Millers and Cherries share same road of recovery

At the start of the 2008/09 season, the possibility of a clash between Rotherham and Bournemouth in the Championship seemed a million miles away.

Indeed, both clubs were staring the Football League trapdoor firmly in the face and the possibility of plummeting into non-league looked a much likelier prospect.

That was because both had begun the League Two campaign on minus 17 points after the football authorities slapped a heavy punishment on them for exiting administration.

After a hellish couple of years for both clubs, that could easily have been the final nail in their coffins. 

The Millers had been in administration twice, the second time putting them on the brink of closure as they battled with the fall-out of four years in the second tier under Ronnie Moore.

They fortunately staved off that threat after local businessman Tony Stewart came to the rescue, but it was by no means hunky dory as Stewart chose to lead the club away from Millmoor – their home of over 100 years – to escape tyrannical rent demands and they shacked up at Don Valley Stadium – a dilapidated athletics stadium in, whisper it, Sheffield.
With crowds expected to dwindle and years of struggle behind them, the club could easily have crumbled.

The Cherries had hardly been enjoying the high-life either as after struggling with debts of £4million, they were placed into administration early in 2008, with the 10-point deduction condemning them to relegation from League One into the bottom tier.

They were saved by a local consortium but, on the back of relegation and starting the season with such a deficit, it was danger time for the Cherries.

But for all their off-the-field issues, both clubs actually had decent teams and also had a saving grace in the shape of Luton Town, who were in a similar boat, beginning the season on minus 30 points.

Don Valley was hardly a breeding ground for a good atmosphere
That made their job of staying up in a poor division that little bit easier.

In the end, both made a mockery of their point deductions and comfortably stayed up.

Although the Millers, who flirted with the idea of achieving the unthinkable and were genuine play-off contenders until a late-season dip, finished 12 points better off than the Cherries in that season, it was the south-coast club whose rise from the ashes was more prominent.

The following year under a 31-year-old boss Eddie Howe they cruised to automatic promotion from League Two, thanks in the main to 26 goals from Brett Pitman.

The Millers, under the charge Moore once again, were beaten play-off finalists.

The Cherries’ renaissance continued and they impressed in League One in 2010/11 as they put the disappointment of losing Howe to Burnley midway through the campaign to one side as they reached the play-offs, where they were beaten semi-finalists.

The extent of Bournemouth’s recovery both on and off the field was highlighted by them paying £300,000 for Rotherham’s Lewis Grabban in the summer of 2012.

But the pivotal moment in the club’s success story was the return of Howe in October 2012.

With the Cherries residing in the bottom four of League One after a poor start under Paul Groves, Howe left his post at Burnley to return to Dean Court and led them on a remarkable journey.

A fantastic run of form, including eight wins out of the final nine games, catapulted them up the table and into the automatic promotion places, marking a first return to the second tier in over 20 years.

The Millers earned a return to the Championship with victory at Wembley

There was no danger of a struggle as the Cherries more than held their own among some top clubs and after a late-season push, only fell six points shy of the play-offs last season.

Indeed, the Cherries’ success and establishment in the Championship could be a blueprint for the Millers to follow.

After all, from that shared nadir in 2008, their paths have been uncannily similar.

The Millers made much more of a meal of getting out of League Two of course, a task that Mark Robins, Moore and Andy Scott all failed on.

But their triumphant return to the town in the shape of New York Stadium in 2012, combined with the arrival of Steve Evans, sparked a promotion campaign and five wins on the bounce saw them finish second in League Two.

And they sailed straight through League One last season courtesy of that magnificent day at Wembley to seal their return to the second tier for the first time in a decade.

It’s early days, but the suggestions are that, while they may have struggled for goals, they have enough quality in their squad to be able to make their mark on the division.

So, whatever the result on Saturday as the two teams meet in the second tier for the first-ever time the match should serve as a celebration of triumph over adversity.

Whether Evans’ men can push on like the Cherries have done also remains to be seen, but given their respective rises, it could well be possible that the two clubs could one day be meeting again in the Premier League.

And who would have thought that all the way back on minus 17?

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