Rotherham United are a stronger unit despite relegation – Tony Stewart

A SUCCESSFUL figure in the cut-throat world of business, Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart will be wise to the notion of nice guys usually finishing last.

Carry on: Paul Warnes management style has been praised by his chairman at Rotherham, Tony Stewart (Picture: Dean Atkins)

Winners, most definitely in the shark-infested world of football management too, often learn to quickly develop a ruthless streak to survive and if it means upsetting people along the way, it represents an occupational hazard and is not something you apologise for.

Or so the theory goes anyway.

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The image of Jurgen Klopp, complete with an omnipresent smile, a high-five and an on-pitch embrace or two with his players never far away amid an ‘all for one’ sense of togetherness, emphatically disputes that.

Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart. (Picture: Andrew Roe)

More especially after the Liverpool manager cast aside the suggestions that he is a serial runner-up after the Reds’ recent Champions League final victory in Madrid.

Although being the managerial nice guy does not half help when you are backed with plentiful and readily-available transfer funds, like Klopp.

Operating in a totally different stratosphere, his Rotherham counterpart Paul Warne is not blessed with those advantages, but similarly places a great premium on getting the best out of his players by creating a ‘family’ environment in which coming to work every day is a pleasure and not a chore.

The togetherness and bonds which Warne helped to forge undeniably played a big part in the club’s promotion to the Championship in 2017-18.

Shrewsbury Town's Carlton Morris playing against Rotherham in the 2018 League One play-off final, has now joined the Millers from Norwich on loan (Picture: PA)

That success may have not been recreated last season, with the Millers returning to the Championship at the first attempt, but their ability to punch well above their weight against their second-tier rivals – who operated with superior budgets – and almost take their fate to the final day was an achievement in itself and one duly recognised by those in the know in English football.

Stewart told The Yorkshire Post: “I cannot take anything away from the manager.

“I have got on with every manager (during my reign), but this one was brought in because he was a greenhorn and it was the start of an adventure and one we felt would get better.

“He has been there and seen all the nine managers that we have had and worked with them and knew their warts and all. He is an intelligent guy and we knew he would pick up from that.

“He has put his own trademark on it, along with his own team of people.

“It is comforting as we have someone there who is not a sergeant major, but more of a matriarch and father-figure – as young as he is.

“He certainly knows how to get the best out of the guys because he treats them with respect and they respect him. It is a nice, healthy atmosphere.”

Change is currently in the air at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, with Warne having said goodbye to two leading players this summer in Jon Taylor and Joe Newell, with others likely to follow including captain Will Vaulks, who is expected to complete a big-money move to Cardiff Cuty next week.

A number of new faces are expected to come in the other way before the EFL transfer window deadline at the start of September, with the Millers having already made inroads with the additions of Norwich City loan forward Carlton Morris and Wigan Athletic midfielder Shaun MacDonald.

But what can be rest assured is that the culture and mentality at Rotherham will remain unchanged.

Good players and more importantly ‘good people’ in the words of Warne will replace those who depart.

It points to a club with a clear identity and comfortable in its own skin and one where the environment is a healthy one.

Nothing reinforces it more than the recent social media from Taylor and Newell.

The former spoke of the ‘best three years of his life’ and making ‘friends for life’, while the latter insisted that the club were in great hands, while quipping that his heart could not ‘stand watching the gaffer getting choked up and emotional for every morning meeting for another couple of years.’

For Warne, his players are treated as an extended part of his family and his emotional remark that they had brought ‘sunshine to my soul’ in the aftermath of the Millers’ season’s fates being decided at West Brom was something which struck a chord with many in football – at a time where examples of the growing disconnect between high-profile players and management is sadly too frequent.

It ensured that there was pride and solace amid the immediate sting of relegation – with United providing serious bang for their buck in the eyes of Stewart, who retains hope for the future.

He added: “In the last five seasons, we have spent four in the Championship and one in League One. Last season, we were all disappointed and 16 draws was a statement in itself, forget the ifs and buts.

“But it was entertaining and lovely to beat the likes of Derby when they came up. What I did like about it is that when we dropped to the floor out of the Championship after having three seasons in it, we were always fighting for our breath – in the first, second and third (years).

“At the end of the day, we were still travelling and motoring on. We are definitely in a better place now – forget about where we are division-wise. We are more organised.”