Tears have been shed at Rotherham United this week before a ball has even been kicked in anger on their return to the Championship.
Millers have been tipped by many pundits for an instant return to League One following promotion via the play-offs in May.
But Rotherham’s own ‘crying game’ has nothing to do with what is expected to be a long, hard season on the pitch.
Instead, it was part of manager Paul Warne’s pre-season plans to help his players bond and become “emotionally intelligent”.
“Each player has had to do a speech, with a photo on the big screen, explaining what motivates them,” said Warne.
“What is their drive? We have had some tears, I cried a few times.
“A lot of the lads spoke about parents they have lost, or uncles, things like that.
“I just like my teams to be emotionally intelligent, to know things about each other. I need them to understand we all need love, support and respect. We all have hardships away from our job.
“I just want the lads to know the importance of wearing the shirt, the badge, and every time you wear it you represent all of us.
“Anything that gets my team of warriors closer together I will take.”
Team ethic and camaraderie in the Rotherham squad is key for Warne. That came to the fore at Wembley in May – Warne believes it made the difference in their play-off final win over Shrewsbury – when Richard Wood netted an extra-time winner.
They will need those fighting qualities in abundance this season, as they kick off their Championship campaign at Brentford today.
Warne said: “Football is a pretty simple game, I think sometimes we over-complicate it. If you have 11 people who are willing to work really hard together, give everything, then win, lose or draw there should be a handshake at the end of the game.
“That’s how I run it here. I watched Japan in the World Cup and thought they were amazing.
“Not one of them Japanese players would get in the team of the tournament, but, in my opinion, they were excellent.
“Now I am not saying that we can be Japan, but I am saying a real togetherness, that team bond, helped us no end last year.
“I believe that was the difference between us and Shrewsbury at Wembley.
“That might only get us an extra three points this year, but that could be the three points which make the difference. I am obsessed with them being good lads.
“I said to the lads if they finish above 17th this year they will probably get a picture of themselves on the side of the stadium.
“I like history, tradition, rewarding people who do well, but I like the team to be friends.”
Rotherham won just five games on their way to being relegated from the Championship two seasons ago.