Connect in the back of the net

Adam’s latest “The Championship Corner” column.

Five months ago, Alan Stubbs was holding aloft Hibernian’s first Scottish Cup for 114 years after defeating Rangers in the final.

Now, after leaving to take charge of Rotherham back in June, he is without a job, wondering what possessed him to move south.

Stubbs lasted just 13 league games at the New York Stadium and, after winning just one of them, the Millers are rock bottom of the Championship.

They have lost all of their last 6 games, instigating a board meeting which decided, according to a club statement, “that a change of first-team management was needed to give the club the best possible opportunity to preserve our Championship status.”

Stubbs failed to get Hibernian promoted back into the Scottish Premier League in his two years at Easter Road but second and third place finishes, as well as the dramatic Cup victory over the promoted Rangers, suggested that they would soon follow the Glasgow side into the top flight.

His work has been assumed by Neil Lennon and they are now top of Scotland’s second division.

However Stubbs decided to try his hand in England, where he had spent large periods of his career with Bolton and Everton, but Rotherham, a club rocked by the instability of having 3 different managers in charge last term, was always going to be a difficult first assignment.

The latter of those three managers, Neil Warnock, failed to be persuaded to extend his spell after keeping the Millers up with a superb late run in which they took 23 points from their last 14 matches.

Warnock, now on a similar rescue mission at Cardiff, cited the need for a manager to come in for a sustained period and that the dream of the chairman, local businessman Tony Stewart who financed the administration-mired club’s rise out of League Two as well as the move to the £17 million new stadium, to reach the Premier League could be achieved if they consolidated and worked on the infrastructure required for a promotion push.

“With one or two key signings Rotherham have the nucleus to take the club and try and be in a comfortable position” Warnock said but they have failed to materialise.

Jon Taylor, signed for £500k from Peterborough, and Will Vaulks, bought from Falkirk for £400k, have struggled to make an impact while Dexter Blackstock, freed from his contract at Nottingham Forest at the start of September, has been limited to appearances from the bench as he tries to regain match-fitness.

Stubbs highlighted poor recruitment by upheaving the club’s process within weeks of his arrival but will now not have the opportunity to watch it improve.

There have been successes in the market with Dominic Ball, plucked from Tottenham’s academy, settling in well at the back, but Stubbs’s inability to decide on a set defence, he has tried 7 different combinations, hasn’t helped the youngster; the Millers have already shipped an unforgiveable 32 goals and concede shots at their goal at a distressing rate of 18.8 per game.

Isaiah Brown, one of the many Chelsea loanees dotted around the Football League, has impressed in the early stages of his spell in south Yorkshire with 2 goals and 2 assists while Danny Ward has been the surprise hero, continuing his switch from winger to central striker with 6 goals.

The 24 year old cannot be over-relied upon for goals though and bar Taylor, who has 3 strikes to his name so far, and Brown, who has linked-up well with the striker from a free position that allows him to roam in the areas behind, nobody has made an undeniable case to offer the service, with the impact of Ben Pringle’s move to Fulham in 2015 still being felt.

Jake Forster-Caskey has not managed to rediscover the form he showed before he was marginalised at Brighton while Anthony Forde, Joe Newell and captain Lee Frecklington have not managed to hold down a regular place.

The job for Stubbs’s successor, Kenny Jackett the rightful favourite given the priority will be to plug the alarming leaks in defence, will be to discover his strongest line-up and avoid moving players about as freely as Stubbs did.

He will also have to find a balance in midfield to gain a firmer grip of matches, with a passive style that has limited them to an average of just 43% possession and a meagre 9.8 shots per game an open invitation for opposition pressure.

Consolidation, as Warnock laid out, should be the order of the day at the New York Stadium if the chairman is to witness a push for promotion in the future.

That however sees a long way off as once again the Millers seem set for a new manager and an impeding relegation scrap.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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