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Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light

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Fan Focus: What can Sunderland expect from struggling Rotherham? Millers fan Will lifts the lid!

Ahead of tonight’s match, we spoke to Rotherham fan Will Daniels to discuss life under their new manager Matt Taylor. Find out which players Sunderland should be wary of!

Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Having guided the club to promotion from League One three times, Paul Warne opted to leave Rotherham for Derby back in November - how was his decision viewed by supporters?

Will Daniels: There has been a mixed reaction to the departure of Paul Warne. He’ll always be a part of Rotherham folklore - not only for his time as a player, but also as one of the most successful managers in the club’s history.

He entirely changed the culture of the club and I’ll forever be greatful for the wonderful memories that he and his teams have given me.

Some would argue that he had downed tools before his departure and the squad has suffered as a result.

I personally feel like he took the club as far as he was allowed to, given our club size and budget made available, and wish him all the best at Derby. It’s a massive club for that level and if he’s had a great impact thus far.

The man who replaced him was Matt Taylor joining from Exeter, how would you summarise his tenure so far?

WD: Pretty mixed so far. Before the international break, we were competitive and I think we benefited from playing against tired teams, that were not taking their chances. We went to Burnley and should have probably taken at least a point after conceding twice in stoppage time, and beat Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, no mean feat.

Since the international break we found things really tough. Performance levels nose-dived to a point where we looked destined for the drop until a change of shape mid January saw us wallop Blackburn at home, as well as holding Watford and Sheffield United following that.

Personally, I’m not overly sold on the project thus far, but will back Taylor and his team to get it right.

Watford v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship - Vicarage Road
Matt Taylor guided Exeter to promotion from League Two last season, before leaving to join Rotherham in October.
Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

After an impressive start to the season, Rotherham have won just two of your last 12 league matches, what are the main factors behind your dip in form?

WD: Stats don’t always tell the full story, but Rotherham have conceded the highest expected goals of anyone within the Championship (38.92 as per Opta Analyst). That’s a whopping eight goals more than any other team. We’ve also conceded the second most shots.

Equally, we’ve also taken the least amount of shots, despite being one of the most accurate teams in the Championship. The combination of these metrics makes for pretty concerning reading.

We’ve been a little bit unlucky with injuries too. We fetched in Championship stalwart Sean Morrison, only for him to get injured two games into his time here. We lost Ben Wiles with a season ending injury in December, and have struggled for a ball carrier, a creator from the centre of the park ever since.

Given that your team are now two points above the drop zone, are worries starting to kick in amongst the fanbase?

WD: The thought of relegation is never far away from the minds of Rotherham fans. We know who we are and where we appear in the food chain.

I certainly felt that the business we’d done in January would help us to kick on, we added a lot of Championship experience. It’s not yet taken off, players are still finding their feet.

It’s a relentless league, as proven in the last week where we’ve taken just a point from fellow strugglers Blackpool, Reading, and Coventry.

We need things to click into place pretty quickly as our end of season run-in looks tough. But I’m sure if you offered most Millers Championship survival by any means, they’d take it.

Burnley v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship - Turf Moor
Sunderland will have to be wary of Chiedozie Ogbene, who is Rotherham’s top scorer with seven goals this season.
Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Last season, Dan Barlaser’s set piece delivery consistently caused Sunderland’s defence issues, were fans devastated to see him leave for Middlesbrough?

WD: Dan was just a class act. I don’t think there are many cases where a player has left so well thought of. He was integral to the promotions we achieved, and probably one of the best midfield technicians we’ve ever had at the club. He leaves a huge hole to fill.

He fully deserved his move to Middlesborough, leaving the club as the top assist maker in the Championship. It’s a great move for him, moving back up towards home and playing for a manager of quite some pedigree. They’re rocking and rolling at the moment, I hope Dan can get them over the line.

In terms of incomings, Leo Hjelde, Tariqe Fosu, Conor Coventry and Domingos Quina all joined on loan in January, who has impressed you the most so far?

WD: Out of the loanees mentioned, I think I’d probably go for Leo Hjelde. Endeared himself perfectly to the Millers faithful with an assist in his first minute in the shirt!

He’s played left back for us having joined from Leeds, looks really comfortable on the ball and happy to step out, but also an excellent 1v1 defender.

He’s not the finished article just yet, but will play Premier League football one day.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Bloomfield Road
Bailey Wright has made three appearances for Rotherham so far, playing a full 90 minutes in their recent 2-1 defeat to Reading.
Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images

Speaking of loans, Bailey Wright joined Rotherham from Sunderland in January, how has he got on so far?

WD: Bailey had possibly the shortest debut I’ve ever seen. The ball was in play just three seconds before he jumped for a header and got a concussion.

He came back into the side against Reading and did ok. Difficult to say too much about him because we’ve not really seen him thus far.

During our last fixture, in-form winger Jack Clarke scored and assisted the other two goals - how do you think your defence will approach keeping him quiet this time around?

WD: Clarke’s second half performance in that game was one of the heat individual displays I’ve seen all season. He’ll be very difficult to keep quiet, and you guys have enough talent in those forward areas to make it a very difficult night for our defence.

The Rotherham way should be to get in his face, and also to try and get in behind him.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship
Jack Clarke scored a fantastic solo goal during Sunderland’s 3-0 home win in the reverse fixture.
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How do you think Taylor will set up tactically and which eleven players do you think he will select?

WD: I suspect we may see a few changes in this one. Taylor has spoken in his pre match press about our lack of energy and needing to make some changes. Captain Ollie Rathbone has a groin complaint and will be touch and go.

I suspect he’ll go with:

Johansson (GK), Hall, Humphreys, Hjelde, Peltier, Coventry, Lindsay, Odoffin, Fosu, Hugill, Ogbene.

Rotherham have only lost four out of 14 home matches this season, what is your prediction for the final score tonight?

WD: The key will be the first goal. I’m pretty worried about the pace and technical ability you have in forward areas and I think you could do us some real damage.

If we can nick a goal early I think we’ll come out with a point, if you get the first goal I can see it being 2,3-0 Sunderland.


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