Everton v Rotherham – Romance of FA Cup taken knck during lockdown, says Warne

PAUL WARNE will look at the deserted Bullens Road Stand where thousands of Rotherham United fans would normally be today and his mind will drift back to almost exactly two decades earlier across Stanley Park.

BIG TEST: Rotherham United manager Paul Warne. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

As a football romantic who knows his history, it will be a wistful moment as he surveys the scene at an empty Goodison Park.

It was back at Anfield on January 6, 2001 where Warne and his team-mates stepped out in front of over 30,000 for a third-round tie at Liverpool, including a travelling army of 7,000 Millers.

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Warne professed to feeling a touch emotional when reminded of that milestone by The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s trip to the blue half of Merseyside.

WELCOME: Everton coach, Carlo Ancelotti is rated by Millers boss Paul Warne as 'the greatest' and an inspiration. Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

FA Cup third-round weekend is one of the marquee days in football’s calendar – or should be.

A time for provincial towns and communities and people who follow the game on the periphery to be part of something special. Instead, it will be surreal.

United lost 3-0 in that Anfield tie, but that was not the real story.

The Rotherham manager said: “I don’t have any pictures in my house to say I was a footballer or am a football manager. You could rob me and not have a clue.

Rotherham United's Will Vaulks (right) scores against Everton in the Carabao Cup at Goodison Park back in August 2018, the Millers losing out 2-1. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA

“However, there is one picture in my bookcase of my wife and all her friends and mine with Anfield in the background. I had 23 people up at that game. It plays a memory in their lives as well.

“Twenty years ago, I sort of had hair... The best thing about it was that I remember being in the tunnel looking at everyone’s shirt. I think it was only the second season where names were on shirts. I remember looking at their shirts thinking: ‘Wow, what am I doing playing against these’.

“It was a magical time. It was a game where I don’t remember touching the ball apart from having a fight with (Vladimir) Smicer. It was an honour to play on that pitch. Three or four years earlier, I was still playing on pub pitches.”

A caring man who treats his players like family, Warne is genuinely sad that his squad have been deprived the full experience at one of England’s most iconic stadiums today, potentially for the last time before Everton move to Bramley-Moore Dock.

He also has sympathy for supporters as well.

Rotherham visited Goodison for a League Cup tie relatively recently in August, 2018. But that was hardly the same as on third-round weekend.

Warne added: “I look at this season and feel for people. Our best home performance was against Sheffield Wednesday and with it being a local derby and the fans not to enjoy that – and for the players not to enjoy the final whistle with them – is a bit sad.

“My son plays now, but my daughter and wife would have come over to the (Everton) game and probably even come on Friday night and stay as she (daughter) is so big-time now.

“It would be part of ‘going to Liverpool’. It’s like having your scarf out of the back window when you are seven years old thinking ‘I am going to the footy with mum and dad.’ All this has been taken away.

“It’s a shame my team won’t have that memory in 20 years time. They won’t say: ‘Do you know we played at Goodison in front of no-one.’ It will not have the same romance.

“At this moment, all these things have been taken off us.

“But it will all come back eventually.”

Two years on after pitting his wits against one of the greats in Pep Guardiola in the Cup, Warne is at least afforded a special moment in striding out with another of the game’s most celebrated managers in Carlo Ancelotti.

For Warne, it is the ultimate.

As someone who devours sports books and documentaries, Warne admits that Ancelotti’s tome entitled Quiet Leadership struck a real chord with him.

The Italian possesses the mark of class, not just down to his attire either in the eyes of Warne.

He said: “I have got a lot of time for their manager. For me personally, he rates as the greatest – only because I have read his book. I always liked him and read his book and it is excellent.

“It is about how to lead and manage people. Out of all the managers out there he is more my idol than anyone. He leads in a similar way to me. I am not a shouter and screamer. For what he has achieved, I think the way he has done it is inspiring.”

Social distancing rules will mean that Warne will not be able to enjoy a traditional post-match get-together with Ancelotti today.

But the Millers chief hopes to catch up with him, all the same.

He added: “I will probably look at him and think: ‘his shoes look more expensive than mine, they look very good Italian shoes’.

“There’s social distancing, but you are still allowed to speak and my voice is quite boomy. I am looking forward to the chat with him, but the thing is you cannot go in for a glass of wine after.

“I don’t know if he’d like my tipple I get from Aldi, I am not too sure. But it’s a good wine.”

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