THE METAPHORICAL aroma of coffee is usually pretty pungent at the start of a second-tier season at Rotherham United.
This year is no different as Millers fans had to ‘smell the coffee’ of a reality check well before the autumn leaves start to fall regarding what lies in store during a long Championship season full, at times, of hardships.
The effect of a 5-1 opening-day defeat emphatically reinforces that impression upon you, with United enduring a brutal first day at the office at Brentford.
But if the Millers do require solace they have most definitely been here before in terms of early-season adversity at this level.
After losing some early battles before they have still gone on to win their own war several times.
Back in the 2001-02 season, the Millers’ first campaign back in the second tier since 1983, Ronnie Moore’s band of brothers –including current manager Paul Warne – shrugged off a 10-match winless league start to hang onto their second-tier status. Just.
Then, in 2003-04, United won just once in their first nine matches, but survived again.
With good reason some will point to the here and now and not the history books. But what can be ascertained is that this current Millers crop have shown their strong jaw in the recent past.
On eight occasions last seasonWarne’s side immediately followed up a loss with a win. Granted the Championship is a tougher proposition, but while the Millers will be deficient in some departments this term, character, spirit and mental toughness will not be among them.
Providing a healthy dose of realism, Warne said: “Being in this league we are going to lose plenty of games and mental resilience is going to be crucial.
“Hence why I like my group to be really tight and positive about life and it is pretty good, to be fair. We do not try and beat them up and we try and keep them away from any negative comments.
“You want to send them out feeling like warriors and having a right go for us. It is easier to do that after two or three wins when you feel invincible. But a lot of lads will feel like they have something to prove this weekend.
“They will lick their wounds and say, ‘Come on then, let’s put it behind us and go again’.
“I remember Bolton last year when it took them eight or nine games to hit their stride. Hopefully it will not take us that long.
“It might be the best thing to happen to us as it gives the lads a rude awakening of what this league has got in store.”
With no midweek game to get Saturday out of the system, the working week may have been long for the Millers, but the daily structure of training has provided order and a sense of focus.
For managers and fans the pain can linger. But for Warne, thrown into a maelstrom not of his own doing during the 2016-17 season when he was powerless to stop the Millers’ painful descent, beating himself up too much will not come into the equation. Even if losing dents his pride.
Warne added: “My wife and kids were at the (Brentford) game and after it took me a bit of time before I could speak to them.
“Then I thought, ‘I need to click out of this as life goes on. It is one match and there are 45 cup finals left’. So I moved on quite quick because you have to.
“Footballers are pretty resilient and take it better than fans and managers probably. On Monday we trained a bit more than we normally do as we just wanted them to kick the ball around and get it out of their system.
“But if they cannot put Saturday behind them quickly, they are definitely at the wrong club.”
If Rotherham are to cleanse themselves from events at Griffin Park it will mean inflicting more pain upon a legendary club figure who suffered greatly in the Millers’ finest hour last season.
After pitting his wits against Paul Hurst when the Millers beat Shrewsbury Town in the League One play-off final just 74 days ago, Warne will again be trying to get the better of his good friend and former team-mate, now manager of today’s visitors Ipswich Town.
After helping Hurst settle on a place to live in Suffolk, East Anglia-born Warne is in no mood to extending the welcome mat this afternoon. Not after last weekend.
He quipped: “I tried to get him to live in Norwich, to be fair – as it is much nicer.
“It will be nice to see him again. If you had said 12 months ago that me and Hursty would have met in the play-off final and first home game in the Championship, with him being manager of Ipswich, it all adds to the spice of the game – considering I am a Norwich fan as well.”