Band of Brothers who play strictly to their strengths

How Rotherham United's Will Vaulks celebrates scoring Picture: PA

How Rotherham United's Will Vaulks celebrates scoring Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Millers fan Steve Exley is in the hot seat as he takes a look at Rotherham’s game at Carrow Road

City have come unstuck against Rotherham before - including this 2-1 defeat in Yorkshire in January 2017  
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdCity have come unstuck against Rotherham before - including this 2-1 defeat in Yorkshire in January 2017 Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Question: So, Paul Warne back ‘home’ in Norfolk – what do you make of your manager?

Answer: Warniola (as he’s known, for evident reasons) was already a club favourite when he became manager. He joined us as a player from Wigan nearly 20 years ago, and apart from a four-year period ‘playing away’ with Oldham and Yeovil, he’s been with the Millers in various capacities ever since. He finished playing in 2012 and became fitness coach under Steve Evans. Unlike his then manager, Warney is a fitness freak and glories in ‘beasting’ his victims and fundamentally his current squad reflects him and his qualities. Warney was never the greatest player – he admits this at every opportunity, but he endeared himself to the fans by making the best of what he had and running around a huge amount (he does of course underplay his role in two promotions, but that’s Warney for you). The last two and a half seasons have been a roller-coaster for us all. Warney was plunged into the hot seat when Kenny Jackett ran off after only five games in charge two years ago. He was left with a real poor hand and couldn’t motivate a divided and lacking squad into avoiding relegation. In fact we left the Championship having procured only 23 points (we broke records left right and centre, although three of those points came against the Canaries at the New York – just thought I’d mention this). Transforming the squad and more importantly the culture and feeling around the club, culminating in a great moment at Wembley last May, has cemented Warney’s position as a Rotherham Legend.

Question: Will he keep you up?

Answer: In terms of quality, the squad is not technically as good as most. In terms of heart, determination and togetherness, we are amongst the best. Warney has put together a bunch of guys that he likes to call ‘emotionally intelligent’, who look after each other, a Band of Brothers if you will. Several players are on record confirming this is the best team spirit/bond they have ever known. Warney’s principles and force of personality will ensure this continues. To be a Rotherham player nowadays you have to pass the personality/character ‘test’ – there’s no room for any prima donnas down New York Way. This is the starting point of our quest to stay up. We don’t have millions to splash (we’ve never spent more than £500K on a player) so we have to depend on the qualities that Warney insists on, allied to a sprinkling of decent quality to give us a chance. Whether or not it works, who knows, but it’ll be fun trying.

Question: You are unbeaten in seven games – how has the ship been steadied?

Answer: We have become relatively hard to beat. We were crushed 5-1 away at Brentford on the first day, but since then we have settled down to playing a high energy game that requires players to be totally committed for 90-plus minutes every game. If we are even slightly off the pace, we will get found out. We have a stronger bench than last year, giving us more options if things aren’t going our way during the game. Warney’s mantra is effectively to still be in the game at 70 minutes and then play the last 20 as a bit of a cup final. This was in evidence a few weeks ago when Swansea ran rings around us for 80 minutes at home. We managed to keep the score to 1-0 and somehow pushed enough in the last 10 minutes to get two penalties and three points (all on 30pc possession). Daylight robbery, but absolutely fantastic; I laughed all the way home.

Question: January transfer window isn’t far away – are you hoping for some business, in or out?

Answer: Like every club, I’m sure that we will have targets. But targets that would only help and improve our team, and more importantly not destabilise what we already have in the dressing room. We’d all like a striker who’d score more goals, but we have to be realistic that anyone who may fulfil this requirement and has a choice between Rotherham and Norwich for example, wouldn’t choose Rotherham. So we have to be creative.

Question: Who’s the Rotherham dangerman?

Answer: Rotherham’s ‘dangerman’ is the team collective (I’m sorry to harp on about this but it’s the truth). We do have stand-out players like anyone but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Having said that... Will Vaulks in midfield – he of the somersault goal celebration. We signed him from Falkirk over two years ago and now he’s on the Championship stage, with his heart firmly on his sleeve. Semi Ajayi in defence signed on a free from Cardiff a couple of years ago. Quick, agile and turning into a superb central defender who may end up making a lot of money for the club. And Michael Smith who ploughs a lonely furrow up front. Got him on a free from Bury a year ago. To quote Warney, his workrate is a joke – he gets beaten up every week by opposition defenders but just keeps on going – a player in the true Warney mould.

Question: And who do you see as City’s star player?

Answer: I don’t know much about who plays for you at the moment but when you can keep Jordan Rhodes on the bench, it indicates how strong your squad is.

Question: Battling draw against QPR in midweek while City were also drawing – what do you expect today?

Answer: This is going to be one of our toughest assignments of the season. We need to be 100pc on it and we will probably need Norwich to have an off day. As previously mentioned, we need to remain in the game till the latter stages and then we’ll see. Whatever happens it will be good to see our own Canary/Miller Spud Thornhill before the match (and after the match if I can find him; hye usually gets a Rotherham ‘hug’ if we lose).

Question: And a prediction please?

Answer: I’ll go for a glorious 1-1 draw (foolishly). And by the way, if you don’t win, please don’t follow other fans’ example on Twitter or you will end up being hashtagged #beatingteamslikerotherham. Enjoy the game everyone UTM and OTBC

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