How U2 contributed to Keith Hill’s irrational dislike of Rotherham

Don Valley Stadium will be remembered for a lot of different things in the history of Rotherham United.

It provided them with a temporary lifeline as they moved away from their Millmoor home in order to become free from the Booth family.

It initially became a fortress as visiting clubs found the isolated atmosphere in a three-quarters-empty athletics stadium an alien environment.

 

It constantly reminded people that you should always take a coat with you, even if it was the height of summer.

And it also consolidated Rochdale boss Keith Hill’s hatred of the Millers.

Hill had already taken an exception to the South Yorkshire club after he was unhappy at their spending in the first two years after exiting their second administration at the end of the 2000s.

What made it even worse for Hill was that at the start of the 2009-10 season, Mark Robins had come and plucked Rochdale’s best striker Adam Le Fondre for a six-figure fee.

And 10 days later he brought his Dale side to Don Valley and ended up reporting the Millers – and their pitch – to the Football Association.

(One of) the problem(s) with the Millers’ stay in Sheffield was that it wasn’t their stadium and therefore they were at the mercy of Sheffield International Venues as to what else it was used for.

Sheffield Eagles still played there, it was still a functioning athletics stadium and it regularly hosted concerts.

And it was the visit of superband U2 in August 2009 that tipped Hill over the edge in terms of his negative feelings towards the Millers.

 

The Irish band played the opening night of their 360degree tour on the Thursday night with Rotherham’s early-season League Two clash with Dale moved back 24 hours to the Sunday, Bloody Sunday.

Even that wasn’t enough to allow the pitch time to recover and the playing surface took an odd half-and-half look, with 50 per cent of it looking like a football pitch and the other 50 per cent looking anything but.

Still, referee Gary Sutton deemed it playable, much to the chagrin of Hill and his assistant David Flitcroft.

The pitch did not have much of an effect in an even game.

Le Fondre scored his first home goal for the club to further darken Hill’s mood but Chris Dagnall responded immediately and the scores were level at half-time.

Another even contest unfolded after the break, but the Millers won the game through Paul Warne’s strike – his final goal in front of the home fans.

Hill is not known from shirking his opinion and let rip afterwards, saying: “We should have had the fixture reversed because that’s a sub-standard pitch. There’s no sour grapes. We put our complaints in before the game.

“We’re going to take the club route to dealing with that.”

 

Flitcroft later added: “We had a report done before the game at about 1320. We found shards of glass and we found two nails as we came off the pitch.

“It’s been an absolute shambles from an organisation point of view from this stadium. Before the game, we questioned whether the game should have been played.

“If I’d have brought my team down to a non-league venue and that was the state of the pitch, I would’ve just walked off. If it was a friendly, I would’ve just walked off.”

The Millers, under a siege of criticism, felt the need to respond and soon put out a statement clarifying that it was referee Sutton who decided the game should go ahead.

But that did little to quell a burning resentment towards Rotherham for Hill, one which still exists to this day if his comments after Rotherham’s 1-0 win at Spotland in October are anything to go by.

Surprisingly, the Don Valley furore did not stop Hill getting linked to the Millers’ job just a month later when Robins left for Barnsley, but he laughed off the speculation, suggesting Tony Stewart would find him unemployable.

And that’s not to mention the Millers fans, who might just let Hill know of their feelings towards him when Rochdale visit the AESSEAL New York Stadium this weekend.

The Dale boss might find something to moan about after the game, but it won’t be the pitch.

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