Carlo, Warney, the magic Matts, a book and almost a happy ending ... the FA Cup story of Everton 2 Rotherham United 1

Carlo, Warney, the magic Matts, a book and almost a happy ending ... the FA Cup story of Everton 2 Rotherham United 1

By Paul Davis | 10/01/2021

Carlo, Warney, the magic Matts, a book and almost a happy ending ... the FA Cup story of Everton 2 Rotherham United 1
Paul Warne with Carlo Ancelotti. Pictures by Jim Brailsford

 

'THAT'S him, Gaffer. That's the Rotherham boss who likes your book.'

Paul Warne had never been on Carlo Ancelotti's radar until the build-up to this FA Cup clash.

Then the Rotherham United boss revealed he'd been an avid reader of the Everton chief's tome, Quiet Leadership, and word got back to the Italian who has won three Champions League crowns and multiple league titles in his glittering managerial career

Ancelotti had to be helped out by his assistant manager when the Millers arrived at Goodison Park for Saturday's FA Cup third-round tie.

Warne grinned: "The funny thought was, when I walked up to him before the game I could see Duncan Ferguson elbowing him saying: 'That's the manager there.'

"I lip-read it, even through a mouth visor. When I got there, I just said 'Hello'."

Ancelotti's book may have made for good reading but his seventh-placed Premier League team didn't make for good viewing once they'd taken a ninth-minute lead.

Championship Rotherham suddenly remembered not to feel any fear, clicked into gear and dominated the contest to the extent that a huge upset was a real possibility until the Toffees got themselves out of a distinctly sticky situation in extra time.

Man of the match Matt Olosunde

Everton Midfielder James Rodriguez, combined transfer fees approaching £150 million, was dangerous but not as threatening as Matt Crooks, a Millers buy for £200,000.

Home winger Alex Iwobi, £34m from Arsenal, was decent but not a patch on visiting wing-back Matt Olosunde, signed by Warne for free.

"It was not to be but it does not detract from the performance of everyone," Warne said. "I thought we were organised really well  and in and out of possession we caused them problems.

"I leave here full of pride but full of frustration as well."

THE MATCH

Well, this was a novelty: the Millers playing on a Saturday.

Postponements forced by coronavirus and snow meant that Warne's men were in weekend action for the first time since they'd toppled Bristol City at AESSEAL New York Stadium in the league on December 12.

Cenk Tosun, a £27m striker without an Everton goal since November 2019, dinked the ball past Jamal Blackman for an early opener but the rest of the half belonged to Rotherham who continually punctured the top-flight side with sharp passing and direct attacking.

Michael Smith fired over before the Toffees goal was peppered by three attempts in quickfire succession, Olosunde forcing a save from Robin Olsen after slaloming his way into the box, Crooks seeing his follow-up blocked and Dan Barlaser bringing a flying stop from the Swedish goalkeeper.

Crooks, having one of those games where he is a giant in influence as well as stature, headed inches over and volleyed wide as Everton failed to find any way of controlling him.

Goodison's Covid protocols were in the Fort Knox category, meaning Warne was spared shivering on the touchline in the zero-degree elements in front of journalists at his after-match press conference.

The media were kept in the stand so instead he shivered on the touchline in front of a laptop as questions were asked from the press box via Zoom.

"We went in at half-time and I was disappointed we were losing," he said. "I thought Carlo might have been disappointed with his team's performance because we were the team in the ascendancy really.

"Their team was probably stronger than people expected as well.  Their back four had an England centre-half as captain, so they were no mugs.

"I said to the lads: 'They have got only two arms and two legs like you have. Don't show them too much respect.'

"Carlo will openly admit he had to change his system as his midfield were getting flooded."

Ah, back to Carlo ... he and Warne had been chatting before kick-off.

"He said 'I didn't know who you were, but I understand you've read my book', which is a great opening gambit," the Millers boss revealed

"I said I had read his book and told him I loved the bit where his parents had to check their bank account every day but you don't so you've done well for yourself. I told him it was an honour to manage against him, which it was."

