Millers legend Gerry Forrest talks Jim McGuigan, the 1980/81 promotion, his return in 1990/91, best teammates and the current team under Paul Warne…

Forrest was signed by the club in 1977/78 after undergoing a successful trial under the watchful eye of Jim McGuigan. The right-back went straight into the first team and he was a top player for the Millers for many years.

He was part of the famous Rotherham United sides of 1980/81 and 1981/82 that enjoyed so much success in Division Two and Three. Many fans consider these years to be Rotherham’s all-time best, and Forrest played a major part in that.

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His class was recognised as Division One side Southampton signed him in 1985 for £100,000. He enjoyed a great couple of years in England’s top division before he rejoined the Millers for one more year in 1990/91.

Gerry made just short of 400 Rotherham appearances in his two spells at the club that spanned ten years. Here are the bits from our chat with the Millers legend…

On first joining the Millers…

“I had three trial games at Rotherham, I knew I had to make it into professional football, I had been turned down at Wolves, and Aston Villa so I thought it would be my last chance as I was nearly 20 years old.

“I was working as a joiner and playing in the Northern League. If I had failed to make it at Rotherham, I had already decided to stop trying and just carry on at work.”

On Jim McGuigan…

“Jim Mcguigan taught me a lot he was a great manager to start off your football career with.

“He was always encouraging me to get forward as a full back, and he would help on the defensive side of the game which I didn’t know much about when I first started!”

On the 1980/81 promotion…

“The team of 1980/81 under Ian Porterfield, was probably the best I had played in. That season was one I will never forget, everything just fell into place.

“Everybody who was connected to Rotherham United that season – the first-team squad, reserves, youth team, supporters… they all made it extra special and the last game at Millmoor was brilliant. Needing a win to become champions, you could not ask for a better time.”

Rotherham United squad 1980/81

On the 1981/82 season…

“The 81/82 season could have been even better if we finished strongly. I always thought we needed to add another three players to the side. It worked the season before with John Seasman, Ronnie Moore and Tony Towner – I always wonder if we could have made it to the top league.

“That was something I would have liked to achieve but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Emlyn Hughes was a great addition as a player-manager and it was a pleasure to play alongside him.”

On joining Southampton…

“The 1985 campaign was a bit of a struggle after two seasons in the old Division Two. It was back down to Division Three. I had made my mind up to stay at Rotherham and signed a contract which took me to ten years of service.

“Then one afternoon I got a call from the new manager, Norman Hunter. He said the club were struggling financially and I would have to be sold, but it would not be to Sheffield United, who had shown an interest.

“Norman said I would get a call from Chris Nicholl, the Southampton manager, who had already made an offer. He rang and I spoke to him this was on a Wednesday afternoon. I had to get my wife from work and daughter from school, then travel to Southampton.

“Thursday I met the manager and chairman. Friday I met a couple of the players and Saturday lined up to face Arsenal at The Dell. I did not have time to tell anyone what was happening it was all done so quickly.”

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On returning to Rotherham United in 1990/91…

“It was good to come back to Rotherham because I had nine great years there. But I was about to face the worst season ever at Millmoor.

“I had a bad end to my time at Southampton. It ended with an awful knee injury and they advised me to stop playing and have my knee reconstructed. I had no other choice. The club had stopped my insurance cover when I turned 30 so there would be no compensation as I was not covered!

“I had the operation and got through pre-season but I knew I wasn’t right. Southampton let me go on a free transfer and there were a few enquiries before Rotherham.

“But when I spoke to Billy McEwan – he tempted me back with an offer of coaching and maybe playing a few games depending on my knee injury.

“I ended up playing over 30 games; we got in a relegation battle and I was getting more and more frustrated with everything going wrong on and off the pitch.

“A game against Swansea ended it all. We were two goals up, and I had a few tussles with one of their players, he knew I was struggling, and he was winding me up.

“Normally I would have ignored him, but I lost control and got sent off for violent conduct. They ended up scoring three goals and eventually, we were relegated.

“So coming back to Rotherham didn’t work out as I had expected. Within a couple of weeks, I was sacked which I took really badly. After all the good times at Rotherham, it was time to walk away.”

On Paul Warne…

“I’ve met Paul Warne a couple of times. I try to get back to Rotherham as much as possible to see how they are playing.

“For me, he has done a great job. I hope he stays as long as possible, they are too good for League One, but the Championship is giving them a few problems at the moment.

“If he can keep them there for a couple of seasons and maybe have a bit more to spend on players then who knows what could happen.”

On his favourite Rotherham memories…

“The whole season 80/81. They were special times and something I will never forget. There was a couple of cup games I remember, in the late ’70s, we beat Arsenal 3-1.

“It was a fantastic game, I had been playing in non-league football a couple of seasons before this and I actually thought we would go on and win the cup… but we got knocked out in next round!

“Another cup game at Liverpool in the ’80s, we gave as good as we got and were so unlucky to lose 1-0.”

On his best Millers teammate…

“There was a lot of good players at Rotherham and it was a pleasure to play alongside them all. If I had to pick just one, then it would be an obvious choice, Tony Towner.

“We seemed to play well together and on the pitch had a great understanding with each other. Off the pitch, we couldn’t understand a word we said to each other he was a cockney and I was from Teesside!

“He was a great player in a great Rotherham team. A player who could go past players and provide crosses, and get the crowd on their feet.”


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