At the time of speaking, Rotherham are 19th in the table after 14 games, three points off the bottom three. What have you made of their return to the Sky Bet Championship?
I think their return has been pretty good. They are a very hardworking side but they don’t always possess the type of quality that might get a team upwards into mid-table. Invariably, they are on the wrong side of fine margins and haven’t really been outplayed across 90 minutes by anyone in memory. Another reason for them to pat themselves on the back is the fact they’ve had some horrendous injury problems at the start of the campaign, so selections will have been difficult and, for about two weeks, most of the midfield seemed to be injured at any one stage. What they’ve been able to achieve so far has been pretty good as they’ve got a few more points that many probably thought they might have for a team who are in that bracket of teams that might stay up or might not.
They’ve lost seven games so far, but four of those have been by a 1-0 scoreline and the 3-0 defeat to Reading in late October is the only real resounding victory they’ve been dealt. Defeats are still defeats, but do you think they’ve taken encouragement from that?
I think so. I also think that, when everybody is fit, they are a better squad than the last time they were in the Championship. As the leader of that group, Paul Warne gets into their heads to the point where they know full well that they are going to be 100 per cent committed to the cause. They are an excellent bunch to deal with, as is the manager and the rest of the coaching staff, it’s just whether, when they are in those killer areas, the 18-yard boxes, whether they can make something really tell for themselves. Personally, I don’t really hold many fears that they are going to get relegated this season but if they do, it will be very, very close.
Though their last two Championship seasons have ended in relegation. How much do you think that experience is going to help them this year?
If the evidence from the previous two is anything to go by, a lot. The season when they initially went down under Warne started appallingly. The recruitment was misguided and the club have since admitted that. In November of that season, Warne inherited a real mess. No one person was to blame more than anyone else but it was a sequence of events and circumstances under different managers and, ultimately, all of those problems got lumbered at his door, so they went down without too much of a whimper. The last time they were in the Championship, some of the football they played was excellent. Even going into the final two or three weeks of the season it looked as though they still had a chance. The character of the squad, as well as ability, got them a lot way. In that sense, that progression is evidence of the manager really thinking about his plan and how he wants that team to play. I do believe – and I hope – it stands them in very good stead for staying in the Championship this year.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on this Tuesday?
What I would say, first and foremost, is that Rotherham are a squad with very few ‘outstanding’ individuals but, nonetheless, there are one or two players in there who are very capable, the principle one being Ben Wiles. He’s come through the academy and has just signed a relatively long-term contract but for teams at the higher end of the Championship, possibly the lower end of the Premier League, he should be one in the ‘one for the future’ category. His best position is probably central midfield but he can play out wide and has played left-back, where he didn’t look out of place, so presumably he can play right-back as well. He’s a very good footballer. The other one is Dan Barlaser, who was on loan from Newcastle but has now become a permanent member of the squad. It’s a shame that a former Brentford player in Chiedozie Ogbene won’t be playing because his pace would’ve been crucial for Rotherham this year, but you are going to see another one in Florian Jozefzoon on the right-hand side of midfield.
How is Paul Warne likely to set up his side at the New York Stadium?
I would think he’d do something similar to what he always does in that it’s a variant of 4-5-1, which he has stuck to rigidly. Rotherham fans have asked him to play two up front but, of course, the counter argument to that is that if you take a midfielder out and stick another player up front, you might be more open against teams that almost certainly are going to be better, as a general rule, though not necessarily on the day. He likes to get the ball wide and forward as quickly as possible, but against a team like Brentford, one thing I dare say will be their principle concern is what they do without the ball. They will look to hassle, harry and stop Brentford first and then see what they can create themselves.
Recent meetings between Brentford and Rotherham have been a feast for the neutral, with 18 goals scored across the last three games. What’s your score prediction for this one?
This time I don’t see it being a big scoreline but it would be daft not to consider Brentford favourites for this one. I could see something along the lines of maybe a 1-0 or 2-1 scoreline in their favour.
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