There is plenty that Middlesbrough and Rotherham United have in common alongside their traditional colours of red and white.
They are at polar opposites in the Championship in terms of expectation levels, facilities, finances and depth of playing personnel.
But delve a little deeper and there are many similarities, more especially in terms of respective footballing identities according to Millers manager Paul Warne.
Like his own side, Boro pride themselves on organisation, fitness, set-piece strength and collectivism.
More high-profile personnel and a few more ‘designer’ players in their ranks, maybe, but with that same strong mentality in the view of Warne, entrusted tonight with turning over a side very much in the Millers’ own image. Warne said: “With the way they play they are a more experienced version of us really.
“People will say, ‘oh yes, but they have had money to spend’. But they still have to spend it wisely and get the right characters in the dressing room. I think the signings he (Boro manager Tony Pulis) has made have been brilliant.
“I like the way they play and they have a real impetus on set-pieces. They all know what they are doing and are really organised and do not pass the ball unnecessarily.
“I am not saying they are long ball. But they want to get around the outside of you and get crosses in the box.
“They are economical and know that you win a game in both boxes and the sooner you can get it out wide and get it past your full-back and get a cross in the better.”
Warne’s milestone 100th game in charge of the Millers sees him pit his wits against a managerial grandee in Pulis, whose dugout career extends past the quarter of a century mark and is comfortably in excess of 1,000 games. The Welshman achieved his latest landmark – in a long list of accomplishments – on Friday when Boro’s win at Sheffield Wednesday registered his 400th career victory as a manager.
It is a record that commands instant respect and just as Pulis is very much perceived as a ‘player’s manager’ who builds strong football teams and strong dressing rooms, so Warne has started out in a similar vein.
He added: “Pricey (Lewis Price) has played for him and thinks he is a great bloke and I have never heard anyone say a bad word about him who has played for him, which is pretty unique as most players hate managers – even ones who are in the team sometimes.
“If I was lucky enough to have his sort of career and the lads were not to speak badly of me, that would be pretty impressive. I think you do not have to be an archetypal ‘iron fist’ type to be successful. I think different people get different things out of different people. He (Pulis) wants honesty and is constantly encouraging his team and is vocal on the side of the pitch as I am.
“I texted Willo (Ryan Williams) on Saturday night to apologise to his missus. I saw her behind the dugout and was abusing him during the game. I said that he should know that is out of love.”
Ahead of his century milestone at the Riverside, Warne acknowledges that the passage of time has ensured that the figure who lines up in the away dugout is a far wiser individual than the one who led the Millers team out at Burton Albion in December 2016.
Warne, who initially took charge on a caretaker basis after the shock resignation of Kenny Jackett, believed that game would be his only match in charge. Some 689 days on and he is still at the helm and a manager much more comfortable in his own skin.
He said: “After that first game I was emotionally gone. I think I cried in the press and was a broken man. I honestly thought that was the only game I was going to manage in.
“I was hugely disappointed when we lost as I literally gave every waking thought to the team winning. If you had asked me then that I would do another 99 I would have said, ‘no way in hell’.
“It was draining and I did not think it was my vocation in life. But I have surrounded myself with brilliant staff and players who are perfect for this club in my opinion.
“One hundred games in it seems an easier job, but that is because I am surrounded by good people. – although I have not changed and I am still an emotional wreck. I am lucky to have brought in the right people.
“I used to be on Twitter and read everything and hear everything. I could not understand why people would criticise at such a level. Now I am a lot older and mature and if people want to abuse me for my team selection or tactics that is fine. That is the society we live in.”
Last six games: Middlesbrough DDDWLW Rotherham LLDDLD.
Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).
Last time: Middlesbrough 1 Rotherham 0; November 3, 2015; Championship.