Hurst: Rotherham is a Club Very Close to My Heart
Friday, 10th Aug 2018 10:23
Blues boss Paul Hurst will face a club he says is very close to his heart when Town travel to Rotherham for his first away game in charge on Saturday, with the Millers also the side which beat his Shrewsbury team in the League One play-off final in May.
Hurst has fond memories of his long spell at Rotherham, he made 438 starts and 59 sub appearances, scoring 16 goals, between 1993 and 2009, back in the days that they played at Millmoor.
The Sheffield-born former left-back says he’s pleased that the club has grown since then and is looking forward to acquainting himself further with the New York Stadium on Saturday.
“Rotherham are very close to my heart having spent almost all of my playing career there,” he said. “I was pleased for the club it moved on, unfortunately I wasn’t there to play at the new stadium and I’ve only been there a couple of times.
“But my recent memory wasn’t a good one, losing out to them at Wembley, but I'm pleased for them as a football club and pleased for the lads that are there, Paul Warne, Richard Barker, Matt Hamshaw, Mike Pollitt, I played with three of them at Rotherham.
“They’re very good lads and it would be nice to see them on Saturday, but hopefully it might be my turn to be smiling at the end of the game.”
He says he gets on well with Warne, who for an added edge this weekend is a Norwich supporter and a former youth player with his hometown club.
“We’ve stayed in touch and he’s a great character,” Hurst said of Warne. “He makes people laugh, he makes me laugh. Even in management, he doesn’t want to be a manager, but I think he’s enjoyed it the more success he’s had.
“But fair play to him for sticking with it because he was thrown in at a very difficult time when Rotherham were really struggling in the Championship and that was a real baptism of fire for him.
“Last season it wasn’t exactly a poor start but they weren’t quite as high up the table as they finished and they did very well.
“This time I’ll know he’ll be a lot more optimistic about his chances in the league and they’ll be better prepared.”
The Millers’ return to the Championship got off to the worst possible start last week when they were thrashed 5-1 by Brentford at Griffin Park, a result Hurst believes doesn’t do Town any favours.
“No, that and the fact that it’s their first home game back in the league as well,” he reflected.
“We know they’re going to be fired up for it. I know they’ll be a very fit group of players who will give absolutely everything for Warney and that football club and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready and up for that challenge.
“Yes, it was a heavy defeat at Brentford, I have to say I’ve watched the game and Brentford played extremely well.
“I’d be surprised if they wouldn’t have given everyone a really tough game on the day and, as I’ve just alluded to, despite the scoreline Rotherham kept going right to the end.
“So make no mistake, it’s not going to be a team that’s just going to crumble, we’re going to have to earn everything that we try and get from the game.”
Having added three players to his squad since last week’s 2-2 home draw with Blackburn, Hurst has decisions to make regarding his XI.
Bartosz Bialkowski will be in goal with Jonas Knudsen at left-back and Toto Nsiala - whose last competitive match was the play-off defeat to Rotherham at Wembley - set to make his debut alongside skipper Luke Chambers at the heart of the defence.
Hurst will have to choose between recent signing Janoi Donacien and Jordan Spence at right-back but seems likely to opt for the St Lucian.
Cole Skuse and Trevoh Chalobah look set to continue in the deeper midfield roles with Jon Nolan - again whose last competitive fixture was the play-off final against the Millers - making his debut ahead of them.
Gwion Edwards, last weekend’s star performer against Blackburn, will be on the right with Freddie Sears, whose cross led to the former Posh winger’s goal, probably continuing on the left.
Hurst will probably stick with Ellis Harrison in the lone striker’s role with Kayden Jackson having only joined the club yesterday but the former Accrington man is likely to be handed his debut at some stage.
Midfielder and former Millers loanee Grant Ward is back from his suspension but seems likely to be on the bench.
Rotherham boss Warne is hoping to add to his squad today via the loan option available to EFL clubs until the end of the month.
"We’ve got a dearth in central midfield, everyone knows that, and I’m hopeful for some really good news on one if not two tomorrow [Friday],” he said at his pre-match press conference.
"There’s a great chance I could get someone in but I’ve been saying that for weeks.
"Loan players have done well for us in the past with the likes of Kieffer Moore and Josh Emmanuel.”
