Video: Identity of Rotherham United is as important as consolidation '“ Richie Barker

FOOTBALL has an irresistible habit of throwing up special stories from time to time.

Fortunately in that regard Yorkshire has been privileged enough to provide the setting for a fair number in recent years, from the amazing rise of Huddersfield Town to the restoration of Sheffield United and now the magnificent rebirth at Rotherham United from the pits of despair just over a year ago.

Millers assistant manager Richie Barker remembers the pain of those dark days only too well and is the first to admit that he wondered what he had let himself in for after being persuaded by good friend and former Rotherham team-mate Paul Warne to leave Charlton Athletic and return to his native Yorkshire in the Spring of 2017.

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He was instantly greeted by a demoralised playing squad, on the floor following a punishing 2016-17 campaign that saw the Millers register the lowest amount of points for a second-tier club since the three points for a win system was introduced in 1981.

Most in Barker’s shoes might have questioned the sanity of their decision.

Thankfully, given the events of the past season, it has proved a sound move, culminating in Sunday’s joyous play-off final victory at Wembley in a campaign of atonement.

Barker acknowledged: “I wish I knew what Warney had talked me into when I first came and walked through the door. I was thinking, ‘I am not sure this is the right decision’.

“I was not sure what I was letting myself in for, but it spurred me on as a coach and made me work even harder and better. I do think this experience has made me a better coach than the one who walked through the door a year ago.

Rotherham player Richie Barker is squeezed out by defenders Hayden Mullins and Gary Borrowdale back in December 2002

“For me, it is probably the biggest achievement I have been involved in when you bear in mind where we were when I came in. I have said it numerous times, but I think we started the season on minus 10 (points). This is a hell of an achievement.”

Given the Millers’ extraordinary feats it will not be a surprise to many that the union cultivated in the dressing room between a group of players who have bonded like brothers is the sort that is forged only very rarely in football.

Barker, Millers manager Warne and goalkeeping coach Mike Pollitt can count themselves fortunate to have experienced that during their playing days with the club in the late 1990s and early Noughties during a magical adventure under Ronnie Moore.

Now the present-day Millers are making their own sweet memories with Barker spying similarities between the current Rotherham crop and that special group from almost two decades ago.

Rotherham United's Richard Wood (left) celebrates with team-mates Rotherham United's Semi Ajayi (right) and Rotherham United's Joe Mattock (centre) after the final whistle during the Sky Bet League One Final at Wembley (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire)

Lasting friendships are being made just as they were during the epic Moore era.

“I think there are similarities and I said that to Polly in the dressing room (on Sunday),” added Barker.

“I think this group could end up being like us and still probably speaking 17 or 18 years later. A lot of friendships have been made throughout this season.

“There is me and Warney who are going on holiday next Thursday and we met each other 18 and a half years ago. I think there will be a few of those (friendships) with these players.

Rotherham United assistant manager Richie Barker: Glad he returned.

“It was important having staff who knew the club. Hammy (Matt Hamshaw) is from Rotherham and myself, Polly and Warney all played and knew what the football club was about in terms of its identity.

“We said we wanted to create something that the fans and town are proud of and I would argue that we have done.”

Amid the celebrations on Sunday there was also the distinct impression that the Millers have unfinished business in the Championship after their morale-sapping campaign of 2016-17 when they finished bottom of the pile and won just five matches.

Consolidation is the understandable aim and, while loathe to make specific predictions, Barker has promised that investment will be considered, strategic and sensible – with breaking the bank to sign players on expensive fees not an option.

It is consistent in keeping with the duty of care that the likes of Barker and Warne display for ‘their’ club in all of their work and deeds.

Barker continued: “Whatever happens in the future we would like to think that the football club will be in a better place than we found it.

“We have a few players who are on loan such as Rich (Towell), Marek (Rodak), Josh (Emmanuel) and Lavs (Caolan Lavery).

“They will need replacing from the start if we cannot get them back again. But certainly, in terms of the friendships created in this group and the way that they are, we can look forward to trying to conquer something together again next season.

“We will enjoy what we have done, but at some point we are then going to have to look at what is going to be success next season. Success would be consolidating in the Championship, but we also want to make sure that the club is run in the correct way and that there are no financial issues.

“We want to make sure that there are no unsustainable wage bills, which there have been before and we want to create an environment where it is not a revolving door (of players).

“We want players to come in, get better and grow with us.”