Rotherham United v Sheffield Wednesday: Return of fans so important to Millers chief

LAST season, Paul Warne recorded an historic feat that no previous Rotherham United manager had achieved – but unfortunately, none of the club’s fans were there to witness it.

Dual victories over Sheffield Wednesday in a league season saw the Millers claim a glorious first double over their neighbours and Warne admits he felt a little bit cheated by the fact that no supporters were present.

Thankfully, a semblance of normality will return to derby day today in front of a packed AESSEAL New York Stadium, a far cry from last season’s eerie atmosphere when every game felt the same without spectators.

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Millers chief Warne said: “As a manager, during the game you don’t notice the fans much because you are so obsessed with what’s happening on the pitch.

Rotherham United's Freddie Ladapo celebrates scoring against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA

“It’s when you walk out or when you hear the roar as the ball hits the back of the net or when your team are celebrating a victory at the end that you realise how special everything is when fans are there.

“Last season, we beat Wednesday at home and Bristol City at home and both victories felt the same. When you get the backdrop of a full house, a win suddenly means a lot more.

“Having said that, I did not need fans at Hillsborough when Freddie Ladapo scored his last-minute winner there last season. When I am very old, that will be the only Rotherham goal I remember. When his shot hit the net, I have never been that happy. Not ever.

“Those ten seconds afterwards, wow. I jumped on Rich (Barker) like I was his child. It was a truly amazing moment. It would have been brilliant to have been able to go over and clap our fans at the end.

“That would have been so sweet. Fans make sport real. They inject passion into the game.”

Despite struggling this week with tonsillitis, United’s Hillsborough hero Ladapo is ‘desperate’ to feature today.

Warne added: “He will be desperate to play; why wouldn’t he? He is not one of those players who lacks confidence. He never fails to have confidence.

“I am doing a video montage and you can make yourself a hero and it is nice to be remembered for great things and if you score a winner in a local derby, people remember you.

“I don’t remember Richie’s header at Hillsborough (in 2001/02), although I have seen it since and I was there! But it is nice to be remembered when you are not playing and your grandchildren are here.”