Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday face final promotion push

FOR Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore and his Rotherham United counterpart and friend Paul Warne, this afternoon could be cathartic.

At the end of the regular 2020-21 season, both were left to pick up the pieces after shattering relegations for the Owls and the Millers following tumultuous, but ultimately bitter, occasions at Derby County and Cardiff City.

Football life is such that both could be smiling after their club’s final League One games against Portsmouth and Gillingham.

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Equally, there may be more hurt.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne. Picture: PA.

The League One fates of both Yorkshire clubs are in their own hands. If Wednesday beat Pompey in front of a Hillsborough crowd of over 33,500, they will seal a play-off place. A draw and even a defeat may be enough, depending on results elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Millers will be promoted automatically and avoid the end-of-season lottery if they win at the Priestfield Stadium. If they equal or better MK Dons’ result at Plymouth Argyle, they will also be celebrating a hat-trick of instant returns to the Championship under Warne.

Should both achieve what they are after, expect Warne and Moore to contact each other as there is plenty of mutual respect.

Last April, Warne was forced to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19. Moore also contracted the virus in early spring and had a spell in hospital after developing pneumonia.

Owls boss Darren Moore. Picture: Steve Ellis

They checked on each other’s well-being, deepening bonds between two of football’s good guys.

Moore said: “I have the utmost respect for Paul and we get on really well together. He will feel he has another final push and hurdles to overcome like we have.

“From last season to now, it could be the polar opposite. If it was to be that way, great.

“But we cannot afford to look beyond things. The only time we do is after the final whistle. There’s work ahead for us both.”

Warne’s Millers side were a few minutes away from sealing a top-two finish at Sunderland on Tuesday. Unlike at the end of 20-21 when a late Cardiff goal cruelly devastated their season, they have a second chance today.

Warne has achieved plenty in his epic time with United. In his view, automatic promotion and avoiding the play-offs – when there is potential for them to even face the Owls – would top the lot.

He said: “I’m a boy from a small town in Norfolk, so for my professional career to have gone the way it’s gone, to get an automatic promotion would be the biggest achievement I have ever had.

“As good as we’ve been in recent years as a football club, we haven’t had an automatic promotion from this league since Ronnie (Moore) had the ‘dream team’ (in 2001), so it would be an amazing achievement, even more so with the quality of this league.

“This team will change in the summer and it’s a goodbye for a few. It (promotion) would feel like a fitting end to a really enjoyable but tough season.

“If we can enjoy that one last day, it would be literally priceless, something they will remember forever, and I’d love to feel I’ve been part of that for them.”

When it comes to high-stakes final day showdowns with opponents Portsmouth, Moore does at least have successful ‘previous’ from his time at West Brom.

Back in May 2005, Moore – an unused substitute for the hosts – served as an unofficial cheerleader when the Hawthorns crowd went flat in Albion’s last game in 2004-05 at home to Pompey.

It was a day which ended gloriously. The Baggies completed a ‘Great Escape’ with a 2-0 win and became the first Premier League side to stay up after being bottom at Christmas.

Moore, whose side face in-form ex-Owls striker George Hirst, son of club legend David, recalled: “I just got in the occasion and moment, It was the emotions of it.

“My message to (Owls) fans is that they are coming to support the team, but also really let their voices be heard and sing out. We have seen at Hilsborough with 23, 24 or 25,000 that when their voices are heard, it’s a special place.

“To know that there’s potentially another 10 or 11,000 on top of that means it could be a special moment. Everyone has their part to play.”