Quiet leadership had gone out of the window after the interval as Warne continually urged on his men from the technical area.

The cold was nipping so much that he and coach Matt Hamshaw had snoods pulled up over their cheeks. Number two Barker, clad in shorts, looked disgusted as he surveyed his colleagues, his legs one of the few things in these Covid times to laugh in the face of a temperature check.

Also nipping were Rotherham's midfield, snapping away at their Everton counterparts, winning the ball and sending it out wide where Olosunde and Harding were giving their best displays of the season.

The Millers celebrate their equaliser

Olosunde got the goal he and the Millers deserved - his first ever in senior football - in the 56th minute as he turned and sent the ball low and beyond Olsen after Smith's physical presence had created the opportunity.

"Second half, we came out and did well again," Warne said. "I always ask the lads to leave everything they have on the pitch.

"I did have an intention to get five subs on. We took that opportunity. I didn't want to see a Smudge, a Crooksy or any of them get injured.

"We made the changes, we rolled the dice, we changed the system, we tried everything we could to win the game."

Harding fired over after more marauding from Olosunde and, late on, George Hirst was less than a stud's length away from connecting with Trevor Clarke's cross before VAR ruled out Tosun's volley when he met Rodriguez's free-kick.

Rodriguez needed only three minutes of extra time to play in Abdoulaye Doucoure for the winner while Bernard hit the post and Seamus Coleman stung Blackman's palms as Rotherham's majestic effort finally wilted.

"I couldn't be more proud of my group for what they tried to do for the club," Warne said. "I am disappointed with the result - of course I am, no-one wants to lose - but I can't knock the lads for how well we played."

MAGIC MATTS

At the final whistle, there was a show of respect from Andre Gomes for Crooks.

For some reason, Everton's Portuguese international midfielder wasn't heading for the players' tunnel like everyone else but to a room on the opposite side of the stadium. He made sure he pressed his blue shirt into the Miller man's hands before departing.

Half an hour later, wearing flip-flops and still in the rest of his kit, Gomes carefully picked his way carefully across the pitch and returned clutching a number 25 white-and-black jersey.

Matt Crooks

Even better than Crooks, though, was the other Matt, Olosunde.

Olosunde's mum, dad and brother were watching back home in America as their boy earned his Rotherham stars and stripes with a dynamic individual exhibition of pace, lung-bursting athleticism and buccaneering running with the ball at his feet.

Warne said: "His dad texted me a few weeks ago and said: 'You need to tell Matt to score. You need to tell him what to do.' I have been telling him to score and luckily he did. I don't take any credit for that. It's all down to Mr Olosunde in America."

Poor old Toffees left-back Lucas Digne - 35 appearances for France to his name - hadn't been given a chasing like this in a month of Olosundes and must have been glad when he was taken off to spare him any further misery.

By the end, Warne wasn't a stranger to Ancelotti anymore and Carlo certainly knew all about his new friend's team as well.

The Millers went out of this competition anything but quietly.

Goals: Tosun 9, Doucoure 93 (Everton); Olosunde 56 (Rotherham).

Everton (4-2-3-1): Robin Olsen; Seamus Coleman, Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne (Yerry Mina 66); Tom Davies (Gylfi Sigurdsson 66), Andres Gomes; Alex Iwobi (Abdoulaye Doucoure 61), James Rodriguez (Niels Nkounkou 95), Anthony Gordon (Bernard 61); Cenk Tosun. Subs not used: Jonas Lossl, Mason Holgate, Jarrad Branthwaite, Ellis Simms.

Rotherham (3-5-1-1): Jamal Blackman; Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Angus MacDonald; Matt Olosunde (Billy Jones start of extra time), Dan Barlaser, Jamie Lindsay (Florian Jozefzoon 76), Ben Wiles, Wes Harding (Trevor Clarke 83); Matt Crooks (Kyle Vassell 67); Michael Smith (George Hirst 76). Subs not used: Viktor Johansson, Josh Vickers, Curtis Tilt, Mickel Miller.

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).




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