View from the opposition: Warne has Millers in good form ahead of Norwich City visit
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Millers fan Steve Exley is in the chair for our regular matchday Q&A as his Rotherham side face the Canaries
You must be delighted at the midweek win at QPR?
Given that it’s 1,063 days and 42 games since our last away win in the Championship (4-0 away at MK Dons in April 2016), it was one of those great nights. It was also 68 years since we had won at Loftus Road. I had flirted with the idea of driving down with my lad, but decided against going. Having the red button function on Sky does make it easier NOT to go, so we had a curry and watched the match. A last-kick (headed) winner is just the best way to provoke the destruction of your carpet, three-piece sofa and the small ornament that had held court on the hearth for the last two years. We also copped an earful from the missus who was awoken by our screams of delight (with added swearing of course). All very much worth it – 321 hardy souls made the journey, the usual suspects who quite frankly deserve a night like that as we rarely take less than this even to far-flung midweek matches.
You’ve only lost one in eight (and that to Sheffield Utd) – how confident are you ahead of City’s visit?
As you may have witnessed at Carrow Road early in December, we are an awkward side to play against. We have decent players but we cannot afford ‘top end’ Championship class players so we depend on blood, sweat and tears allied to team spirit, no little skill and a never-say-die attitude. We try to play in the opponents’ box (when we can get hold of the ball) so it’s not a tremendously aesthetic watch, but it can be effective – and exciting! The January transfer window saw only one addition to the squad which was midfielder Matt Crooks from Northampton, a player Warney has been after for some time. He fits the Warne profile: young, had to go backwards in his career in order to move forwards, with the move to us being a first step on that road! In terms of the match on Saturday there should be no other result but a Norwich win. But... our home form is good (only four defeats) so hope springs eternal.
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It’s very tight at the bottom - can Rotherham survive the drop?
We were the bookies’ favourites before the season started. When we went down in 2017, we were relegated by this stage of the season. It was a season of record lows – including the points total of 23. We sit today on 36 points with nine games left which is already some achievement. Over the last few weeks, from being three from four (us, Reading, Bolton and Ipswich), we have kept in the race with five draws and two wins and in the process Millwall and Wigan are now either level or within one point. The team mantra is to remain in the game, which we try to do match by match, a mantra that is also being applied in terms of our survival push. Let’s keep giving ourselves a chance: Middlesborough on the last day may well be interesting! Whether we survive or not, the vast majority of Rotherham fans will be proud of what the Millers have achieved this season. If we do stay up, it will be a bigger achievement than last season’s promotion – by a country mile.
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If you don’t, do you keep faith with Paul Warne?
Of course we should. He’s an impressive guy who surrounds himself with impressive people, many of whom have long-standing connections with Rotherham United. His assistant Richie Barker and goalkeeping coach Mike Poillitt played together with Warney during the Ronnie Moore years in the early 2000s and Matt Hamshaw, another of the coaches, was born in Rotherham. He is building an ethos at Rotherham that in my view will take (and already has taken) the club forward. In the Steve Evans days, he used over 80 players in three years – Warney’s way is to build a squad of young, hungry players, within the constraints of a sustainable budget and let them grow together. He continually speaks of good human beings who are emotionally intelligent – you don’t get through the door without passing this particular test. I like the way my club is developing!
At the other end, are City going up – and if so, who goes with them?
I think you’ve a strong chance of being in the Premier League next season, probably with Leeds. You play a style that is very attractive to watch, I just worry sometimes that you concede too many goals, but given the number you score this is quite often a side note. The best team I have seen play Rotherham this season are Brentford who put five past us at their place and four at our ground.
Who should City watch out for this afternoon?
We have no real stand-out players as such – the team ethic is paramount, but if I had to mention a couple, I’d say Semi Ajayi and Ben Wiles.
And who do you consider the Norwich dangerman?
Evidently Teemu Pukki comes to mind – how can he not when he’s netted 25 times already? He looks like an old-fashioned centre forward but with added skill – his finishing is clinical. Of the others I’ve seen, I quite like Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic.
And finally, a score prediction please!
Head says 2-0 to Norwich, heart says 2-1 to the Mighty Millers!!!