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The Oppo: Rotherham United

Handbags is back with his usual in-depth look at Reading's history with today's opposition.

Pete Norton/Getty Images

Head to Head

While Reading have by far the superior record over the Millers, three point rewards (or two points in old parlance) from Rotherham have been few and far between with just the four victories in 20 since the first meeting between the clubs in the 1968/69 season. Indeed, Reading are yet to win at the very tidy New York Stadium, with the Royals last victory at the Millers coming in September 2001 as Martin Butler, Jamie Cureton and Jim McIntyre goals saw the points head south.

The majority of matches in Rotherham were of course played at Millmoor, an atmospheric ground similar in size to Elm Park before the club was locked out by the landlord, prompting a temporary move outside of the town to nearby Sheffield and the Don Valley Stadium while the club finances were brought to order and the new stadium built The new ground is in direct sight of the old which is now nothing more than a rather sizeable white elephant on the landscape.

Played

RFC Wins

Draws

RUFC Wins

RFC Goals Scored

RUFC Goals Scored

New York Stadium

2

0

1

1

2

3

Millmoor

18

4

6

8

21

31

RUFC Overall

20

4

7

9

23

34

Madejski Stadium

6

5

1

0

10

0

Elm Park

14

8

5

1

21

13

Reading Overall

20

13

6

1

31

13

OVERALL

40

17

13

10

54

47

Memorable Match

2004/05 was a terrible year for Millers supporters, as the club finished bottom of the Championship and were relegated to League 1, while the club’s financial plight started to take a grip and the club was bought by the consortium Millers 05.

On the pitch, the club won just twice at Millmoor all season, and picked up 13 points from a total of 29 at home. Steve Coppell’s Reading, meanwhile, were still pushing for a playoff place despite coming into the match having just brought to an end an 11 match winless run by breezing past West Ham United thanks to Dave Kitson’s second hat-trick for the club.

Before the match the crowd of just 3,804 were introduced to Rotherham supporters the Chuckle Brothers, and the match played out very much in a similar "to you, to me" vein as possession of the football exchanged hands (feet?) almost at will. Despite the low quality of play, Reading dominated the match and hit the woodwork three times, although the Millers spurned the first chance of the game after Marcus Hahnemann picked up Sidwell’s backpass just six yards from goal, Martin McIntosh’s effort being deflected wide.

Midway through the first half came the Royal’s first chance as Mike Pollitt superbly saved at point blank range from an Ivar Ingimarsson header, tipping the ball onto the post and to safety. Steve Sidwell then tried his luck, his 30 yard effort grazing the bar also, and Glen Little embarked on a mazy run which ended with his effort being brilliantly diverted from goal by McIntosh.

In the second half, more of the same, goalkeeper Pollitt making a remarkable point blank save this time from Andy Hughes before Ricky Newman became the third player in blue and white hoops to hit the woodwork, his low curling effort bouncing back out off Pollitt’s left post. Rotherham clung on into the 90th minute when an innocuous free kick on the half way line was awarded, and yours truly, expecting the final whistle to be blown seconds after it was taken, looked down to the matchday programme to count the number of points the Millers had won at home so far that season. I missed the goal, only looking up when the hollow noise of celebrations from those left in the ground indicated that something had happened. I immediately added two additional points to the Miller’s home points total, and listened to the tinny strains of the public address system announce Paul Warne as the goalscorer. Barely 30 seconds later, the final whistle went, and a furious Steve Coppell went on to describe the West Ham performance as a "flash in the pan".

I’m convinced that this result primarily convinced Coppell the overhaul in the summer was required, which as we all know was carried out to stunning effect. The end of the season 04/05 though, Reading missed out on the playoffs on the final day to West Ham having been soundly beaten at the JJB Stadium, while Rotherham were predictably relegated.

They Played For Both Teams

Alan Pardew had been in charge of Reading for just five months and had struggled to improve Reading’s fortunes by February 2000, however three astute signings in the space of two weeks was the catalyst for a U-turn in fortunes as firstly lifelong Reading supporter Martin Allen became Assistant Manager after the departure of John Gorman, and soon through the doors came Matt Robinson from Oxford. The third signing was a clear indication that John Madejski was still willing to place his hand in his pocket after the disastrous Tommy Burns reign, and so it was that Martin Butler signed from Cambridge United for £750,000.

