They occurred under the managerial figure who he will pit his wits against tonight in Middlesbrough chief Neil Warnock who seemingly took on a lost cause with the Millers in the late winter of 2016 and enhanced his firefighting ‘Red Adair’ status to help the club to an inspired safety mission.
United were in the drop zone when Warnock came in in February. They ended the season nine points clear, going unbeaten in 11 games at one point.
A last-gasp win over a title-chasing Boro side was one of the high points. With time running out this time, the need for another three points is paramount. Warne, who gave his players Monday off to regroup after two tough defeats to Coventry and Birmingham, said: “I don’t believe it is over. My only frustration is we need to take our chances. In the ‘Great Escape’ when the ‘gaffer’ was here, we took our chances and there were games when we did not have 30 per cent of the ball and still managed to nick a 1-0.
“Unfortunately, those ‘against the run of play’ 1-0’s have eluded us. But I do not think there is a lack of belief. I spoke to the lads and said: ‘Look, it is alright coming from me all the time and banging my chest’, but it is pointless and I asked them and they said they had complete belief we are going to stay up. That reassured me, because if the lads just honestly don’t see it, then we are in bother.
“Hand on heart, it will not be easy, but we are going to have to play six games full out no matter what happens. So we might as well leave everything out there. I just don’t want to get to the end of the season and live in regret and have that conversation with the chairman.”
While the Millers’ season is in the melting pot, Boro’s campaign is over as a competitive entity.
Warnock is candid enough to admit that time is being played out until the summer when he plans to rebuild the squads, with a number of players set to leave. A by-product is that training has been flat, understandable in the circumstances.
Warnock said: “I do understand that sometimes it is a bit flat at the end of the season.
“I have that to a certain extent and I am not saying we live in football utopia here. I know that a lot of this team will run off into the sunset in the summer and they know that as well.
“But the key is managing the players and ones who come on and making them think: ‘You have just got to be part of something.’ I harp on all the time about how short careers are, but in seasons in the future, you can think you are part of that team who fight against the odds. If we do achieve something, it could be one of the highlights of their career.”
Last six games: Rotherham LLDWLL; Middlesbrough WLLDLL.
Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire).
Last time: Rotherham 1 Middlesbrough 2, May 5, 2019; Championship.
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