HE has adopted some of the famed All Blacks’ principles during his brief period at the helm, but Rotherham United caretaker manager Paul Warne knows he will need something even more unconventional to second-guess the maverick talent of QPR chief Ian Holloway today.
Millers stalwart Warne takes charge for only the second time since being promoted from assistant following Kenny Jackett’s shock resignation.
He was powerless to prevent yet another defeat at Burton Albion a week ago – Rotherham have just one win from 20 games this season and that was in August against Brentford – but the task does not get any easier for the Championship’s bottom club this afternoon.
At least the charismatic Warne, who made just short of 300 appearances for the South Yorkshire club during two periods before joining their coaching staff in 2012, has brought some fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the role.
The 43-year-old was in exuberant mood at his press briefing earlier this week and it is hoped for however long he may be in the seat – it could be until early in the new year – some of that seeps onto the pitch at New York Stadium.
However, with the Millers having lost 11 of their last dozen fixtures, Warne is not naive.
“I’m not lying when I say any team that comes here is a big game – the table doesn’t lie,” he said, when asked about preparing for today’s contest.
“But I went to watch QPR last week and, on Thursday, spoke to a mate who is at Ipswich – their last away game.
“It was funny as his opening gambit was, ‘All the best’.
“I asked what he meant and he said when they played them QPR played four different systems.
“When you try and prepare a team, you do all your due diligence – how they play away, and at home, what system you think you have to play.
“I send my intern and the analyst sends footage to our players so they know how their opponents play, the intricacies of the footwork and anything that will give an advantage.
“But when Ian Holloway is in charge of a team it’s a bit harder to do that as you’re not really sure who’s going to play or how they will do either. They’ve played a 4-2-2-2 system which is weird, a 4-3-1-2, and loads of different formations so it’s hard to compare the teams.
“My mate said we just have to go out and play the way we want to play and then just deal with the blows on Saturday as, be sure, Holloway could change the side on numerous occasions.
“It’s a good test for me but, hopefully, they can go toe-to-toe.”
So where does the input of the revered world champion rugby union side New Zealand come into it all?
Warne, who likes to film training sessions to help improve his players’ development, said: “It’s a really easy game, football.
“I appreciate the players give all they’ve got. (But) I’m all about psychology. I like what the All Blacks say; I’ve read a lot of their books and they have a big part in there about blue thinkers and red thinkers. Red thinkers are the passionate people who run around and smash people, play with a lot of heart – which is good – but you have to be a blue thinker as well.
“They’re the people who make the decisions in tough situations, people who make quick-thinking decisions and still must be calm.
“That’s how I see (Rotherham defender) Greg Halford. The world could crumble around him, but he isn’t going to rush; if he sees a pass on, he’ll take his time and play it.
“I just think we have a lot of red thinkers – I was one, if I’m honest – but we now need some calm heads.
“We put some fundamentals into this week on the training ground that might allow them to come a bit to the blue side.”
The potential return from injury of players like midfielder Lee Frecklington and goalkeeper Lee Camp could help in that regard, too.
Warne is looking forward to walking out at New York Stadium as manager of the club he holds so dear to his heart – especially given he was never able to do so during his playing career.
He conceded: “It means a lot. I’ll try not to cry, which will be a good start.
“I remember when the stadium was being built. The chairman was proudly showing us around and I thought it’d be nice to play on that.
“But my career then ended at Don Valley. I remember the last game of that season (2011-12) and Steve Evans had already kindly told me I could be on his staff – but I wouldn’t be a player as well.
“Only three or four weeks before that, Scotty (previous manager Andy Scott) had offered me a playing contract.
“I remember going off that pitch, going into the toilets and crying; I realised that would be the last time I’d ever wear a Rotherham shirt – and how much I’d have loved to play on that (New York) pitch.
“I got to in my testimonial, but this is obviously the next best thing so I will be really proud. I will try and enjoy it.”
Warne, who does not want the position permanently, was asked if any reactions of the players have really surprised him since he took the helm.
He said: “There’s things I do that when other managers read this will think, ‘what is he thinking?’
“But then I think I’m just going to do what I think. I text players all the time. I could possibly text five or six in a day and say, ‘well done today, I liked that, that was excellent’.
“As a player I’d have loved that; the thought of getting a text off Ronnie (Moore) with unpredictive text would be a joy to behold.
“But I do get texts back and a couple really surprised me including one that said, ‘That’s really nice, I’m really looking forward to the challenge and playing for a passionate manager’.
“As I read it, I was thinking ‘wow... I’d never have expected it from him’.”