Rotherham United v Sheffield Wednesday: Positives to emerge from testing times for rival managers

DARREN MOORE’S friendship with Paul Warne may revolve around football, but it has also extended to more important things.

The good friends may be doing their level best to get one over the other amid the searing heat of the derby cauldron today, but whatever happens, there will be time for a catch-up at some point after the final whistle and the pair will enjoy a brief spot of quality time before going their separate ways.

Football will be discussed no doubt. Yet don’t be surprised if the chat also extends to talk of family, friends and loved ones.

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Back in April, Rotherham United chief Warne was forced to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19.

Owls boss Darren Moore Picture: Steve Ellis

Moore, his counterpart at Sheffield Wednesday also contracted the virus in early spring and had a spell in hospital after subsequently developing pneumonia.

It was a time when the pair exchanged texts to check on their well-being. It deepened the bonds and respect between two of football’s real good guys.

Moore told The Yorkshire Post: “We messaged each other when both of us suffered from Covid. I messaged him and he came back to me when I was ill with mine and that shows the level of where we are both at.

“We lived relatively close to each other (in the Doncaster area), although I have moved over to this way now. I am sure we will catch up after the game.

Rotherham manager Paul Warne. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“As players, we played against each other and met on coaching courses and everything else.

“He (Warne) is such a wonderful, bubbly character and also in the times during lockdown, we did some great work down at the Sky Sports studios and really built up a wonderful friendship and have bonded from there.

“We enjoyed commentating on games and what a lot of people don’t see in the breaks is that there is a lot of talking going on when you are off air.

“It has helped bring the friendship together and stronger.”

Spring, of course, was a time when Moore and Warne were doing it tough professionally, with their respective sides being entrenched in a grim Championship relegation battle which went down to one of the most dramatic finales that you could have possibly imagined in early May.

The fates of the Owls and the Millers went down to the dying moments of ‘Survival Saturday’ with the former visiting Derby County and the latter finishing off their season at Cardiff City.

For the majority of that climatic day, it looked like Rotherham – aided by an early goal from a player who they will ironically face today in Wednesday colours in Lewis Wing – would be the ones to secure a glorious Great Escape.

A shattering late equaliser from Cardiff’s Marlon Pack cruelly put paid to that and there was dual despair in South Yorkshire with the Owls also relegated after a 3-3 draw at Derby.

Whisper it gently to both sets of fans today, but Moore and Warne both spoke about wanting their rival teams to survive if the worst-case scenario of relegation for their own club transpired.

Alas it was not to be, but at least the thought was there.

Reflecting on the tail end of last season, Moore commented: “It was incredible. We both wanted to stay up, but said that if one of us didn’t, we hoped that the other one did.

“We were willing each other on and I honesty thought last season they (Rotherham) had done it.

“We all saw his (Warne’s) emotions on the last day and I could understand it because I genuinely felt for him. I thought they had genuinely done it.

“We are good friends and will always be friends and have always had a wonderful relationship despite us locking horns (today), I am sure after the game finishes, we will both wish each other well in terms of where we are in our managerial careers. I have nothing but praise and accolades for him. But now we go into battle.”

Leading sides tipped to be firmly in the promotion shake-up at the business end of 21-22, Moore and Warne’s football methods may unquestionably vary.

Yet the respect for the managerial wherewithal of the other is fulsome, with Warne’s record at League One level speaking for itself as he attempts to orchestrate a third promotion from this level and a hat-trick of instant returns to the Championship.

His side could never be accused of not having an identity either, with Moore busy trying to build a team in his own image.

He added: “He (Warne) is successful at it. Irrespective of how we play the game and see fit, that is the wonderful thing about football. There are so many variations, options and opinions. They have found a wonderful formula in terms of being successful.

“It has worked a number of times and they (Rotherham) have got consistent with it and got better at it, really. It is no great surprise in terms of how they have started the season and they will continue that.”