Norwich City v Rotherham United: Boss Paul Warne on taking the Millers to his home-town club

PAUL Warne will mix business with pleasure on his most special Rotherham United away day of the season.
Paul WarnePaul Warne
Paul Warne

The boss takes his Millers side to Norfolk on Saturday to face the club he followed as a boy, Norwich City.

Afterwards — hopefully with a first win on the road this term in the bag — he will take the chance to catch up with Canaries-supporting family and friends.

“It means a lot to me to take a Rotherham team to any match in the Championship, but taking them to Norwich will be massive,” Warne admitted.

“All my family are Norwich fans. My brother is a season-ticker-holder at Carrow Road, although it seems like he comes to more of our games than he does theirs!”

Norwich-born Warne grew up watching the Canaries but was rejected by them as a teenage trialist.

He made his way in the game with non-league Wroxham and was eventually handed his professional break, aged 24, by Wigan Athletic before going on to become a playing legend at the club he now manages.

“Norwich are just a good club,” he said. “They were the first club I went to watch. I still remember the first time I saw the pitch as a kid ... it was like: 'Oh my god, this is amazing’.”

Daniel Farke's team are the Championship's form outfit and top the table after six wins and a draw in their last seven league outings.

Their winning run came to a halt on Tuesday when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Hull City

Warne said: “It will be lovely to take my team there. I'll see family and friends. I'll spend some time with my mum and dad on the Sunday. It will be an even better weekend if it's on the back of a really good performance and a win.

“Regrettably, we're playing a team in pretty good form. They're doing really well. Any team that beat Swansea City 4-1 away (last Saturday) make you sit up and take notice. It will mean a lot. I won't pretend it won't.”

Rotherham have gone through November unbeaten and haven’t lost in seven games, picking up one win and six draws.

The Tickhill-based manager describes himself as an honorary Yorkshireman these days and both of his Millers-supporting children were born in the county, but he retains close links with his childhood favourites.

“I went to watch them against King's Lynn in pre-season,” he revealed. “I signed (centre-half) Sean Raggett on loan for Rotherham from them. I have a really good relationship with Neil Adams, the loan manager there.

“We had (striker) Carlton Morris before Sean. I tried to nick someone else off them (midfielder Ben Godfrey) this year but it didn't happen.”

Warne was renowned for his work ethic when he was a player and loses none of his famed competitiveness when he is up against his home-town club.

His CV as a boss includes an AESSEAL New York victory over them in January 2017.

“I remember when we beat them 2-1,” he said. “Jerry (Yates) and Tom (Adeyemi) scored and it felt like a double win.”



QUESTION: what occurred the last time Rotherham United played at Norwich City that hadn't happened before and never would again?

It was Saturday October 15, 2016, and Alan Stubbs was in charge when the Millers travelled to Carrow Road on a Championship journey that was already heading towards relegation.

Rotherham lost 3-1. Wes Hoolahan put the home side into a 17th-minute lead, Cameron Jerome added on 65 minutes and Steven Naismith wrapped up the points in the dying seconds.

In between the efforts of Jerome and Naismith, in the 74th minute, came a unique moment.

Answer: Dexter Blackstock scored in a Millers shirt.

The free-transfer striker, on the biggest wage Rotherham have ever paid, prodded the ball home at the near post only four minutes after coming on as a substitute for his fourth appearance.

There would be 13 more outings before he departed with a pay-off the following pre-season, leaving the Millers poorer but wiser for the experience.

Stubbs, less than five months into the job, was sacked four days after Norwich when a Tuesday-night visit to Birmingham City brought a 4-2 defeat.

Something else happened that day in Norfolk that I hadn't experienced before and haven't since in more than four seasons on the Millers beat.

Questions, questions: A Radio Sheffield reporter and I asked them and at the end of the interview, for the first and only time, I decided what I had on tape just wasn't worth publishing.

The player concerned, to give him his due, had been Rotherham's best performer by some distance against the Canaries despite being switched to the left from his usual position on the right.

So well had he played that Norwich's manager at the time, Alex Neil, went to a different club and signed him when it became obvious the young defender/wing-back would never be a good fit in Paul Warne's new Millers regime.

I still remember him mooching down the touchline, headphones on, to say his piece. Our probing brought one-sentence responses; everything done and dusted within three minutes.

‘Yes, Rotherham might be at the foot of the table but the media are largely to blame for reporting it.’

That was the gist of the message I never transcribed and Radio Sheffield never aired.

Answer: Darnell Fisher.

These articles first appeared in this week's Advertiser