‘What am I doing with my life?’ - Rotherham United chief hopes to find the answer on a red letter day at Wembley
Paul Warne opted for a walk in the Derbyshire Dales rather than a game of squash to relax before the biggest game of his fledgling managerial career.
The diehard Norwich City fan took to the court and headed to the cinema for distractions ahead of the League One play-off semi-final win over Scunthorpe that booked a Wembley date on Sunday against Shrewsbury.
Rotherham plan to train in Yorkshire on Saturday morning before heading south, and Diss Town’s FA Vase winner is keen to ensure the build-up remains low key.
“We have tried to keep things the same, albeit I am not stupid, I know the lads realise at the end of the week is a game at Wembley,” he said.
“On the Tuesday we went through the last game and debriefed. We trained Wednesday, had Thursday off, a bit more tactical work on Friday and then the day before a little bit more meat on the bone and travel down on Saturday lunchtime.
“I am not overly keen on them sat around for hours and hours. I would rather they were with their wives and children.
“All we seem to do is eat in the hotel.
“The dates have been kind to us. We played our two play-off games on the following Saturday after the league ended, and then the Wednesday, and now this weekend.
“Shrews had a couple of weeks off. That might suit them. I am just looking forward to getting on the bus with no injury worries. That is the main thing.
“I have been down there twice with Rotherham.
“The first time we went down a couple of days before and took all our photos, did the sightseeing bit and we lost.
“The second time we went down we just did a normal week’s training, travelled down the day before, and we won. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way.”
Warne has tried to follow the same mantra for himself ahead of what he expects to be a titanic play-off final battle.
“I’ve been walking in the Derbyshire Dales with the wife,” he said.
“The person who books all our hotels said this hotel doesn’t have a squash court. I told her I am not ridiculously superstitious, please don’t turn me into that guy.
“I played for Russell Slade and he has managed over a 1,000 games, so I asked him, ‘What is the best way to relax? And he said lose yourself in a film.’ Being a football manager is brutal on you mentally.
“Watching a film is a bit of escapism. No doubt we’ll all watch the Champions League final together on Saturday night.
“Shrews won at ours in the league. It was 1-1, they were down to 10 men and with us piling forward for the win they caught us with a sucker punch, which was a disaster. Then at their place we played pretty well, won 1-0 and we were on a good run.
“The best two have gone up automatically in Wigan and Blackburn.
“In the mini league of the other 22 teams they finished first and we were second.
“They got a lot more points than us to be fair and towards the end of the season were just ticking over the line. We were still fighting until the last minute.
“We are not in bad form. We lost one game to Plymouth on the run-in, with a stoppage-time penalty that was dodgy.
“To be honest, this is a one-off game, a unique experience.
“I know Shrews were only there six weeks ago but it is who handles the conditions. It will come down to one random event maybe. If it hits the post and goes in for us and hits the post and stays out for them I will be happy.”
Warne was initially reluctant to extend his interim spell in charge of the Millers after last season’s painful relegation from the Championship.
“If any other manager had the same results we did in the Championship they would have never stayed in the job.
“The fans would not have accepted it,” he said. “They were pretty good with me and knew it wasn’t my fault.
“I have gone on record saying I was spitting blood in the mornings, I lost a stone in weight - and I don’t have it to lose - I was drinking no end of coffee, I was wired all the time.
“I wasn’t talking to my children properly. Come the end of the season the chairman convinced me to do it on a permanent basis.
“I actually turned down the job. He said I had no bad habits, I hadn’t been sacked and if you do it in League One it can’t be as bad again.
“When you stand in that technical area, things aren’t going well and you can hear the abuse behind you, you think ‘What am I doing with my life?’ Possibly the longer you do it the more rhino skin you develop.
“I am definitely more emotionally tougher than 12 months ago.
“When you are winning football games it is the best job in the world.”