WHEN it comes to the FA Cup, Paul Warne can recant tales of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
The sharp and effervescent Rotherham United caretaker manager possesses a footballing mine of anecdotes from a playing career which he cherished, mainly involving his memorable time at the club he loves in the Millers.
In terms of the cup, red-letter days at Anfield, a giant-slaying mission against a top-flight side in Southampton and the passing up of a party invite against Manchester United form part of the tapestry.
Alongside one night in the Staffordshire coal-mining village of Chasetown that he is never likely to forget.
Given the Millers’ punishing season so far, a little bit of joy certainly would not go amiss for both Warne and the club on his first cup foray as a manager, especially in the position they are in.
Warne, whose side host an Oxford side whose ranks include ex-Millers players Ryan Taylor, Joe Skarz and Chris Maguire, said: “If we play well and win and get a good draw, then we have something to look forward to.
“It can put a smile on the faces of the fans, management and everyone here, to be honest.
“I would love to win and be in the draw to maybe get a Man United or Liverpool here or anything. It is a nice escape for the lads; although there is as much pressure in the cup as there is in a league game.
“But if they were to win, they could enjoy being a footballer again and those things add up. Although I think recent performances have been good, I just don’t think results have. I am not an idiot.”
With the Millers hosting lower division opponents this afternoon, the link with one particular home cup date with a side of a similar ilk quickly makes its way to the surface to Warne.
That came in early 2004 when Ronnie Moore’s Millers, then a Championship side like today, saw their hopes of landing a plum home tie with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United spectacularly torpedoed against Northampton Town at Millmoor – with little-known Cobblers striker Derek Asamoah giving the hosts the run-around in a 2-1 third-round replay win.
It left Warne and the Millers’ sore, although a round three win over Gordon Strachan’s Southampton in 2002 and a trip to Liverpool in front of thousands of away fans packed in the Anfield Road end in 2001 in the season when the Reds won the treble were a tad more memorable.
Warne said: “I remember the Northampton one... Drawing away and losing at home and having Manchester United in the next round.
“I remember Ken Booth coming into the dressing room and telling us how much he wanted us to win and the manager saying at the end: ‘******* hell, you had the chance of playing Manchester United!’ We couldn’t believe it.
“Even though we lost, I would say that the high for me was playing at Liverpool. Obviously, Ronnie was a Scouser and I remember being in the tunnel and there was the likes of (Emile) Heskey, (Vladimir) Smicer and (Jamie) Carragher and (Michael) Owen.
“It was a hell of a side. We were looking for the 14-year-olds in the tunnel, but there was none of that. But the game was a highlight.
“My other memory is when I was playing for Oldham at Chasetown on a Sunday. It was on Match of the Day and the TV gantry was on top of these three sticks and I was thinking if something heavy hits that, it is going down.
“It didn’t look safe at all and the pitch was waterlogged.
“I remember before the game that there was a knock on the changing-room door for the captains to take the team-sheets out.
“Our captain was Chris Swailes at the time and he said: ‘These are really up for it. Their captain has just threatened to knock me out when we were handing in the team-sheets!’
“Swaz was the ‘man’ in the group, so you can imagine what we were thinking and then we went out on the pitch and it was rubbish. I remember we were losing and scored really late on.
“Our fans were like: ‘Look at us, they don’t care.’ But we just couldn’t control the thing because the ball was everywhere. We put them on a proper pitch and annihilated them 6-0 in the replay.”
All Millers will be hoping they have some more cup memories to savour this season.