Why Rotherham United have every chance of staying up - Leon Wobschall

AS A self-confessed fitness fanatic, pre-season was always Paul Warne’s favourite time of the year as a player.

Paul Warne. Picture: PA.

It has not changed now he is a manager. Two pre-Covid trips to Austria to prepare for campaigns with Rotherham United were as invigorating as the Alpine air in the Tyrols.

Just as his players pushed themselves to the limits up Austrian hills, so they must now climb a mountain to remain in the Championship.

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A strength-sapping run of 12 games in 36 days would be a test for the club with the biggest squad resources in the division. Of which Rotherham are most definitely not.

Rotherham United's Matt Crooks, pictured with Paul Warne after being named as the Championship's player of the month for January.

But expect the Millers to be nothing less than on-message and ready. Few sets of players, if any at this level, have better fitness levels at this level than Rotherham's.

It is something they pride themselves upon given they are not blessed with natural advantages.

They will handle the demands of an exhaustive itinerary, unless a raft of injuries get in the way. Organisation and togetherness are also core strengths. They have coped with adversity and tough results several times over.

After a run of one win in nine fixtures at the end of last year, Rotherham dusted themselves down and picked themselves up with four victories in six Championship games at the start of 2021.

AESSEAL New York Stadium, home of Rotherham United.

This is not a squad who plainly feel sorry for themselves. They have handled Covid chaos, significant injury issues and even weather problems and everything that has been thrown at them and are still standing.

They also have some key players due back in the run home such as the indefatigable Jamie Lindsay - one of the division’s form midfielders before his untimely hamstring injury - a potential match-winner in flying winger Chiedozie Ogbene and an experienced seen-it-all defender in Joe Mattock.

It will not be easy, far from it. But then nothing ever is at this level for the Millers. Twas ever thus.

Twelve games remain and five wins should do it, possibly four for the Millers, who occupy the final relegation spot but have games in the tank on the sides in their vicinity.

With all due respect, they would have wanted to still play Wycombe and their two direct relegation rivals just above them in Birmingham and Coventry and they are.

Back-to-back home games against the Midlands duo in the space of four days in mid-April will go a fair way towards determining their fate in a run of four matches in just over a week from April 10-18.

The fact that Rotherham have four successive home games between April 13-21 is perhaps just as significant.

It will cut out the need for excessive travel time and enable preparation to be relatively smooth.

Unfortunately there is a catch and it’s a significant one, potentially.

Four of the Millers’ final five matches are on the road and include dates with three sides firmly in the promotion mix in Barnsley, Brentford and Cardiff - with United visiting the latter on the final day of the season.

What was that about it never been easy for the Millers?

Still, it should be acknowledged that Rotherham’s away form is currently better than their home statistics and they have taken five more points on their travels so far in 2020-21.

Seventeen games have yielded six wins in historically tough places such as Derby and Middlesbrough.

Recent back-to-back road wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City also pointed to reservoirs of dressing-room character.

For Rotherham to pick themselves up off the floor after their Covid-19 travails and win at Ashton Gate before the last international break - just four days after being walloped at home by Watford - was a remarkable result and showed everything good about them.

Facing an obdurate, direct opponent with a cause to fight for like themselves will not be easy for a Barnsley, Brentford or a Cardiff either.

There will be bumps in the road and it will not be smooth. But if anyone can do it, surely Warne’s Millers can.

If Warne has one wish, it may well be this.

Namely, that his two ‘gun players’ in terms of Michael Smith and Matt Crooks stay fit and firing. If they are, then Rotherham have every chance of making it a finale to remember. They have had a few of those over the years.