Winning, watching the table and weeing on New Year's Day ... the column of Rotherham United boss Paul Warne from last week's Advertiser.

Winning, watching the table and weeing on New Year's Day ... the column of Rotherham United boss Paul Warne from last week's Advertiser.

By Paul Davis | 05/01/2022

Winning, watching the table and weeing on New Year's Day ... the column of Rotherham United boss Paul Warne from last week's Advertiser.

 

BOXING Day brought up the halfway stage in our bid to win promotion to the Championship.

Twenty-three League One matches played, 23 to go.

Obviously, I was frustrated to lose at Accrington Stanley but to remain unbeaten for 21 games in league and cup fixtures before then was some achievement.

We’ve done really well and could have collected even more points than we have.

I would have loved last night’s Covid-postponed match against Lincoln City to have been on to give us the chance to bounce straight back from the Accy disappointment.

No team can play 46 league games and be outstanding in them all. The lads are in good fettle and one of the things that pleases me is that virtually all of them have played a part. They will all play a part going forward as well.

At the moment, we have no injuries, which is a massive benefit. I can make changes and still put out a really strong starting 11 every week.

A lot of the lads were here last season and know what we want and need, and the new boys have bought into it as well.

I’ve really enjoyed the process of getting to where we are. My relationship with the players has deepened. I know more about them. Some of them have had kids this year, some of them are due to become dads for the first time.

Rotherham United is a good place to be. I appreciate, though, that some of that is based on results.

We’re a good group and we know each other really well. We know what we expect of each other and that makes managing quite easy. Me and my staff have to keep driving performance levels and not let the lads think they have achieved anything yet.

We all like being top of the league. We talked to the lads in pre-season about their ambitions and they all wanted automatic promotion. That was the staff’s aim as well.

We’re all greedy. We’d love to finish in the top two, avoid the play-offs and get a couple of early-May weeks in the sun as soon as the season finishes.

To go up, you have to have an offensive mindset and to average more than two points a game.

That means that, in our 3-5-2 formation, the midfield three have to be aggressive and front-footed and the two wide men in the five have to be attacking players not full-backs.

It was a conscious thing from us before the campaign began to think: ‘We’re just going to go for it.’

There will be games where we get cut open and lose. I accept that. But we’re always looking for three points. Always. Draws aren’t what we’re after. Wherever we go, we have full respect for our opponents but we’re not fearful of them.

We do a huge amount of work on the other team and how to stop them. However, we focus on ourselves as well and we have full belief when we go out at 2.55pm that we’re going to win the game.

I am a massive fan of psychology. Your brain will tell you what to do. If you don’t think you’re going to win then you might as well not leave the dressing room. We try to grab the game from the first minute.

We’re the division’s top scorers and  our goals-against record is the best in the league as well.

Defensively, we’ve been really good. My defenders are excellent and I can play either Viktor Johansson or Josh Vickers in the net and have full confidence in them.

I can take Richard Wood, Rarmani Edmonds-Green or Wes Harding out of the team and it doesn’t make us any weaker.

I bang the same drum all the time: our defensive record starts with the front players. If the strikers don’t stop the opposition playing out from the back, everyone is doing a lot more work.

It’s a team effort. Viktor or Josh don’t get rose petals thrown at their feet for a clean sheet. The players in front of them getting in blocks and stopping crosses coming in deserve just as much praise.

We’ve been very good out of possession. We try to stop the opposition playing and to confine them to very few chances inside our box. That’s down to organisation from my coaches and to a real desire to win from the players.

The lads get paid to train, play and fight for this club. It makes me proud when I see them doing that to the absolute limit of their ability.

*********************

SOME managers say they don’t look at the table. I’m not one of them. I’m always checking it.

I’ve definitely taken pride from being in top spot and I would happily be there from the start of the season to the end. It might bring extra pressure but I wouldn’t mind that.

