Paul Warne looking forward to old rituals at Rotherham United as fans return

Fans queueing around the block at the New York Stadium on a balmy summer’s afternoon was a sight for sore eyes yesterday.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne with fans Kerry Coleman and James Bradshaw. Picture: Matt West/Shutterstock/EFL

Tickets to watch football were on sale again and for supporters of Rotherham United they were the hottest in town.

Dads and lads, grandmothers and granddaughters, good friends reunited as they stood patiently for their turn to come, their season cards ready for collection or even just a one-off ticket for Saturday’s League One opener against Plymouth Argyle.

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The scene in Rotherham is one that will have been replicated across the vast majority of the 72 EFL clubs yesterday and in the coming days as fans prepare to get back into the old habits of their matchday rituals.

Kerry Coleman and James Bradshaw of the Millers' Disabled Supporters Association chat with Richard Wood (Picture: Matt West/Shutterstock/EFL)

Seventeen long months have passed since all but a handful of EFL clubs who reached last season’s play-offs played a meaningful game in front of supporters.

It has been a long slog, but normality is set to return to Saturday afternoons. No more laptops. No more tuning in at 2.55, waiting for the bandwidth to catch up. No chuckling at the enthusiastic jingoism of Les Payne and John Breckin on the commentary.

It’s back to the Mears Stand and the Pukka Pie Stand to renew old acquaintances for these Millers. Back to the pub at 1.30 to meet your mates before the walk to the stadium you’ve done a thousand times.

Watching a live stream on a laptop was a means to an end. It was acceptable, it was as close as you got to your team but nothing compares to the feeling of belting out your team’s anthem as kick-off approaches, bawling at the referee for a dodgy decision or cheering your striker as he wheels towards you in celebration.

Welcome back: Rotherham manager Paul Warne with fans Kerry Coleman and James Bradshaw of the Millers’ Disabled Supporters Association. (Picture: Matt West/Shutterstock for EFL)

The 9,000 or so who will fill the New York Stadium on Saturday will not be the only ones rekindling old rituals.

“On matchdays me and Rich will always go for a run,” says Paul Warne, the Rotherham manager of his pre-match regimen with assistant Richie Barker.

“We’ll stop for a coffee and we’ll always see fans out and about wishing us the best. All those things have been taken off us and they all add up.

“To get back to some kind of normality will be great.”

Fans queueing for season cards and match tickets at the New York Stadium on Tuesday.

There are some things Warne and his Rotherham side will not miss about football in a Covid world.

“It’s been weird pulling up to stadiums and there’s no one there,” added Warne who met members of the Millers Disabled Supporters Association yesterday.

“The strangest thing for me was when we got to hotels on a Friday night and you’re like the only ones there, you’d walk in it was like a film set, no lights on, the restaurant wasn’t open. You just hand out your room keys and off up to bed you go thinking you’re probably going to get murdered in your sleep. I won’t miss that. So for the players to come out and start the campaign at home in front of fans is exciting.

“If you asked me a few weeks ago was I excited I’d probably say I’d have been daunted by it, but we’ve had little steps building towards it. We had a few fans at Rochdale, a few fans at Grimsby and then we’ve had the back-to-back home pre-season games and I can see the effect it’s had on the players’ performance.”

Warne completed the signing of defensive midfielder Hakeem Odoffin last night, the 23-year-old agreeing a three-year deal after moving for an undisclosed fee from Hamilton Academical.