Rotherham United v Millwall - Aborted go-karting trip got Paul Warne on track

ONE of Paul Warne’s biggest lessons in management arrived when he was sat on his own on a hill at Rotherham United’s Roundwood training base – when he was sulking ‘like a child’ by his own admission.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne (Picture: PA)

Few can deny that the Millers manager has not got most things right during his time in charge of the club – with the ink currently drying on a new contract that he signed earlier this week.

His time at the coalface has enabled Warne, whose first took over as caretaker-manager in late November 2016, to learn many things about his craft such as the art of delegation and having a pressure valve to let off steam.

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Not being too sensitive is also a skill he now appreciates.

Rotherham United's Joe Mattock (centre) clears the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at Adams Park (PIcture: PA)

Courtesy of an aborted go-karting trip, of all things.

Warne recalled: “Once, the lads asked to go go-karting. I spoke to the chairman and asked if he would support the lads doing that and he said yes.

“I came back really excited on the next day and said: ‘Lads, you are going go-karting on Wednesday or whatever.’ The noise then came back to my office that it was a little bit short notice and the lads didn’t want to do it.

“I was devastated after going out of my way and asking the chairman and him agreeing to it.

Rotherham United's Kieran Sadlier (left) and Wycombe Wanderers' Jack Grimmer compete for a header (Picture: PA)

“Like a child – and I didn’t mean to do it, but I did – instead of me falling out with people and letting them know they had let me down like I would with my kids, I went and sat at the top of the hill while training was on and did not speak to anyone.

“In my heart, it was a big deal and I was devastated. The lads kept saying to the coaches: ‘What’s up with the gaffer?. They said: ‘I am not sure he is best pleased about the go-karting.’ And they said: ‘We didn’t get notice, did we?’

“The whole squad were obsessed with why I was at the top of the hill and it made me realise that I needed to man up a little bit and not be so sensitive.

“My body posture and way I speak does affect the lads and I know the way I speak about things affects how fans see it.

“I try and control how outwardly I look. I try and be honest, it is not hard.”

Warne’s new deal runs until the summer of 2023. Should he still be in charge by that juncture, that would mean he will have been at the Millers helm for six-and-a-half years.

In his time in the dug-out so far, Rotherham have packed in a visit to Wembley, two promotions and two relegations – one that was slightly unfortunate and the other that was not Warne’s fault.

Warne’s mantra has consistently been that his only concern is that the club will be in a much better place when he leaves than it was at the time he took over.

Legacy is everything to the 47-year-old, more especially when it is ‘his’ club.

He continued: “If I lost my job tomorrow or if I left or decided I’d had enough, I would always be really proud of what I tried to do here. It started when we sold Wardy (Danny Ward) and spent the money on the training ground with the chairman’s approval.

“If I left tomorrow, we have left it in better nick. I could easily have signed 32 year olds to help us this season, but I have tried to sign players who can help us now, next season and the season after.

“It is a brilliant club who knows what it is and a brilliant stadium and the training ground has improved no end. We have got younger, energetic players who want to play and improve and it is easier for us to attract players whereas before it might not have been.

“I know two other Championship clubs wanted to sign George Hirst.

“Maybe our club is more appealing now than it has been for a few years, which is testament to the owner and players who have come in.”

In his time in charge, Warne has helped change perceptions of Rotherham, cultivated a successful playing style and brought together not just talented players, but good people who care.

That was not always the case prior to taking over, it is fair to say.

Like today’s opponents Millwall, the Millers have a clear identity and players who seem to fit into the club’s ethos and ‘get’ what representing the club is all about. It is something that other rivals could learn something from.

Warne continued: “I am not saying fans don’t criticise my team selection or players, I know that.

“But I honestly believe that a good 90 per cent of the fanbase have a good connection with the players and want them to do well.

“I want the players to be inter-laced with the community. I want them to know the youth team players’ names and play a bigger part than what they just do on a Saturday.

“We have had some really outstanding players and characters here like Will Vaulks. We always try and do things right morally and always take a broom to away games and clean up after ourselves and are always hugely respectful of the opposition and try and play football which I think our fans want to see.”

The passionate way in which Warne speaks about his club still burns as brightly as it did when he first took over.

As it always did. It’s a love story, after all.