Paul Warne interview: Still going strong after five years of ups and downs at Rotherham United

IN A volatile football world where continuity is far from commonplace and managerial changes are a depressing constant, the sight of two of the EFL’s good guys in Paul Warne and Gareth Ainsworth leading clubs at the top of League One is a lesson to many boardrooms.

The fifth anniversary of Warne’s time in charge at his beloved Rotherham United arrives on Sunday.

It has been a rollercoaster ride featuring two promotions and three relegations, although demotion in a desperate 2016-17 could hardly have been laid at his door after he took over amid a stricken situation in late November 2016.

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Warne is the Millers’ longest-serving manager since Ronnie Moore and his medley of magic moments is becoming just as comparable – with the tantalising promise of the best being yet to come.

Paul Warne celebrates five years in charge of Rotherham United (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

As with Ainsworth, whose Wycombe side occupy second spot on goal difference behind United, Warne has been allowed to build a club in the image which he sees fit. The bigger picture has been seen beyond the confines of relegation, which both these clubs unluckily suffered last season.

Testament to Warne’s longevity is that he is the seventh longest-serving manager in the league. Ainsworth is the second.

Other notables in the top seven include Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Sean Dyche. Not forgetting the man at the top of the list in Harrogate Town’s Simon Weaver.

Respected names to also feature in the top ten include Mark Robins and Tony Mowbray, whose Championship sides reside in fifth and seventh place respectively and John Coleman, whose feats at Accrington have been outstanding.

Millers management team Paul Warne with Richie Barker. ( Picture: Tony Johnson)

Change clearly doesn’t always work then.

Warne reflected: “Clubs go by what fans think really. If all the fans want a manager out, he’s out. Managers are lucky if they get the amount of time they need to show fans what they can do.

“I am really fortunate that I have had ten transfer windows to bring in the players I wanted and tweak it as best I could.

“Wycombe could have sacked Gareth when they went down from the Championship. For those people who understand football, it would have been absolute lunacy. You get a continuity by keeping a manager.

There have been plenty of lows: Rotherham United manager Paul Warne reacts as he is interviewed after their relegation is confirmed after a draw in the Sky Bet Championship match at the Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff. (Picture: PA)

“I do think that fans get bored of you, unfortunately. They get bored not of winning every week but of the same voice.

“Being in a job for a long time at one club does have its benefits, but you possibly get more criticism when things aren’t going right.

“Everybody is obsessed with the signing of players. It’s driven by fans’ need to see something exciting and different.

“Yet of the 11 who started against Sunderland with a very good performance the other week, only three of the starters weren’t with us last season. Sometimes different isn’t better, it’s just different.

But plenty of highs: Rotherham United manager Paul Warne (second right) and chairman Tony Stewart (centre right) celebrate with the trophy and first team/development coach Matt Hamshaw (right), goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt (centre left) and assistant manager Richie Barker (second left) after the Sky Bet League One Final at Wembley Stadium, London. (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire)

“Changing managers doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get success. It’s just a different voice.”

Given Rotherham’s outstanding 15-match unbeaten run, which perhaps reached its crowning moment in Tuesday’s victory at Ipswich Town, there is no hankering among Millers supporters for new players in January or certainly not for a different voice in charge.

Any trolls on social media are also refreshingly absent.

If there is any fear, it should surround Rotherham holding onto Warne, given how he has presented his adopted hometown with their club back, which harkens back to those golden times across the dual carriageway from the New York Stadium at the old Millmoor, in Moore’s first spell.

Warne, of course, was a player in that side with his current class bearing comparison with the great Millers side of the early Noughties.

Ahead of his milestone, Warne, whose side make the trip to Oxford United on Saturday, said: “It does give me a lot of pride.

Tight-knit team: Rotherham United manager Paul Warne (right) and assistant manager Richie Barker (Picture: PA)

“I had my brother up the other weekend for the Sunderland game. I went out with him on the Saturday night and he said: ‘You could pay me any amount of money, and I would not do your job.’ I was like: ‘Correct, you wouldn’t!’

“It does give me pride that we’ve done it for five years. In fairness, there have been stalwarts within that.

“Ross Burbeary has been here virtually throughout my whole tenure, as has Hammy (Matt Hamshaw), as has Rich (Richie Barker – assistant).

“The chairman has also stayed the same, which helps! I’ve got people I really trust, people I don’t have to micro-manage, people who are brilliant in their roles and collectively we’ve been lucky enough to have success, although we have had failure.

“In the eyes of the paying public, relegation possibly is failure, which is heartbreaking. That’s why it still gripes me to this day that we didn’t win at Cardiff (last season).

“We were so close to potentially building a side the following year to try to get a little bit further up the Championship.

“But five years in today’s football is pretty remarkable. I told my mum and she couldn’t believe it. I try not to be too ‘reminiscent’ about anything just yet. But when I get older, I’ll definitely look back with a lot of pride.”

A proud, humble and talented manager and individual, Warne’s story has been momentous and this could be the most special chapter yet.