DURING their playing days, Paul Warne and Paul Heckingbottom would perhaps be best described as two quintessential ‘journeymen’ lower-league footballers. Probably by their own admission, too.
Their careers were forged upon reliability, graft, honesty and yeoman service and those traits are currently serving them both well in their maiden forays in the management game.
Just as Millers and Reds fans knew what they were going to get in terms of commitment and endeavour from ‘Warney’ and ‘Hecky’ out in the heat of battle on the pitch every time that they donned the jersey, so they both now display that same innate duty of care to their club in their current positions in the dug-out.
Fortunes of clubs may ebb and flow, but these rivals at opposite ends of the Dearne Valley can rest assured that both young managers will strive for the right thing for their respective clubs.
They are supporters, after all.
Both are learning plenty this season about the managerial game at a rate of knots, more especially in a calendar month which they will probably be relieved to see the back of.
Regardless of today’s result, the pair will share a fair bit of common ground when they chew the fat over a post-match beer.
Frustrations in the transfer window and being powerless to compete with bigger Championship clubs in terms of resources and squad depth being chief among them.
For Warne, it has proved an exasperating waiting game with the Millers seeking responses after tripling their bids for three targets ahead of the window deadline, one of whom is understood to be highly-rated Grimsby Town marksman Omar Bogle.
Equally, Warne’s antenna is acutely conscious of the plethora of interest in top-scorer Danny Ward, although the bids received so far have failed yet to meet the club’s valuation.
If anyone can concur with the January agitation of Warne, it is Heckingbottom, with both in rebuilding mode.
As for the here and now, there is a Yorkshire derby to contend with in Barnsley’s first-ever competitive visit to the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
An astute and perceptive man, Warne will not need reminding that the Millers have lost all five games against White Rose rivals this season.
The Oakwell events of August 27 will not have strayed away from Warne’s thoughts either.
In his role as fitness coach and a ‘Miller’, he did it tough watching the visitors’ pitiful second-half capitulation in a 4-0 drubbing and will have felt the pain alongside the big away contingent who headed to Barnsley as the goals went in.
Big on motivation and mindset and someone who has utilised video footage in his quest to help provide individuals with some extra inspiration ahead of games, Warne showed footage of the sorry performance to the players on Thursday in something akin to a ‘video nasty’.
After replaying the pain of the desperate Oakwell afternoon in early August, when it was inescapable to avoid coming to the conclusion that the Millers would be destined for a relegation fight despite the season being just three weeks old, motivation clearly should not be an issue this afternoon.
Warne said: “I think the lads need to get a bit of respect for themselves and the fans. I think it was embarrassing. In a meeting, I showed the players the ‘highlights’ from the game and I did not edit it.
“We did not have one highlight, which is pretty amazing. I don’t think I have ever seen that.
“It was an embarrassing day and those who played in that game owe something to this club as that performance was unacceptable.
“But I said that although a lot of players played in that are still here, that I now believe that we are a better team than what we were then.”
Paying due respect to his opposite number, Warne added: “He (Heckingbottom) has been excellent and a breath of fresh air and their lads will really like him.
“It is no surprise that he has been linked with other jobs and I think it will be inevitable that he will take a step up.”
Given the similar values espoused by Warne and Heckingbottom, it is probably no surprise that the footballing credos of both is similar as well.
Warne also believes that the model employed by Barnsley in bringing in young and hungry players from the lower divisions and developing and ultimately profiting from them further down the line is the one that the Millers should follow.
Warne, who revealed that ex-Millers utility man Kari Arnason turned down a return to his former club, opting instead to sign for a team in Cyprus, added: “I see Barnsley as a better version of us.
“I like the way they play and they play with a good bit of passion and a lot of energy.
“His (Heckingbottom’s) teams plays good football and it is the way I want to see football being played with wingers putting crosses in and being a constant threat.
“You can say they have got a good togetherness and their away record is excellent and they like to counter as they have pace in the team and I think it will be harder game for us than against Norwich.
“I like the way in which Barnsley have also bought in players from lower leagues and brought players in from their own system and keep regenerating their own money.
“For me, that is the way to go here for me.”