Warne says he has a fully fit squad - aside from long-term absentee Darren Potter - going into the match and doesn’t anticipate making too many switches of personnel despite last weekend’s result.
"Everyone is good and there are no issues. We played against a very good team, so it would be wrong of me to make too many changes based on that. I have to pick a team to go toe-to-toe with Ipswich,” he said.
Regarding the hammering by the Bees, he added: "There's no embarrassment or shock but we have to learn the lessons quickly. We picked them up, brushed them down and we'll send them back out.
"I think I feel better now I've watched a few games this week. I think there will be games where the other team has the possession and you just have to hang in. We're reiterating that we can compete but we need to do it consistently.
"I think all teams are harder to beat at home and especially late on in games fans play a part in that. With us, we want to get up as high up the table as we can and hopefully we can start that with a home win on Saturday.”
Warne is pleased his old Millers team-mate has been given the chance he has at Town: “I spoke to him in the summer and it's a great job for him. A couple of my friends are Ipswich fans.
“He's done brilliantly and it's thoroughly deserved. It's great to see a young manager with an opportunity like this.
“He's really strengthened the team and he's brought in players with points to prove. It may take a few weeks to implement his style, but he's got 20 per cent of his outfield that know him already from previous clubs and that will help."
The teams last met at the New York Stadium in April 2017 with Rotherham already relegated to League One.
Current Town player Tom Adeyemi, then on loan with the Millers from Cardiff, netted in the 79th minute to see the South Yorkshiremen to a 1-0 win.
Town keeper Dean Gerken saved a seventh minute Danny Ward penalty, while the Blues went closest to scoring when loanee Dominic Samuel hit the bar in the first half.
In the previous October at Portman Road, David McGoldrick netted a brilliant low drive deep in injury time to grab Town a last-gasp 2-2 draw against the Millers, whose point at Town was one of only two they claimed on the road that season.
Sears had put the Blues in front in the third minute but man of the match Ward equalised four minutes later, then put the visitors in front three minutes after the break.
Town rarely looked like getting back on terms in a lacklustre second half until McGoldrick’s late strike.
The Rotherham squad includes ex-Town keeper Lewis Price. The 34-year-old joined Town as an academy scholar from Southampton and went on to make 74 starts and one sub appearance for the Blues between 2004 and 2007.
Millers central defender Semi Ajayi was on trial with Town in January 2015 when he played a game for the U21s.
Rotherham goalkeeper-coach Mike Pollitt enjoyed a one-game loan spell with the Blues in November 2006, helping Town to a 3-1 derby defeat of Norwich City at Portman Road before his stint was cut short by injuries at his parent club Wigan.
In addition to Blues manager Hurst, academy coach Alan Lee had a successful spell at Millmoor alongside him between 2000 and 2003.
Grant Ward was on loan at the New York Stadium from Tottenham in 2015/16 when he made 35 starts and eight sub appearances, scoring twice.
Adeyemi spent the following year on loan with the Millers, making 29 starts and one sub appearance, scoring seven times.
Right-back Emmanuel spent last season on loan at Rotherham and featured in that play-off victory at Wembley. In total, he made 37 starts and one sub appearance.
Saturday’s referee is David Webb from Lancashire, who has shown 94 yellow cards and three red in 43 matches last season and is yet to take control of a game this year.
Webb’s most recent Town match was the 0-0 home draw with Burton Albion in February, in which he booked only one Brewer.
Prior to that, he was in charge of the 1-1 draw at Leeds in January 2014 in which he booked only Cole Skuse and awarded the home side a penalty, which Ross McCormack converted, after Luke Chambers fouled future Blues outcast Cameron Stewart.
He also refereed the 1-1 draw at Bolton in October 2013 when he booked one player from each side.
More notable was his previous game involving the Blues, the 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in March of the same year when he red-carded two Town players, Lee Martin and Richard Stearman, and showed five yellow cards to Tricky Trees.
Webb’s only Town matches prior to that were the 1-0 victory over Derby at Portman Road in December 2011 - when he booked no Blues and two Rams - and the 2-0 victory at home to Scunthorpe in March of the same year when he yellow-carded Martin, Gareth McAuley, Grant Leadbitter and one visiting player.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Donacien, Spence, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Edun, Dozzell, Edwards, Sears, Ward, Roberts, Nolan, Harrison, Jackson, Morris.
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