Rotherham United v Stockport: ‘Life teaches me that there is no easy game or challenge’

PIERS MORGAN’S catchline on Twitter which states: ‘One day you’re the cock of the walk, the next you’re the feather duster’ may just bring out a wry smile in Paul Warne.

At the minute, his Rotherham United side can do no wrong. They are on a club-record run of 17 undefeated matches in all competitions. But while you appreciate the good times and the work it takes to get you there, you never get complacent.

In Warne’s world, you never ever do and his observation that there is a ‘thin line between arrogance and confidence’ in football is also a shrewd one.

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It explains why his side’s milestone run does not ‘really mean anything to him’ at the minute either.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne. Picture: PA

In early February, Warne’s side beat Preston 2-1 – their fourth win in a run of six Championship games at the start of the New Year which yielded just one loss. By that end of that month, they had lost five successive matches. A month which saw high praise replaced by opprobrium from some fans at its conclusion.

Which brings us conveniently to tonight’s tie against a Stockport side whose supporters will pack out the away end in expectation on their first visit to the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

For all of the Millers’ sterling recent feats, they will receive censure if they lose to County.

Warne has been around the game long enough to know that anything can happen and does in this competition. Stockport’s chaotic but captivating televised first-round replay victory over Bolton is evidence of that.

As was his own abiding Cup memory as Millers manager two years ago against National Conference side Solihull Moors.

At half-time, Warne was contemplating getting the sack with his side humiliatingly losing 3-0. The walk to the changing rooms at Damson Park would have felt long, more especially in front of the BT Sport cameras.

The night of December 2, 2019 ended with Rotherham producing their greatest ever comeback Cup victory in a thrilling 4-3 success. That fact that the Millers were three goals in arrears with just under 15 minutes to go added to the sense of incredulity at events as they delivered one of the astounding responses in Cup history.

Warne recalled: “That would definitely be my highlight and lowlight (in the FA Cup). I spoke to the staff as I was walking out (at half-time) saying: ‘We are getting sacked in the morning.’

“Although I did not start singing it to them, I am not that sick... I honestly thought that might be a bridge too far for some people at taking such a crack on TV.

“The fact the lads had a dig around and won it in the way they did was a highlight. The games where you go through an emotional rollercoaster just mean more and are ingrained in the memory.”

Forty-six places in the football pyramid separated the Millers and Solihull on that winter’s night and the margin of difference is up to 55 ahead of this evening’s tie with County.

Having started his playing career at Norfolk non-leaguers Wroxham and Diss Town, Warne is someone who always gives due deference to teams outside of the Football League and that has been heightened by his observations of the National League so far this term.

Warne, hopeful that Will Grigg could be involved tonight, said: “My experience in football and life teaches me that there is no easy game or challenge. Everything has to be fought hard for and you have to outrun and outwork the opposition.

“I do see the opportunity for a ‘shock’ in inverted commas. But the Conference this year has been excellent with the standard.

“I watched Stockport against a very good Bolton side and they more than deserved their win.”

Last six games: Rotherham DWWWDD; Stockport DDWWWW.

Referee: O Yates (Staffs).

Last time: Rotherham 5 Stockport 0, January 29. 2011; League Two.