Throughout the January transfer window, all eyes were on clubs such as Chelsea. The Blues spent a whopping £300m – more than La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 combined – to bring in household names such as Enzo Fernández, Mykhaylo Mudryk and João Félix. But lower down the footballing pyramid, one Championship club was busy having their best transfer window for years.
Prior to the 2022/23 season getting underway, oddschecker, which compares odds and offers on English football, had earmarked second-tier new boys Rotherham United as the overwhelming favourites for an immediate relegation back to League One. But as the campaign ticks into its second half, The Millers are four points above the Championship’s trap door.
Across the last six years, the South Yorkshire club have been the definition of a yo-yo club. They have either finished in the League One promotion places or the Championship relegation zone. Last term, they sealed another immediate return to the second tier on the final day of the season, when debutant Georgie Kelly’s late debut goal secured a 2-0 victory away at Gillingham in front of 3,000 jubilant away fans. The club then made their best start to life in the second tier, as long-serving manager Paul Warne led The Millers as high as 8th in the opening weeks of the season.
Warne’s Departure and Subsequent Downturn in Form
In late September, however, The New York Stadium outfit were rocked to their core when manager Warne left the club for League One’s Derby County. The announcement came as a shock both to Millers’ fans and the wider footballing community. The club acted quickly, bringing in former Exeter City boss Matt Taylor, and things immediately looked prosperous.
Rotherham picked up two impressive back-to-back victories at home to Huddersfield Town and away at Stoke City. They would then give promotion-chasing Burnley and Norwich City runs for their money, before securing a 1-0 victory over local rivals Sheffield United on enemy territory, their first victory at Bramall Lane for over four decades. But following the World Cup-enforced winter break, the wheels seemingly came off the bus.
Once the players reconvened after Qatar, the Millers would pick up just one point in six games, and suffered humiliating defeats against West Bromwich Albion, Huddersfield, Millwall and League One Ipswich Town. But the new year has breathed new life into the walls of the New York Stadium.
The Millers picked up their first win since the World Cup break when they thumped play-off chasing Blackburn Rovers by four goals to nil. Two more draws would follow against two sides with Premier League DNA running through their veins, namely Watford and Sheffield United. And in the final week of the transfer window, the Millers made some incredible signings, significantly strengthening their squad and their chances of avoiding the drop.
The club brought in no less than seven players in the January transfer window, all of whom have Championship experience. Former Cardiff City captain Sean Morrison joined on a free transfer, while Brentford winger Tarique Fosu terminated his loan spell at Championship rivals Stoke to join the Millers. Highly rated Leeds defender Leo Hjelde also joined on loan. West Ham United midfielder Conor Coventry was chosen to replace the outgoing Daniel Barlaser, who left for Middlesbrough for £1.5m. On deadline day, the club brought in highly experienced Australian Bailey Wright and talented midfielder Domingos Quina.
But the jewel in the crown of The Millers’ recent transfer activity was the free transfer of striker Jordan Hugill from Norwich City. The former West Ham man is a striker in the Rotherham mould, a hardworking centre-forward who will run himself into the ground for the team. Hugill has never been a goal machine, but he looked impressive on his debut, and the home faithful will be hoping that the Irishman can fire the club to Championship safety.