ROTHERHAM UNITED’S list of admirers is a growing one and Paul Warne is acutely aware that therein might lie a problem in the near future.
From Chris Wilder and Tony Pulis to Aitor Karanka and Lee Johnson, rival managers have been quick to extol the virtues of the Millers so far this term, with the names of their high-performing players likely to not have escaped the attention of a host more clubs with the January window around the corner either.
The fact that word has got out on the Championship grapevine regarding the Millers, who are impressively making a mockery of the expectations of those who had them nailed down as relegation favourites back in the summer, will be hard enough to contend with between now and May.
Harder still if some of those leading lights are on the radar of rivals in the New Year.
Looking ahead to January, manager Warne, whose side are aiming to extend their unbeaten sequence to seven league games this evening, said: “If I can get someone better than what I have got, then fine. But I am not going to change faces for the sake of it.
“The problem I might have is keeping hold of some. If someone said to me now that there is going to be no changes until the end of the season and would I back this group to have a season that I wanted, I would probably say yes.
“But my fear is that, come January, there will be two or three who are not playing enough who want to go, which I (would) understand. Then there might be two or three who we get bids for who might also want to go. But realistically, there is no-one in my squad who I do not want and no-one who I really want to replace.
“If we get through January without losing any of our key (players), I would honestly say that it is a good January.
“I do think if we do sell, we should not sell cheap as we do not need the money. I do not want to lose any players in this window.”
Fresh from their resounding performance in Saturday’s derby with high-flying Sheffield United, who were arguably given their most troublesome afternoon of the season so far, the Millers are undeniably in a good place.
Beaten just once in their past nine league outings, Rotherham are enjoying their best run of second-tier form since those heady days in their wonderful Great Escape run under Neil Warnock at the end of 2015-16.
Similarly, that same spirit, resolve and defiance that the Millers successfully showed under Warnock against big-city clubs who they had no right to be trading punches with is being reprised by Warne’s class of 2018-19.
The Rotherham chief may very much be his own man in terms of his own managerial style, but cedes that elements of serial promotion fixer Warnock have subconsciously impacted upon him.
“I think you take things off people by osmosis. You are not aware you take things, but you do.” Warne added.
“Some of the things I took off him (Warnock) was that in pressure moments, you should surprise the lads. Sometimes, you might be hard on them, but sometimes, you might go the other way and be completely soft.
“I do speak to individuals a lot, whereas he used to walk around the training ground and just have the one minute with them.
“But what I did like about Neil was that he was not obsessed with statistics. I remember we would win a game 1-0 and it was just about trying to win a match – and not about having the ball for 70 per cent of the time and going sideways and backwards.
“I do not get obsessed with anything like that (also). I want the lads to enjoy playing for me, but fundamentally I want them to win football games. And if they are not winning, it does not matter how good the style you play is.”
Still on the Warnock theme, you have to go to life under the veteran manager for the last occasion that the Millers triumphed in the Championship on a Tuesday – a memorable 1-0 win over Middlesbrough in March 2016.
A victory against Rangers would also help extend the feel-good factor from Saturday’s derby display against the Blades, but Warne acknowledges the dangers prevalent ahead of tonight’s game, which is rather more bread-and-butter, but no less important against in-form visitors.
Warne, who will be without loanee Ryan Manning – ineligible under the terms of loan from the R’s – tonight said: “I would have much preferred to play QPR on a Saturday and Sheffield United on a Tuesday as I know Tuesday would be a proper humdinger.
“Physically, we put a lot into Saturday, but emotionally too. I know I did as I was exhausted.
“My fear is that we turn up on Tuesday night and the fans think: ‘These (QPR) are not as high as Sheffield United and are not as good. They do not bring as many fans, so they are not as good’.”
Last six games: Rotherham DDDWDD; QPR WWWLWD.
Referee: A Woolmer (Northants).
Last time: Rotherham 1 QPR 0, December 16, 2016; Championship.