They don’t come much bigger than this one as we go head-to-head with League leaders Rotherham United in what is a clash of the form sides in the division.
Many thanks to the eloquent and it must be said extremely knowledgeable Will Daniels for his view on the game and League 1 from the other side of the fence and interesting to read his comments about the Meccano Stadium and the welcome he received.
You will be pleased to see once again we have updated the usual questions to embrace the situation at this stage of the season.
It’s a long read but well worth it.
Once again, many thanks to Will, and may the best team win.
Can you give us a surprising fact about your club that very few people would know?
Rotherham have accumulated 296 points from 159 games in EFL League One’s history, the 32nd most in English football. The most? MK Dons, with a whopping 793 points from 528 games.
With about two months left in the fixtures calendar, where do you see your club ending up in the League 1 table, and in the same manner where do you think the Dons will finish up?
I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get promoted at this point, given the number of points we’ve already accrued. It will be a straight slog between us and Wigan for the league title and although Wigan have a more exhaustive fixture list, we have the tougher set of opponents left to play. Looks like going right to the wire, and the title really would be the icing on the cake to an excellent season. Selfishly, I’m also aware only three teams have reached 100 points in League One so far too, so as a challenge to the lads, that would really cement their place in legend if we were able to achieve that. I’ve been impressed with MK Dons and how they’ve applied themselves after the tough loss of Russell Martin on the eve of the season. You’ve recruited well, have an exciting brand of football to watch and some real stars of League One in your team, and I firmly expect the Dons season to be extended for play off football this term. Rotherham look nailed on to go up, with possibly Wigan in second, the rest is a bit of a lottery.
Who is your tip for the two teams having a day out at Wembley in the playoff final, and the ultimate winner?
The play off mix is so difficult to call. As it stands MK look in prime position to snatch a place in the play offs but football ebbs and flows so quickly. I was impressed with Sheffield Wednesday upon a recent trip to Hillsborough and after examining the run-in analysis, they seem to have played a lot of the top ten sides now, so they’ll be in pole position to join MK. I fancy Oxford to be in there, and they have the nouse of being in the play offs previously. Although they were unsuccessful, they’ll be battle-hardened and look ready to push on again.
The final place looks unclear. Wycombe look uncharacteristically shaky at the back, Sunderland have recently appointed Alex Neil and will need to click into gear soon to give themselves a chance to be in the play offs, and then you’ve got Ipswich and Bolton roaring from behind, chomping at the bit. If I had to predict a play-off final and an eventual winner, I think I’ll go with Sheffield Wednesday. They’ve stayed in touch with the pack despite being ravaged with injuries. I predict that they’ll pack out Wembley against Oxford and sneak a second half winner.
At the other end of the table the race for survival is also on, who do you think will get relegated?
This could all change really quickly, but Crewe are the team I feel most susceptible to the drop. They’ve tried to add personnel in January, but the rug has been pulled from under ex Miller’s favourite and Crewe boss Dave Artell. So difficult to replace the quality they have lost, and then had two players terminate their contracts at the start of the season for pastures new. They desperately needed a goalkeeper in January and failed to add and that will ultimately be their downfall for me. Gillingham will finish second bottom. Whilst Neil Harris is an exciting appointment for the Gills, I worry that the quality they have isn’t sufficient for League One football. Doncaster have improved over recent weeks since the appointment of Gary McSheffrey. They’ve signed some quality in Reo Griffiths, who heralds from Tottenham and Lyon’s youth systems, and I think given service, he can score goals for them. Overall, too little too late for Rover’s mind. The last place is very much up for grabs. Morecambe have goals from Stockton and look a threat offensively but seemingly can’t keep the backdoor shut. They will hope losing Stephen Robinson does not further disrupt their plans of League One survival. Shrewsbury lack firepower and although Marosi has dug them out of some holes this season, I’m not convinced his form can last throughout the season. I love an underdog and I’m going to back the Shrimps to stay up, with Shrewsbury dropping into League Two.
Much has been said about the price of football, especially with some of facilities on offer, what’s a fair price of entry at this level in your opinion?
