Gladiators deserve to take it down to the wire, says Rotherham United manager Paul Warne

IN a season in which Rotherham United’s gallant players have collectively emptied their tanks on a weekly basis, few would begrudge them taking their Championship fates to the final day.

Rotherham United manager, Paul Warne. Picture: Simon Hulme.

It would be somewhat fitting and a major achievement in itself, even if their relegation was to be confirmed after their home encounter with Middlesbrough on Sunday week.

As it stands the Millers could effectively find themselves consigned to an instant return to League One before a ball is kicked in their penultimate fixture of the season at West Bromwich on Saturday.

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Their relegation rivals Millwall – three points clear with a game in hand and a vastly superior goal difference – head into their Saturday lunch-time home game with Stoke City knowing that victory would rubber-stamp their safety and relegate the Millers, barring some freak of mathematics that simply will not happen.

For Rotherham to stride out at The Hawthorns with their destiny decided would be wholly cruel and undeserved.

But it would be illustrative of the unforgiving nature of life in the Championship, one of the most brutal leagues around.

For the time being at any rate the Millers, occupying the final relegation position, are not quite sunk even if they need to produce a staggering act of escapology to survive after Monday’s near-fatal 3-1 home reverse to Birmingham City.

What can be taken as read is that manager Paul Warne’s side, should they exit the second-tier stage as most now expect, will go down fighting.

Rotherham's Ryan Williams turns Jacques Maghoma. Picture: Dean Atkins.

Warne said: “If the season is done before the last home game I might do something completely different, but I am forever hopeful.

“If we can pick something up on our travels – and we deserved something on our travels at Swansea – at West Brom and results go our way, who is to say?

“If it does go down to the last game of the season and we win and give ourselves a chance, then great. But we are going to have to play better than we did in the second half against Birmingham.”

As Millers supporters come to terms with back-to-back defeats in an Easter programme that looks like proving the fateful act in their brave campaign, it will not represent too much consolation that their current position of 22nd is two places above where many observers last summer had them down to finish.

Overwhelming favourites for the drop, they were assigned with somehow keeping their heads above water against well-heeled rivals blessed with advantages that the Millers can but envy.

The fact that Warne’s side have been punching above their weight virtually from the off cannot be ignored.

Nor should the fact that with two matches of the campaign still to go – and with the lowest Championship budget this season – they have already taken 17 more points than the relegation class of 2016-17 managed.

Warne observed: “We are still ahead of Ipswich and Bolton and, if nothing else, that is still an achievement.

“I will lick my wounds a bit, but we will turn up and have another go at it. I think the lads will get unbelievable plaudits for how well they have played.

“It is not just the 11, it’s the ones outside the team, outside the squad. Their attitudes have been spot on. I have had no problems with any of my players this season. I don’t think many managers could sit here and say that.

“I would like it (Championship survival) for them, not for me. If they could stay up they will go down in absolute history as like a bunch of gladiators.

“Even if they fall short by one or two points I still think they deserve that reputation. But football is not like that, is it? They will not get it.”

They certainly should though. They certainly should.