Sheffield Wednesday v Rotherham United: Neil Warnock ready to run gauntlet on return to Hillsborough

Derby rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United meet today in a game that could give some clue as to whether either will remain in the Championship next season.

Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal

The Owls will look for a win as they search for automatic promotion, but with Birmingham City sitting just a point behind them in seventh spot, the Owls know that a play-off place is far from safe.

At the other end of the Championship, Neil Warnock returns to Hillsborough – the self-confessed Blades fan is sure to receive a heated welcome – where Rotherham need a result today or run the risk of being cut off in the bottom three.

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No wins in the last three games – defeat to Preston North End, followed by successive draws against QPR and Hull City – has left Wednesday 10 points adrift of the top two with 12 games remaining.

Neil Warnock

While head coach Carlos Carvalhal refuses to discuss automatic promotion – “I never talk about this and I won’t talk about it” – Owls defender Michael Turner insists the Owls are still fighting to catch Championship pacesetters Burnley, Hull and Middlesbrough.

After a summer of change at Hillsborough, where new boss Carvalhal overhauled the Owls’ playing squad, Wednesday could ultimately be 12 months ahead of owner Dejphon Chansiri’s pledge to deliver Premier League football within two seasons.

And while Turner would love to emulate the feat he achieved in 2008 – being part of the Hull side that won the Championship play-off final at Wembley thanks to Dean Windass’s goal – the on-loan defender is not writing off their top-two chances.

“You never know in this league,” he said. “We just need to keep going; if we pick up a few wins on the bounce, we might be looking up again and thinking we can get back in (the top two).

Neil Warnock

“Getting back to winning ways is the most important thing.

“Everyone is looking forward to Rotherham, a local derby, a great atmosphere, and with Neil Warnock coming to the stadium, it will make it a little bit tastier.

“To finish in the top six would be an excellent achievement. Of course, there’s still the chance we can go up automatically, so while there is that opportunity, we will still fight for that.

“But come the end of the season, if we are in the play-offs, we can look at that as a success.”

Turner has experienced both ends of the play-off spectrum; he was part of the Brentford side who lost in the League One two-legged semi-final to Wednesday in 2005, while one of his fondest memories in football came three years later with the Tigers, beating Bristol City 1-0.

“I think the play-offs are great games to be involved in,” said 32-year-old Turner. “The semi-finals are great occasions, sold-out stadiums. There’s a lot of pressure in the games, but they are great to be involved in.

“Of course, if you can get through to Wembley, it’s a magnificent day out. And winning promotion at Wembley, there’s probably nothing better.”

Warnock, meanwhile, is happy to run the gauntlet and continue to be public enemy No 1 to Sheffield Wednesday supporters on what is likely to be his last appointment at Hillsborough. Warnock is seeking to continue the Millers’ strong record at S6 where they have not been beaten in their last five meetings in all competitions since September 1981.

The Rotherham manager insists he will not be fazed by any stick that comes his way and says he has broad enough shoulders to take it to keep the pressure off his players.

Warnock, who says he passed up three opportunities to manage Wednesday in his career, said: “Yes, I am going to get stick, but that is no different to any time I have been there.

“I go away to Ipswich next and that’s the same down there.

“It is probably the last time I am going to get stick at Hillsborough. But I will enjoy it.

“Wednesday have not had a lot to shout about over the years, so when I’ve gone it’s usually been the highlight of their season.

“They’ve got other things than Neil Warnock on their minds this year because they’ve got a great chance of going up.”

On previous interest from Wednesday, the last incidence of which arrived in late 2013, Warnock added: “What I liked about the last one is the local paper did a poll and I was quite popular about getting them out of the cart.

“It was a case of ‘if we have got to put him with him, we’ll put up with him’.”

Match preview: Page 3