Rotherham United backed to go the distance in play-off marathon

Former Millers goalkeeper Andy Warrington
Former Millers goalkeeper Andy Warrington
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IF a season truly is a marathon and not a sprint, then Rotherham United look in good shape as they enter the final stretch.

And when your manager is a former fitness coach and self-confessed health obsessive, then there can be no excuses for running out of gas with the campaign nearing its conclusion.

In Paul Warne, Rotherham United possess someone with a brutal honesty about him and he naturally expects that from his players too.

With his team on the cusp of qualifying for the League One play-offs, Warne doesn’t strike you as the sort of person who will just let the opportunity pass him by.

Former Rotherham goalkeeper Andy Warrington is well-placed to run the rule over Warne, as someone who knew him not only as a player, but also as a coach.

Warrington, who made over 200 appearances in six years for the Millers between 2007 and 2013, believes that Warne deserves huge credit for steering the club around following the hugely forgettable campaign last year – and all this in his first-ever managerial role.

Paul Warne.

Paul Warne.

Warne was hastily promoted from fitness coach to the top job after disastrous spells at the helm from, first, Alan Stubbs and then Kenny Jackett.

And although Warne failed in his bid to avoid relegation from the Championship, he quickly got to work last summer to turn things around.

He brought in his own players, jettisoned those he perceived to be deadwood and quickly drilled into his new charges the ethos he wanted to instil throughout the club.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Warrington said: “Paul’s done an absolutely fantastic job there.

If they can get themselves on a nice run from now until the end of the season then it will bode well going into the play-offs.

Former Rotherham goalkeeper Andy Warrington

“He’s galvanised the lads and he’s a good man-manager.

“He’s a character, he’s bubbly and he’s very enthusiastic. He’s very hard-working and he expects that to rub off on his players.

“He demands hard work and the team there is very, very fit. I’ve seen them a few times this year and they are very organised. Having played with Paul, his strength was his fitness.

“He has always been a big believer in that aspect of the game. I think the modern-day footballer has to be fit, especially when you play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday. When you get relegated it can be a tough, tough time.

“So credit to Paul, because to get so many new players settled in is a tough job.”

Following an average start to the campaign, Warne’s team suddenly clicked into gear and set the division alight in mid-December when they went on a 14-game unbeaten run.

That streak propelled them up the standings and their form since then has been more than sufficient to ensure they have remained in the top six of the division.

Their most recent victory at Gillingham on Tuesday night extended their lead over seventh-placed Plymouth to seven points and they could confirm their play-off spot as early as this weekend.

Warrington said: “Everybody in the game says that momentum is a big thing to have and it really is.

“They certainly have that, but you need a bit of luck also. The club has made the play-offs three times in the last eight or nine years I think.

“I think if they can get themselves on a nice run from now until the end of the season then it will bode well going into the play-offs.”

Warrington, now goalkeeping coach at League Two side Grimsby, enjoyed four promotions as a player.

That included two elevations with Doncaster and one with the Millers, but it is one setback while at Rotherham that still rankles to this day.

He kept goal during the 2010 League Two play-off final defeat to Dagenham and Redbridge.

The Millers, then under the tutelage of Ronnie Moore in his second spell at the helm, were edged out 3-2 and it is something that Warrington hopes the current Rotherham side don’t repeat – provided they reach the showpiece finale on Sunday, May 27.

“That was the hardest thing that I have ever had to deal with in football,” Warrington said. “It was very difficult to get my head around it although, luckily, a few years later we went up automatically.

“People have always said it, but Wembley really isn’t a place for losers, I can tell you. I’ve gone up as a champion before.

“But if you could guarantee promotion through the play-offs, then it’s definitely the best way to go up and especially at somewhere like Wembley.”

Although they still have some work to do, Warrington believes the Millers class of 2018 can make an immediate return to the second tier.

However, he urged caution and says that another Rotherham legend may stand in the way of Warne’s side.

“They’ve got a lot of work still to do, not so much in terms of getting into the play-offs because they will be okay with that.

“I’m hoping for a Rotherham v Shrewsbury final. That would be the ideal situation for me, with two of my old mates in charge with obviously Paul Warne at Rotherham and Paul Hurst now at Shrewsbury.

“I personally think it will be between those two and what a match that would be. If that’s the case, then I’ll certainly be at Wembley for that one.”