Reserves in relegation mire

Last updated : 23 January 2003 By Peter Heywood

This result leaves us deep in the relegation mire, and it is only thanks to Knocker O’Neill’s brother Joe notching another brace for Preston at Bury this afternoon that we have not hit rock bottom.

Both sides fielded strong line-ups, the surprise inclusion for Burnley being Robbie Blake, whereas the Millers had Alan Lee returning from suspension.

Burnley (in 4-4-2): Nik Michopoulos; Andrew Leeson, Ian Cox, Mark McGregor (Earl Davis 69), Gordon Armstrong (capt.); Mark Rasmussen, Robbie Blake (Joel Pilkington 46), Andrew Waine, Alan Moore; Dimitri Papadopoulos (Anthony Shandran 80), Andy Payton. Subs not used: James Salisbury, Matthew O’Neill.

Rotherham (in 4-4-2): Ian Gray: Craig Mudd, Shaun Barker, Guy Branston, Tom Smith; Danny Hudson, Paul Warne, Stewart Talbot, Andy Monkhouse; Mark Robins, Alan Lee. Subs (none used): Kris Bowler, Danny Fells, Andy Jones, Andy Middlebrook, Will Hoskins.

The Don Valley Stadium is a curious sight, presenting as it does a glaring, modernist vision of lilac-neon fluourescence in an area of almost total, dimly-lit dereliction. Where once the fiery glare of the furnaces of the giant steel mills which gave the city of Sheffield worldwide fame and prosperity made night into day, and gave rise to the working communities from which was born football as we know it (Sheffield FC is the world’s oldest club), the night is merely half-lit now by the puny, piss-yellow arches of the occasional outpost of global capitalism, interspersed with And just beyond the stadium’s floodlights’ span stands that perfect Thatcherite symbol of the descent of this country from a nation of producers to one of consumers: Meadowhall.

Thus, the national symbolism of this setting can be extrapolated to that of twenty-first century, so-called "professional" football.

Let us entertain a Socratic dialogue:

Q (from Rotherham fan): Rotherham United play at Millmoor. Millmoor is in Rotherham, no more than three miles away. So why do Rotherham play at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield?

A (from Chief Executive): To preserve that holiest of holies, the pitch, and to maximise income

Q: OK, but don’t you allow Rotherham Rugby Union Football Club to play at Millmoor?

A: This is true, but they pay us for that privilege.

Q: So in other words, you get a lot more income from allowing a rugby club to churn up the pitch at Millmoor than from letting loyal, die-hard football fans watch their reserve team play the occasional match at their true home?

A: Let me answer your question this way. We have provided our fans with an international stadium in which to watch football. Admission is free (as is the team sheet, other clubs charge at least 10p); comfort is guaranteed with a perfect view of the pitch, albeit at some distance, possibly requiring binoculars. What more could a fan want? Surely they should be grateful for our beneficence.

Q: So why did only 40 people (7 from Burnley) turn up for tonight’s match? Isn’t this shameful?

A: Not at all. Obviously football fans are ingrates, and do not view the wider picture.

Q: So, you don’t think it’s got anything to do with playing in the heartland of Rotherham’s traditional opponents, and not at Millmoor, where supporters used to attend reserve games?

A: Certainly not! These thirty pieces of silver which have crossed my (and let me say most of my other colleague chief executives’) grubby palms have only the interests of football fans everywhere.

Q: So basically,what you’re saying is that you and your fellow chief executives couldn’t give a toss about your fans, as long as you’re making some money, even if it’s only 2p a week?

A: Precisely!

Match report: twenty-two men ran around and tried to kick a ball into a net. Rotherham did it better than we did, 3-1.

And Quiet Flows The Don. Shhhhhhhh??