Dudley born Butler began his career at Walsall where, having received excellent reviews as a youngster, he made his debut in 1993/94. His career struggled to take off as a striker though, mainly due to being played out wide at the Bescot, and just 12 goals followed from 88 appearances before a highly successful move east to the Abbey Stadium, Cambridge.

In three years at Cambridge Butler played a major role in the U’s promotion in 1998/99, 21 goals playing alongside the highly rated Trevor Benjamin seeing Cambridge up in second position, and having scored 19 times up to the end of February the next season saw plenty of suitors vying to sign the highly rated Midlander. It was Reading that proved successful, and Butler would play a significant role in the Royal’s rise over the next 18 months.

Overall, Butler scored 23 times in 1999/00, four times for the Royals including the debut goal at champions-elect PNE, and the 2000/01 was Butler’s most prolific of his career. Opening his account against Swindon in the first home game, 27 more would follow in league, cup and playoffs but the season came to a shattering climax in Cardiff with defeat to Walsall in the playoff final. The following season, Butler really struggled to find form, yet just when he began to find his feet in November, disaster struck. An innocuous challenge ended up with a broken ankle and tibia, and Butler would be out of action for the majority of the season having scored just twice, recovering in time to start the final, glorious league match at Brentford.

Butler struggled at the higher level though, and just two goals in 24 appearances up to January saw Pardew wield the axe, and Butler would play just three more times for Reading after the insipid defeat to Leicester in January 2003, a £150,000 move north to the Millers being the destination of choice where he scored 15 goals in 2003/04 aiding the Miller’s rise up the table and flirtation with the playoffs. 2004/05 though, the goals dried up, just six in 22 appearances, and the Millers were relegated. At the lower level, just eight goals from 43 appearances and Butler was released at the expiry of his contract a maligned man after, as a high earner in a financially struggling club, he refused to take a reduction in wage and turned down moves to other clubs.

A second spell at Walsall followed, 13 goals in 53 games and a failed playoff campaign, followed by 18 months at Grimsby Town where six goals were scored in 27 appearances before winding up his career in 2010 at Burton Albion, aiding the Brewers promotion from the Conference.

A popular player in Reading, from 530 career appearances Butler scored an impressive 153 goals, and now can be found running his own heating and plumbing business in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Grudge Moment

If the question is Walsall, Paul Danson, Colchester United, Alan Lee, and Rotherham United, the answer can only be 2000/01. Rotherham, amongst the favourites for relegation at the start of the season, ended the season in second place behind Millwall.

Six games from season’s end, Reading looked to be favourites having managed to literally fluke a win at Dean Court, but Walsall came to bite three games later gaining a point from a two goal deficit allowing Rotherham to snatch second place by winning their game in hand a few days later. The penultimate weekend saw Rotherham confirm promotion with a last minute goal from Alan Lee at home to Brentford while Reading were losing to a highly contentious penalty given by Paul Danson at Layer Road.

The utmost credit and respect will always go to Rotherham for winning the race, the season is 46 matches long and they ultimately showed they were a better side over that period, and it must be said 91 points is a fantastic total to achieve. The nagging feeling in Berkshire, though, will always feel like Reading threw promotion away after dropping points at the likes of relegated Luton, Cambridge and Colchester late on in the season.

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

The New York Stadium – not named after the iconic city Stateside, but rather named after the island on which the stadium is built. New York Island was for many decades the site of the Guest and Chrimes Foundry, which supplied many iron and steel products to American cities including the traditional fire hydrants that are dotted around New York city.

But why, in a region perfectly located to house the steel industry with coal, water and iron readily available, are Rotherham United known as the Millers? Simple really – Millmoor was built on an old flour mill, and the club formed in 1925 after the merger of Rotherham Town and Rotherham County took the nickname. The club’s badge depicts the flour mill that stood nearby, hence the stadium name, Millmoor.