Ronnie Moore’s first spell in charge of Rotherham began 20 years ago today and not many people could have envisaged how it would turn out.
Moore stopped the rot at Millmoor, leading the club back to the second tier and staying there for four years.
There were a book’s worth of memorable games along the way and here’s a five of the best.
Hartlepool 1 Rotherham 2 -1999-00
Rotherham travelled to Hartlepool for their final away game of the 1999-00 season knowing that three points would see them return to Division Two three years after their relegation.
They could not have wished for a better start as Leo Fortune-West headed in his 17th goal of the season in just the sixth minute, though Ian Clark’s solo effort brought Pools level midway through the first half.
Moore’s men had been relentless that season, though, and they found a crucial second goal four minutes after the restart when Guy Branston prodded home from close range. The Millers held on to claim promotion and spark famous scenes of celebration.
Rotherham 2 Brentford 1 – 2000-01
Those scenes were undoubtedly eclipsed exactly one year later as Rotherham enjoyed arguably the greatest day in their history.
A truly magnificent season on the back of their promotion the previous year saw them defy the odds to launch a promotion campaign which meant they would rise to the second tier if they beat Brentford in their last outing on home soil and results went their way elsewhere.
It was a nervy day in front of a packed out Millmoor and things got worse when Lloyd Owusu gave Brentford a sixth-minute lead.
Stewart Talbot eased the nerves when he levelled just before half-time but it looked like Rotherham’s fate would be decided on the final day as the Bees frustrated in the second half.
Then, with the final whistle moments away, Kevin Watson found Alan Lee on the edge of the box, the talismanic striker turned and shot low into the corner in front of the Railway End.
It is possibly the most famous goal ever scored by a Miller and it led to amazing scenes of celebration as the players and Ronnie were carried off the pitch by fans.
Sheffield Wednesday 1 Rotherham 2 – 2001-02
A generation of being in Sheffield Wednesday’s shadow ended as Rotherham got one over their neighbours in one of the best ways possible – a last-minute winner.
The Millers were above their ‘massive’ rivals in the table when they visited S6 and putting up a good fight against relegation in their first season in Division One.
A goalless first half was soon forgotten when Lee further enhanced his legendary status at the Millers when he headed home Chris Sedgwick’s cross early in the second period.
Shefki Kuqi brought Wednesday level 20 minutes later from a corner and the game was destined to finish as a draw.
Then the Millers got a free-kick in the 90th minute, Nick Daws whipped in a flighted delivery which Richie Barker climbed highest to head past Kevin Pressman and send 6,000 travelling fans into delirium.
Millwall 0 Rotherham 6 – 2002-03
Rotherham recorded their best-ever opening day win, setting the tone for a season which saw their highest league finish in 21 years.
At the intimidating home of a beaten play-off semi-finalist from the previous term, Ronnie’s men ran riot and Darren Byfield was the star of the show, scoring four goals.
Martin McIntosh and Chris Sedgwick also bagged as the Millers started the season in style.
Rotherham 1 West Ham 0 – 2003-04
This game was made famous by West Ham’s story, but it was the highest-profile of Rotherham’s wins during their stay in the second tier.
The Hammers were just relegated from the Premier League but still had David James, Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick in their ranks and so aghast were they at the changing facilities at Millmoor that they opted not to use them and got changes at the Swallow Hotel.
That served as perfect motivation to the Millers and they went on to outplay their illustrious visitors, winning 1-0 through Byfield’s 14th-minute volley.
It was West Ham who got the headlines, with boss Glenn Roeder sacked the next day, but it was the Millers who deserved them.
A 5-4 win over Hull in 1997-98, losing to Arsenal on penalties, beating Leeds in one final hurrah, a second Hillsborough win in six months, knocking Premier League Southampton out of the FA Cup and a 3-2 home win over Millwall in Division Two.