Rotherham United v Doncaster Rovers: Clash of systems as South Yorkshire rivals meet

New in a job which has seen him overhaul a playing squad on a tight budget, then watch his new group hit by injuries and illness, Paul Warne is pleased Richie Wellens built up so much goodwill in his time as a Doncaster Rovers player because he will need it as their manager – especially if Warne’s Rotherham United inflict another defeat on them today.

Many things have gone against Wellens who was hopefully scaremongering slightly when he produced a piece of paper from his pocket during Thursday’s pre-match press conference and reeled off the names of 10 players who might miss today’s South Yorkshire derby at the New York Stadium, but he undeniably has big injury problems to contend with.

At least he has a clear idea of where he is going. That is something he and his former Oldham Athletic team-mate Warne have in common, even if the methods themselves are quite different.

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“I just don’t think grey areas are good,” reasons Rotherham manager Warne, whose side are unashamedly more direct than a Doncaster side focused on trying to get the ball down.

Getting his message across: Rotherham United boss Paul Warne has a clear style of play with the Millers. (Picture: Simon Hulme)

“We play the way I think Rotherham fans want to see us play and it’s had success. I think we’re difficult to play against.

“As a player all I wanted was clarity so I knew what they wanted me to do and I could do it to the best of my ability.

“If Richie wants to play through the lines, he doesn’t want his centre-half booting it 80 yards, if I want to play down the sides of the centre-half and I want my midfielders to slide centre-forwards in down there, that’s what I want.

“When my players and Richie’s players walk on the pitch they definitely know what is expected to stay in the team.

Paul Warne of Rotherham United (Picture: Steve Ellis)

“The system we play suits us at this moment. We could flip it if we had an injury in defence or midfield but we would still have the same ethos of how we play, how we press. We’re always trying to get attempts on goal and responsibilities.

“The fewer decisions the players have to make, the better. If you put five marbles in a bottle and shake the bottle, not one will come out, whereas if there’s just one, it will probably come out.

“Other clubs might have better players but grey areas.”

In the cold light of day, though, philosophy is not much more than a fancy footballing buzzword without results to back it up. Rovers have one goal and one point so far this season.

“I’m really pleased with my squad, my team and its performances but I’m still not winning enough games,” admits Warne, whose side have won two, lost two back in the third tier.

“I think Rich has had a real opportunity for change because of the amount of numbers (of players) who left but always in football management the question is does it come quickly enough? It might take him two windows to get a team he really wants and is really proud of and plays in the way he wants.

“The difficulty in football is getting to that second window with enough people still believing in what you’re doing. I do think at Donny they understand the difficulties he’s having and what sort of manager they’ve brought in and he’s a bit of a club hero so I think he’ll get to that second window.

“I don’t think he’s recruited too badly in this window, but the problem with transfer windows is you do have to load up. He might like his starting XI, it’s just strength in depth if you have two injuries or a suspension and all of a sudden you’re delving into your second string.

“Having been in the job for a bit, I’m fortunate to have strength in depth but when you’re signing loads of players, trying to get them fit, trying to get them playing the way you want to play, that strength in depth is difficult and that’s why two windows at a club is imperative to get that extra strength I think is crucial.

“Unfortunately 90 per cent of people understand it but more often than not the 10 per cent that don’t that are vocal.

“Some of these people chanting for the manager or the owner’s head have absolutely no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. In our league there are 24 teams working as hard for success. Unfortunately only three get it, four get abject failure and the rest get nothing. It doesn’t mean everyone isn’t pushing their team for success.”

Right now, Wellens’s push is looking a bit forlorn but the League One season is only four games old and his first transfer window not yet shut. He just needs that most precious of footballing commodities: patience.