentioned, the likes of Bristol Rovers and Colchester United in huge amounts of debt, I know quite a few clubs including ourselves have furloughed non-playing staff and a couple of clubs have even furloughed playing staff for the time being (Rovers included) which should help clubs financially but unless the EFL and/or Government help clubs as was mentioned last month then it could be dark times ahead for lower league football in my opinion.
If Rotherham can get back into the Championship, how do you think the club can ensure they do enough to survive at that level instead of coming back down again?
I believe recruitment and keeping most of this squad together will be key for us to try and stay in the Championship and potentially stabilise long-term. On the pitch we have to be mentally tougher and defensively switched on, we dropped 32 points from winning positions last season and conceded some very poor goals which was the main factor in getting relegated I believe. Try and solve that whilst adding 5 or 6 players to the core group we have at the football club and that should hopefully help us survive, meaning we can push on to be a stable championship club. I expect plenty of non-Rotherham fans to laugh at this to be honest but it's only what I believe at the end of the day!
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about football returning to our lives?
The overall Match Day experience, that's what I'm looking forward to the most when football returns. The pre- and post-match pints with your mates, the banter with opposition fans, creating memories that you'll remember forever – whether that be at home or away games, the atmosphere and passion, seeing the players back on the hallowed turf again, seeing fans celebrating goals. Seeing smiles on everyone's faces because the beautiful game is back and their Saturdays finally have purpose again, they can forget all of their troubles for 90+ minutes again.
All these things will certainly never be taken for granted ever again, that's for sure.
We couldn't agree more! Many thanks to Josh for sitting down with us, you can find him on Twitter @Josh_Yeardley . Stay tuned over the coming weeks for more interviews with some of our regular contributors during the downtime.