Opposites attract as Rotherham United boss prepares to face old friend Hurst in Wembley showdown

IN one corner, a restless force of nature whose energy permeates through an entire room and in the other, a calm, deep-thinking quiet man who is inwardly driven to succeed.

Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst. Picture: John Walton/PA
Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst. Picture: John Walton/PA

Former Rotherham United team-mates and Wembley rivals Paul Warne and Paul Hurst may be polar opposites in terms of their respective characters, but there are also plenty of similarities if you delve deep enough.

That same fierce determination, that same inability to suffer fools, that same innate skill in leading by example and that same studious, fastidious approach.

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Plus that same ability to command the respect of their peers with their voices of authority – one loud, the other rather more hushed – carrying weight.

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Former Millers centre-back Guy Branston is qualified better that most to speak about the credentials of both rival managers and one-time team-mates who will be pitting their wits against each other in Sunday’s League One play-off final.

The trio were part of that legendary Millers side from the early Noughties under Ronnie Moore who achieved back-to-back promotions and consolidated in the second-tier. A side of immense character whose togetherness was touch-tight and whose winning mentality was insatiable.

It remains to be seen if the ‘Duracell Bunny’ will keep going on and on to Championship promotion or if ‘The Eyes’ will have it.

Branston told The Yorkshire Post: “Both were leaders in the dressing room in their own way. We had a lot of leaders. There was Polly (Mike Pollitt), Warney, Hursty, Dawsy (Nick Daws) and Mark Robins. They all had their own traits.

Guy Branston: Former Millers team-mate of the League One play-off final managers.

“There are loads of us breeding from the success Ronnie and Brecks (John Breckin) created. In all successful teams, you always see players branching out and taking good bits from that success.

“Warney and Hursty have taken things to turn them into successful coaches.

“I have spoken to Monky (Andy Monkhouse) about working with Hursty at Grimsby and he raved about him. He has a good assistant in Doigy (Chris Doig) and Warney has a good one in Richie Barker. They have good teams around them going back to the imprint of the Ronnie and Breck era.

“Warney has been at the club for many a year and he has just got a great understanding of it as a whole, really. He has also had the time to breathe and create stability and growth as manager.

“Warney is not your stereoptypical image of what you perceive a footballer to be in the dressing room. He went down a different route from the non-league and then went to Wgian and then came to us.

“He had had a great energy level, which he still has now. He also has a great understanding of people because of his family upbringing. He is from a lovely family who are lovely people.

“He was a ‘Duracell Bunny’ and brought life to the place. I appreciated that sort of character.”

Less of a natural extrovert than Warne, Hurst’s leadership arrived by example.

Understated in character he may have been in that Millers team, but when he spoke, people listened.

Branston added: “Hursty was a bit more calmer, but someone who would say his piece when he had to. He was one of the more quieter dressing-room figures. But when he spoke, he did with experience and understanding. You get a respect element with Hursty; that he knows what he is talking about.

“He was an untypical ‘club man’. He had been our PFA representative and was willing to protect the players, which a club man does not usually do.

“They usually kind of protect the staff. Hursty was someone who was willing to stick up for the lads and be part of something he thought was right.

“I played next to him for most of the games I played for Rotherham and we were always in close conversation on the pitch. We always got on really well.

“We went to parties and various dos and roomed together from time to time. He is genuinely a quiet man, but a big, big thinker.

“I always got the sense he was happier for other people to take the lead. But what he did say was broken down and digested by the lads with full respect. He articulated well and really hit home with his points and must have taken that into management.

“Hursty’s nickname was ‘Eyes’ in the dressing room because he had these big eyes and once he got angry, they would really flash up.

“He was a man who got aggressive and angry when he needed to be and Warney was the same. He very rarely got angry, but when he did, he would tell you straight in the dressing room. He is a nice guy but every successful manager has to have a ruthless streak.

“That is just the nature of the beast, you have to tell people straight sometimes.”

Both clearly fiery characters when provoked, the wrath of Warne was once felt on one famous occasion by Branston during their time at Rotherham.

A spot of cookery at the Warne household went badly wrong with the former Millers defender failing to dish up a treat.

Branston recalled: “I used to go around his house from time to time. He (Warney) had a big house in Moorgate. I remember he once let me cook and I nearly put his kitchen on fire!

“I trained to be a chef when I was a player and I remember he had this kitchen which he had spent a fortune on and I turned up with my pots and pans.

“He never invited me around to cook again. His wife Rachel thought I was a fire risk!”

He added: “Seriously, I have strong, good feelings about both Warney and Hursty. It will be a weird feeling watching the Wembley final.

“I bump into them both on the scouting circuit and they are always out at games doing the donkey work.

“You want them to do well.”