I like us being top. The lads bounce into training and everyone is happy. Being top allows us to do whatever we want with the team because the lads have 100 per cent trust in the management’s decisions.

Those on the fringes can’t complain about not starting because the team are doing so well. It also means fans are pleased to see me in Tesco!

Between now and the end of the season, we’re going to come across many difficult games and moments that we have to bounce back from. The more points you can get in the bag before that, the better.

I analyse the rankings all the time. Every time we win, lose or draw, as soon as I walk back in, before I talk to the players, I look at all the results in our division and at the table.

In the last month or so, we’ve played okay, not amazing. It’s just about winning matches. We haven’t been as ruthless in front of goal as we can be.

Our overall effort is there and the drive from the lads is there but I still feel like we’ve got another gear.

You don’t have to be outstanding all the time to get promotion, you have to get results when you’re not at your best.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at our best, however. Everyone is fit, everyone is raring to go, everyone is pushing standards in training.

The longer you stay at the pinnacle of the league, the harder the games become. When you’re top, you’re the hunted rather than the hunter.

*********************

I LOVE my physios but I dread hearing from them.

In these Covid times, the last person I want to be calling me is a member of the medical team.

We’re in a packed period of fixtures and who knows if we’re going to escape the virus in that time.

Every time a physio phones me I panic because I think it’s going to be bad news. Physios never phone with good news.

They never say: ‘Look, gaffer, I saw you from afar today and it looked like your hair had grown back.’ They always phone up with something horrendous like: ‘Three lads are ill and they managed to be in the hot-tub with the other 20.’

I’m always wary of bad news in a phone call or bad news when I come in first thing in the morning.

So far, there have been no recent Covid cases among the players. The lads are all fit and raring to keep playing. I’m aware, though, that you’re only one phone call away from the pack of cards collapsing.

I’m not a fan of the idea of a two-week break in all football as a sort of coronavirus ‘circuit-breaker’.

If we didn’t get Covid in those two weeks but then got it when we came back, we’d be snookered. We’d face a fixture pile-up later in the season.

What I would like to see is the return of the rule where you can name nine subs and use five. I would definitely have made five changes during the game at Accrington Stanley on Boxing Day if I could have.

Five subs would help keep your players fresh and clear of injuries when the schedule is really busy.

*********************

MY New Year’s Eve celebrations are different to most people’s. I will welcome in 2022 with a wee.

I don’t stay awake for the New Year and tomorrow night I’ll be asleep before midnight.

The missus always stays up. Rach’s face is pressed up against the window watching the fireworks like a child who’s not allowed to go to a party.

My first act of the New Year will be to get up for my regular middle-of-the-night trip to relieve myself.

I’ve never done anything on New Year’s Eve really.

As a player I never could because I always had a game on New Year’s Day. It’s now ingrained in me that New Year’s Eve is just another day.

I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions. They’re not something I’ve ever bothered with. If I want to change something, I do it there and then. I don’t wait for January 1.

If, say, I decided to not eat cheese ever again I’d just stop having it there and then.

Not that I would ever do anything so crazy, mind. I love cheese.

Christmas cake with a wedge of Wensleydale. Perfect!

*********************

WHAT a following we took to Accrington Stanley. 2,200-plus fans was a brilliant effort.

I love a Boxing Day game and supporters of both clubs played a good part in the occasion. Everyone loved the communal singing of ‘Sweet Caroline’ before the game kicked off.

I’m just disappointed we couldn’t do more for all those people who made the journey across the M62 to back us.

We pulled up on the team bus and I saw a couple of kids in what looked like brand-new Rotherham shirts and hats.

You feel for them because they think they’re coming away to see Rotherham win. It wasn’t to be. Sometimes football is like that. There is no rhyme or reason. We had chances and so did Accrington. They took one and we didn’t.

The lads were really frustrated to not come away with any points and to lose their long unbeaten record.

They also know that there’s not a great deal wrong.



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