Tony Stewart believes Rotherham United’s survival in the Championship could persuade Neil Warnock to stay on as manager beyond the summer.
The former Sheffield United chief has been drafted in to keep the Millers in the Championship following Neil Redfearn’s sacking last Monday.
Warnock’s contract at the New York Stadium runs until the end of the season, an arrangement that suits the 67-year-old. His last post was as interim manager at QPR earlier this season.
Stewart, however, admits that the club could be open to extending the stay of a man who was firmly on the club’s radar four months ago before Redfearn’s appointment.
“It is like marriage,” said the Millers chairman to The Yorkshire Post. “If you fall in love, sometimes you don’t want to be parting. We have not gone into long dialogue but I think he could be tempted.
“Neil lives for football and if everything goes to plan that courtship may continue.”
Warnock’s reluctance to discuss the possibility of taking charge at the New York in the wake of Steve Evans’s sacking last September was down to wife Sharon being ill. Following treatment, however, her condition has improved sufficiently for Warnock, who will be assisted by long-time confidant Kevin Blackwell, to feel able to return to football.
United chairman Stewart added: “We wanted Neil four months ago. But, at the time, we couldn’t get him. Now, though, the timing is right. Things have clicked and he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Along with Kevin, Neil will do a good job and give us the lift we need. It has given us a real shot in the arm.”
As for Warnock’s own stance on whether there is a chance of him and Blackwell remaining at Rotherham next season, he added: “I don’t know if I could do it for 12 months.
“I went in at QPR when they were struggling and turned it round. I probably would have liked to have stayed but my family does come first.
“Sharon not being very well is a factor. She has picked up a little bit lately and it was her who said, ‘Go and do it for a few weeks’.
“So, I am not sure if I can commit myself to a 12 month thing. But you never say ‘never’.”
Warnock’s appointment has found favour with Millers fans to such an extent that ticket sales for his first game at home to Birmingham City soared yesterday.
It means today’s clash with Gary Rowett’s Blues is likely to be played in front of a fervent atmosphere as Rotherham look to undo the damage caused by defeats to Charlton and Bolton Wanderers in their last two outings.
Yesterday morning saw the Millers squad meet their new manager for the first time. He was impressed by what he saw, much more so than he had been when invited to the recent 3-0 home defeat to QPR.
“I did fear the worst, looking from the outside,” added Warnock when asked about that January 16 loss under predecessor Redfearn. “If Rotherham had scored the first goal that day, they would have won the game. Without a shadow of a doubt.
“But it was clear confidence was lacking and the team capitulated once behind. Having watched that, I was surprised at how well the players set about their jobs in training (yesterday).
“You could almost see their relief that they had a manager. Everyone needs leadership. You can see when someone has been there and done it, and that he knows what he is talking about.
“I could see by how everyone was looking at me that they were happy to be told what to do. That is what I am hoping will rub off.”
Asked what will be needed to keep the Millers up, Warnock added: “In my mind, I don’t have a points target other than one more than third bottom. We need three to catch up, that’s the first aim.”
Rotherham are the fifth Yorkshire club Warnock has managed. He led Scarborough into the Football League in 1987 and followed that with promotions at Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town.
Only his spell at Leeds United failed to yield success, though even then Warnock regards his 14-month stint at Elland Road as a missed opportunity.
“I am convinced if I had got the money I was promised when (Robert) Snodgrass was sold that I could have got Leeds up,” he added. “I am convinced of that. We were not too far short. We beat Tottenham and Everton (in the Cups), we had a decent team. But the investment wasn’t there. I would have actually liked to work with this Italian guy there now.”
Seeing The Yorkshire Post’s eyebrows raised at the suggestion of him working with Massimo Cellino, Warnock added: “I bloody would, aye. That wouldn’t have bothered me. I think Leeds is a great club.”
Now at Rotherham, Warnock has been reunited with several of his former charges at Leeds. Asked if Luciano Becchio, who he sold to Norwich City, has a chance of featuring in the near future, the Millers new chief added: “He is out injured so not available. He’s quite far away.”
More encouragingly on the injury front, Lee Frecklington, Stephen Kelly and Leon Best are all close to a return.