In these unprecedented times where a smile or two and a few kind words and deeds can go a long way, managers across the land are doing their bit to help lift spirits among the football community by diversifying.
Few of a Rotherham United persuasion will be surprised to hear that Paul Warne has been stepping up to the plate in that regard amid the coronavirus crisis.
Warne delivered essential shopping items for two lifelong Millers fans earlier this week following a request to the club’s Community Trust team and has been checking on the well-being of elderly and vulnerable supporters on the telephone.
Last weekend, he also hosted a special Millers-themed Saturday night quiz for supporters.
Warne’s inter-personal skills – he is a qualified teacher with a degree in biology – has also ensured he has been regularly checking in with his players to keep abreast of their mindset as train at home away from team-mates.
It is nothing to do with tactics or coaching skills – the usual preserve of managers when they speak with their players, but everything to do with showing a duty of care to his squad.
On a surreal time for footballers and staff, Warne, showing typical self-depreciation, said: “It is not as hard as other things which are going on...
“The lads are really respectful and I have got really good human beings – staff and players – there and they are really respectful of what is going on.
“At the start, I had some players say: ‘look, gaffer – in Scotland, they have shut everything down, why are we not shut down?’
“That was difficult because they have fears and families and they didn’t want to get infected and take it back to their families.
“Obviously, I am not the person sitting next to the Prime Minister giving medical advice. I don’t know more than anybody else.
“This isn’t the norm, but we have always been open and honest with the lads. Even when we don’t know the answer, I have always been that.
“It is just a surreal place. Every day, the news changes a little bit more and no-one really knows.
“In fairness to the government and EFL, they are all trying to do what they think is right. But no-one knows at this time what is right and wrong.
“In two years time, we might look back and say: ‘maybe we should have done this and that’.I don’t think there’s an answer which will please everybody.”
For Warne, it is the uncertainty and coping with not knowing which is the difficult part at the moment, with no-one truly sure about when the season can recommence and whether it will. Time will ultimately tell.
He added: “We are in a fortunate position and I know loads of people are not. I have got a couple of friends who are self-employed and have a really good friend who is a fitness coach, who is not going to earn any money for a little while.
“We are not moaning about what is happening, but we are just really patient and are trying to keep the lads healthy, happy and motivated and are just looking forward to when the season does start again.
“In the mean time, we have to try and do everything we can to make sure they are ready when the kick off is. That is the hardest thing and I am not bleating about it. Not knowing is difficult, but no-one knows, do they?
Warne’s refreshing sense of perspective extends to his views on the fate of the 2019-20 campaign.
Naturally, he would like it to conclude by fulfilling fixture commitments in time, with his Millers side well-placed for promotion and occupying second spot in League One.
But equally, if a decision is ultimately made to ‘null and void’ the campaign, it would be something that he would ultimately feel philosophical about.
“If there is any health risk in any way, I don’t believe anything is worth all costs. No chance,” Warne continued.
“Sport is important and weekends feel a bit like Armageddon at the moment, but nothing is at all costs.
“I appreciate we are in an unbelievable position and if we weren’t to finish it, I’d be disappointed.
“But it is not as disappointing as other things and we’d have to build for next season and have another right go at it.
“We’d approach next season with a smile on our faces and be disappointed we didn’t achieve anything this year.
“But it would not be through the fault of anyone.”
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