Nathan Jones the perfect fit for Rotherham United as Championship small fry roll the managerial dice

Lewis Oldham
Rotherham United manager search
Nathan Jones and ex-Rotherham United boss Matt Taylor.

Rotherham United need a shot in the arm to boost their Championship survival chances and Nathan Jones would be the perfect man to replace Matt Taylor…


There is usually only one outcome for a Rotherham United manager in the Championship: Relegation.

But Matt Taylor was able to buck that trend in 2022/23 as he helped the Millers finally avoid relegation from the Championship at their fourth attempt since 2016/17.

The 41-year-old seemed to be leaving Exeter City for a team on the up in Rotherham, eighth in the Championship when Paul Warne departed for a grander project (and higher salary) at Derby County in October 2022.

Rotherham’s gradual development under Warne gave his successor the club’s best squad in recent memory. And yet they were eventually left slugging it out to avoid the drop back down to League One and everyone associated with them breathed a huge sigh of relief at the end of last season when Taylor’s side secured their Championship status with a game to spare.

Rotherham’s survival does not detract from the fact that they are (and perhaps always will be) small fry in the Championship. With that, key trio Dan Barlaser, Chiedozie Ogbene and Ben Wiles had to leave to make room in the budget for a Taylor-inspired rebuild.

Several good signings (Sam Nombe, Christ Tiehi and Fred Onyedinma, in particular) were made on paper, but a ludicrous injury crisis has prevented Taylor from benefitting from his enhanced squad at full strength.

And he will not have the chance to profit from his rebuild at Rotherham as he was dismissed following their horrific 5-0 away loss to Watford at the weekend.

The task of managing Rotherham in the Championship is one of the toughest in the Football League and Taylor’s mission was made more complicated given that he succeeded club legend Warne.

While he is a bullish character who was laying the groundwork to bring Rotherham United forward off the pitch, the results on the pitch were not good enough to justify keeping him.

Taylor took over last season with Rotherham in an uncharacteristically lofty position in the second tier, but even though they slumped into a relegation battle with him at the helm, he deserves acclaim for overcoming several dark days to achieve something Warne never did: Keeping the Millers in the Championship.

But just two victories in 16 Championship matches this term left Taylor with an awful overall win percentage of just over 18%.

Under Warne, while Rotherham’s growth was limited by their awful away record, their battle to avoid a spot in the bottom three was built on their solid form at home and this continued under Taylor.

Rotherham’s miserable record on the road in the second tier precedes Taylor’s tenure, with only nine wins in their previous 102 away Championship games (and six of these victories came during the behind-closed-doors Covid season in 2020/21).

There is a stark difference in away games under Warne and Taylor, though. Rotherham under Warne were usually in the game before falling short, but with Taylor, they have been on the end of several hammerings and failed to register a single good away performance over 90 minutes. This season alone there’s been 4-1 vs Stoke City, 3-0 vs Millwall, 5-0 vs Watford and the dire 2-0 loss at bottom-placed Sheffield Wednesday, who strolled to their only league win of the season without facing a single shot on target.

The loss at Hillsborough was one of the final nails in Taylor’s coffin and Rotherham’s typically strong home record has not been enough to save Taylor, with only one win coming from their past five New York Stadium outings.

Rotherham’s Jekyll and Hyde performances have marred Taylor’s tenure, with the South Yorkshire side unrecognisable in the second tier from week to week depending on whether they are playing home or away.

And with Rotherham’s home form not currently good enough to keep the club afloat on its own, a managerial change – especially with the money on the table via next season’s huge TV deal – was required to give the club a shot in the arm and boost their chances of sneaking over the line (again).

Rotherham fearing relegaton

This is not an indictment of Taylor as a manager. He showed at Exeter City that he is capable of dragging a club upwards after building them around his image. He could have eventually achieved that with Rotherham (and he will do so elsewhere in the future), but with the stakes so high, the club’s board are right to roll the managerial dice.

His exit comes at an opportune time for Rotherham, who now have a two-week international period to integrate his successor before a gruelling run of non-stop Championship fixtures until March.

Given what’s at stake, this is arguably owner Tony Stewart’s most important managerial appointment in his 15 years in charge and luckily for him, there are several decent candidates who are out of work.

The return of Neil Warnock is understandably the dream for most supporters, but with the 74-year-old unlikely to return to management until the new year, Rotherham will (sadly for them) have to look further afield.

I (perhaps rightly) don’t have any influence at Rotherham United, but as F365’s resident Miller, my pick for Taylor’s successor would be Nathan Jones.

Those with short memories will have their opinion of Jones affected by his hilariously bad stint in charge of Southampton, which was a car crash from start to finish.

So it is easy to forget just how good a job Jones did at Luton Town over two stints. The Hatters – a club not too dissimilar to Rotherham in terms of size – were hauled up the divisions and battled above their weight at the top end of the Championship before his talented successor – Rob Edwards – took them to another level.

Jones would be an astute appointment for most Championship sides and while he may be targeting a job at a club higher than Rotherham in the league after his Premier League spell with Southampton, there is perhaps no club in the second tier more suited to him than the Millers.

Returning to management with a point to prove, Jones would thrive in attempting to prove his naysayers wrong, which is exactly what Rotherham do every time they step out onto the field as a Championship team.

When Rotherham are good at this level, they can be an intimidating foe (especially at home) for the league’s big hitters with their tireless hard work and pressing. Jones would get this out of them and if this type of performance can translate into away games, it would give the club a fighting chance. That is all the supporters expect in the Championship.

Failing that, Rotherham may go back down the chaotic route and snatch Steve Evans from League One high-flyers Stevenage so the notorious Scotsman could have a second stint with the Millers. What could possibly go wrong there…

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