Rotherham United, Steve Evans embrace the circus *again* for perfectly timed nostalgia run

Lewis Oldham
Rotherham Steve Evans
Steve Evans returns to Rotherham United.

Nearly ten years since they first went their separate ways, Rotherham United and Steve Evans have reunited. Let the madness commence once again…


It’s been a pretty big week in the world of football. There’s been a bloody brilliant set of Champions League quarter-finals and FA Cup replays have officially been scrapped but most notably, Steve Evans has returned to Rotherham United for a second stint as manager.

At the end of what’s been a dumpster fire of a season for the Millers, this news has largely been met with huge positivity despite the prospect of Evans’ return causing a split in the fanbase just five months ago.

Back in November, Rotherham United’s board decided to sack Matt Taylor following a 5-0 away loss to Watford.

Given the unenviable task of replacing club legend Paul Warne, Taylor pulled off a feat his beloved predecessor could not: saving Rotherham from relegation in the Championship.

But after a summer of questionable recruitment – which saw Rotherham focus on signing ageing and injury-prone defenders to save funds for the £1m record buy of Sam Nombe (who is yet to live up to expectations) – Taylor was dismissed during his first full campaign in charge following a string of uninspiring away performances as his side failed to lay a glove on even the most lacklustre of opponents.

Sat 22nd in the table when Taylor departed, survival was still possible when the now-Bristol Rovers boss was let go but an infuriating month-long search for his replacement did lasting damage in Rotherham’s fight to avoid relegation.

Exposed for their lack of long-term planning, Rotherham were snubbed by several candidates before they eventually settled on Leam Richardson, who was somewhat harshly dismissed by Wigan Athletic last season.

By the time of Richardson’s arrival, Rotherham were fighting a losing battle in the relegation scrap and this appointment suggested the board already had one eye on life back in League One.

Richardson had previously guided Wigan to the third-tier title and on paper, there were few managers better equipped to get Rotherham back up next season.

Richardson had a few turbulent months to see out before he could oversee a pre-promotion tilt mass overhaul, but he has fallen victim to Rotherham’s miserable season.

Richardson inherited a shambles with a splintered squad having to use their New York Stadium pitch to train with the training surface at their Roundwood facility out of action as the pitch was unable to cope with adverse weather. Embarrassing really for a supposed Championship club.

Aware he had a big job on his hands, Richardson attempted to limit the potential damage by adopting an overly defensive approach in games and while this did make Rotherham more resolute, it ensured they offered nothing in attack for most of the head coach’s games in charge and this set-up did nothing to endear himself to club supporters.

While club icon Warne and Taylor had credit in the bank following their promotion/survival achievements, Richardson had no such thing and he was unable to turn the tide at Rotherham with the feeling at the club growing increasingly toxic as this season progressed.

Under Warne especially, there was a tight bond between players and supporters. But fan dissatisfaction was rising during Taylor’s reign and the rift at the New York Stadium increased further while Richardson was at the helm.

Club owner Tony Stewart – who previously could do no wrong having saved the club from bankruptcy – was facing backlash amid the South Yorkshire outfit’s decline with his (and his close confidante’s) poor decision-making contributing towards their worst season in recent memory.

During Rotherham’s time at the New York Stadium, a few heavy relegation-inflicted lows were mixed in with immense highs. Yet previous squads and managers benefited from at least being likeable and having fan support so there was a feeling that everyone at the club was on the same page and remained close-knit.

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This season, this has turned on its head with fan engagement at a new low ahead of another return to League One so Stewart and Co. recognised that a change had to be made.

With Richardson already on thin ice, a sluggish opening couple of weeks to next season would’ve been enough for a large portion of fans to call for his head.

So to avoid a summer of bad vibes, the Millers have played their Evans trump card to give the club a major shot in the arm before next season.

As mentioned above, the prospect of Evans’ return was a contentious topic just a few months ago and still is to a lesser extent.

During my years supporting Rotherham which began during the Milmoor days and before those miserable seasons in the wilderness at The Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, Evans’ three-plus years as manager were among the most enjoyable.

Two consecutive promotions from League Two to the Championship (with the help of a win at Wembley in the League One play-off final) and then second-tier survival – it was a thrilling rollercoaster of a period in which supporters were truly spoiled.

But this came with the caveat that Evans’ rash transfer methods set Rotherham back years with thousands upon thousands of pounds being thrown away in allowing the Scotsman to go through players as frequently as he does hot dinners amid mass fallouts and a toxic dressing room atmosphere.

During those days, Evans came with a fear factor that does not align with most modern coaches. An old-fashioned manager who is recognised as being horrible or brilliant to play for (depending on whether you’re on his good or bad side), his methods have come under fire but you cannot dispute that wherever he goes, he often finds a way to get results by any means necessary.

Rotherham United at their best are a team which embraces their underdog status and whether it’s via a hoof ball approach or by roughing up opponents, they are awful to play against for superior opposition but earn the love of the fanbase due to their grit, passion and work rate.

This season especially, these values have evaded Rotherham United and desperate to reclaim that old feeling, the majority of supporters (myself included) are now well in favour of Evans’ return, which comes following his miraculous achievements with minnows Stevenage, who have massively surpassed expectations to challenge for the League One play-offs this term.

Rotherham’s yo-yo nature means supporters are not used to boring seasons so this campaign has been a depressing crash down to earth.

Keen for any resemblance of entertainment, the board have sanctioned the return of the Evans and the circus that comes with him just at the right time.

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Football supporters at their core are a fickle bunch and a season of misery has briefly been forgotten due to Evans’ return, which has been finalised in time for Saturday’s home match against Birmingham City.

The Blues could easily follow Rotherham in being relegated and they will not be relishing the prospect of travelling to South Yorkshire with the New York Stadium set to be bouncing on Saturday for one of the only times this season.

Arriving at a time that allows Evans to assess his below-par squad for three games before building a whole new team for League One, Rotherham will be expected to be battling for third-tier promotion once again next term but will face tough competition with Wrexham coming up from League Two and potential big-budget Championship sides falling with them.

Am I getting caught up in the nostalgia? Of course. Am I actually sure Evans’ return will pay off? Not at all.

But that doesn’t matter. It’s suddenly fun to support my football club again and that’s above all else. Regardless of how well or poorly this appointment goes, it’s going to be a tireless rollercoaster experience that you won’t be able to take your eyes off and you cannot expect anything else from having Evans as your manager. I’m all in for round two…