Paul Warne reflects on the season so far, Mike Pollitt’s departure and his fondest moments from his three years as boss.
Paul Warne has had his fair share of ups-and-downs in his three years as manager. Last season the Millers gave a very good account of themselves in the Championship. But despite all their hard-work, they eventually fell short and were relegated to League One.
Rotherham were forced to completely rebuild their squad in the summer. Will Vaulks and Semi Ajayi both earned themselves big moves to Cardiff City and West Brom respectively. Joe Newell, Jon Taylor, Anthony Forde and Ryan Williams also departed after their contracts expired.
Despite all of this, Rotherham went into this season with far greater expectations of success. They have had a decent start, but a few bad results have held them back. Paul Warne admits that it has been a mixed start for his team:
“When we came down from the Championship last time, we didn’t start amazingly well, but I think the expectations were different. A lot of fans would have thought if we don’t get back-to-back relegation’s, we’re quite happy.
“Whereas this time, although I’ve had the heart of the team ripped out, I think expectations are possibly higher from fans and myself as well.
“I look back on some of the games with a little bit of regret. The Tranmere game we conceded in the last minute, so if you add them two points to our tally we would be in a good position.
“The same against Rochdale really, we didn’t perform at our best and if we go a goal down at home it’s a problem for us. It was a good goal and they played well. No team is going to come here and lie down, but our home form is a problem.
“Overall, to be in the FA Cup 3rd Round and two points off 3rd I don’t think is too bad, but we have got a tough month coming up. If we can be there or there abouts come the end of the season I think we’ll have done well.”
Last week, the club confirmed that goalkeeper coach and club legend Mike Pollitt has left the club. ‘Polly’ has joined boyhood side Bolton, and ex-Miller Andy Warrington has replaced him as coach, leaving Lincoln City for Rotherham United.
It’s no secret that Pollitt and Warne are very close, as Warne regularly picks out Pollitt as one of his best mates in football. Warne said it was a blow to lose Pollitt, but he is glad to have Warrington back at the club:
“When Bolton’s goalkeeper coach moved to Sunderland about six weeks ago, their natural step was to get Polly in. Polly is a Bolton fan, a Bolton lad.
“Then he told me that he’s got an interest to go, and he’s one of my best mates in the world so I want him to be happy, it’s to the detriment of me but I don’t want anyone here who doesn’t want to be here, which is the same with the players.
“That’s been going on for weeks, but I had to get a replacement in before I could let Polly go, so my natural replacement was Woggy [Warrington]. I played with him, he’s a really good bloke. He’s a true Miller so he gets the club, which is good for me, because I don’t have to teach him anything.
“Then there was just a long process to try and get him out of Lincoln because in the same way I didn’t want Polly to go, Lincoln definitely didn’t want Woggy to go. But in fairness it’s the same situation, he would have only left that club for this, as Polly would for Bolton.
“I’m very sad that Polly has gone, it broke my heart a bit to be honest. He’s a really good bloke, great coach, really funny and in the relationship with your staff you have to manage a lot of people. But sometimes he’s the sunshine on a dark day, he’s one funny kid.
But Woggy brings different attributes, he’s not as funny, but no one is! He’s a really good coach and I think he’ll add a lot to our team.”
Paul Warne has now surpassed three years as Rotherham United Manager. It’s fair to say that not many people would have expected him to last as long and do as well in that time. He is humble enough to acknowledge that himself.
Warne found everything that came with football management difficult to begin with. Anything from picking the team, dropping players and facing criticism, it was all completely alien to him three years ago.
Although he admits that he still finds some criticism difficult, he believes his main improvement as a manager is how ‘acceptant’ he has become:
“I didn’t ever claim to be an amazing coach, I think I can lead and manage people quite well. I’ve got good personable skills. What changed with me was that I surrounded myself with people who filled the voids of my weaknesses.
“I don’t mind admitting that I’m not the best fitness coach, masseur, first-team coach and so on. I’ve just surrounded myself with really good people, which we did not have originally as we were very limited with staff.
“Like at the start I was doing the warm-ups, the coaching and the managing which is impossible. I think managing a football club now is virtually a job on its own.
“I’ve become more acceptant of the fact that you can do everything possible to try and win, but sometimes it isn’t your fault if you don’t. Although everyone outside of this room thinks it is my fault!
“Against Rochdale, we picked the best team and motivated them the best we could. But we don’t score first, so the pressure mounts. We change the team three times, bring on three attacking subs, play with a back three. There’s not much more we can do.
“We leave and then I understand people will be saying Warney isn’t the right man for the job, he needs sacking, which is brutal, but I don’t take it as personally as I did before.”
Three wins from four November games got @OfficialRUFC back on the right track. 👍
Climbing into the @SkyBetLeagueOne play-off places. 📈
— Sky Bet (@SkyBet) December 11, 2019
A lot has happened during Warne’s time as boss. Late Derby Day wins, disappointing defeats, relegations and one triumphant day at Wembley. Warne has not had a smooth time of it as manager and anyone with a weaker character may have folded.
But he has grown into the role more each day as he has got more comfortable with the stresses of being a football manager.
Warne prides himself on his man-management skills, and one of the best things he has done at the club is build a team that is as good as family, who will fight tooth and nail for the club. If you look at the team now compared to when he first took over, they are virtually unrecognisable, and you would think it was a different club.
This has led to some unbelievable days in his three years. When I asked what his fondest moments were as a manager so far, the answer he gave brought his core ideology to the fore again. Hard-work, grit, heart, teamwork and good people will inevitably bring success. An attitude that sums up Rotherham as a club, from the mind of a proper Rotherham United man:
“One of my fondest moments would obviously be winning at Wembley, but I think winning away at QPR last year was pretty amazing.
“The lads we had here gave everything every week they were great, and I loved them. We had this whole thing of ‘you can’t win away’, it was hard enough to win at home never mind away! But when we got the win at QPR the changing room after was unbelievable, I loved that.
“The other game I really liked was Stoke away. I’m well aware of what their squad budgets were and what ours were. We were losing 2-0 at half-time, yet we had played really well but we just couldn’t score and unfortunately at both ends of the pitch that is crucial.
“Then in the second-half we scored two and should have won it and I remember leaving there and getting on the team bus feeling really proud of the lads, because they could have folded but they didn’t.
“I don’t get a greater joy in winning 6-0 more than I do 1-0, apart from the fact that my heart rate can stay lower for the last ten minutes!
“I was also really proud when Will got a call-up for Wales, and Semi got a call-up for Nigeria. Our job is to get the players in, try and develop them the best we can and try and get the best out of them.
“For them two we did, and they have improved and gone on. It is a team game, but I do like to see individuals flourish.”