It’s an interesting question and one that probably hasn’t been raised enough. Whilst I recognise that clubs can charge what they want and have rising costs of their own, it does at times feel like fans are priced out of going to games, especially in quick succession. I’d like to see more ticket bundle deals done to incentivise people who go to a lot of games. This would bring in incomes more quickly for clubs too potentially. At this level, no club should be charging more than £20 a ticket, and to be honest, I think there should be a cap all the way throughout our game.
Recent weeks has seen several incidents of crowd trouble, with fans running on the pitch and striking players, offensive chanting, fighting outside of grounds, and it almost feels like a return to the problem days of the 70’s & 80’s. We think that social media is at the heart of this, what’s your take on it?
It’s a really sad state of affairs, isn’t it? Football means so much to so many and unites people that wouldn’t ordinarily meet in society, to come together and be one for 90 minutes, willing their team to three points. There are sadly people who take it too far and we’ve seen instances of that this season and simply put, it can’t continue. We all have to look in the mirror and recognise that by letting this slip and allowing this behaviour, we are part of the problem. Sadly, this will only change when something tragic happens and football has to react to save face. Social media is the root of all evil in our society today. It’s so easy to emotionally disconnect and post a comment on social media that could deeply affect the people we are communicating with. Not all emotion can be seen, and we never truly know, with indefinite proof, how someone is feeling. I’d love to see an end to all social media abuse, and for the world to be kinder to each other. But that feels a world away at present.
All fans love an away day; can you tell us the best and worst grounds you have visited and why?
The local ones always get you going. Donny’s ground isn’t the best, but we always take a few and make a right racket. In terms of the best ground, I’ve been to, maybe not in terms of size but facilities, friendliness, I really enjoyed my inaugural visit to Plough Lane this year. I’d just taken part in their podcast which is filmed in a TV studio (exciting!) and was taken through to the away end by the powers that be. We walked through their bar/restaurant that was rammed, was able to stop at one of the independent street food outlets that were situated within the ground and the fans were really friendly, before getting to the actual away end which was a decent size and a good view of the pitch.
In terms of bad away days, the worst ground must be Priestfield. What an absolute hell hole. What even is that “away stand”. My last trip was in 2019, where Matt Crooks chipped the keeper from 40 yards and it helped us get one over on Steve Evans, which is always lovely. That was the only thing that kept us warm – we were pelted with rain and a strong wind throughout. The toilet on the coach broke on the way home too. The things we do following our teams, hey?!
Can you tell us the style of play we can expect to see from your team?
Rotherham have been playing a 3-5-2 since a December 2019 triumph against Bristol City in the Championship. It allows us to have numbers in the centre of the pitch and allows us to attack in wide areas. Off the ball, we operate a high-octane pressing game, the second most aggressive in the league only to Pompey. This will allow us to shut off passing lanes into the likes of Twine and co and win the ball high up the pitch. The game plan is relatively simple on the ball from here. Work the ball into wide areas as quickly as possible, and cause problems down the sides of the pitch. We’ll look to bombard the area with crosses, and this has given us significant joy this season, as well as our ability to convert set-piece opportunities. If we can replicate the performance at Stadium MK (which I believe to be our best away performance of the season to date), it could be a difficult afternoon for the Dons.
Can you give us a player from each team that you feel will have the greatest influence on the result of the game?
MK – Scott Twine. What more needs to be said about Twine? He’s one of the hottest prospects in the EFL as we speak. Two great feet, has 22 goal contributions at the time of writing, will shoot from any and everywhere. What I love about him most is his artistry, there is simply no fear in his play. He will be playing Championship football next season, without a shadow of a doubt.
Rotherham – Dan Barlaser – our quarterback, the “Geordie Pirlo” has been key to a lot of the success we’ve been having this season. Picking the ball up deep, he’ll either work in tight spaces with midfield compatriots Wiles and Rathbone or play a fifty-yard pass on a sixpence to a wing back. Again, just like Twine, when he’s on his day at this level he is far too good for League One.
Thanks for taking part, all we need now is your prediction for the game.
I think the pitch will suit MK’s style of play and will allow you to express yourselves. Hopefully our defensive press and shape don’t allow you to create too much! I think this one will be a 2-2.