Wembley, here we come ... again! Rotherham United boss Paul Warne writes in this week's Advertiser

I CAN feel the excitement in the players building.

They came back to training earlier this week after I’d given them a long weekend off during the international break and Wembley is definitely on their minds!

They’ve been buzzing and the spring is back in their step as we prepare for Sunday’s Papa John’s Final against Sutton United.

A bit of recovery time following a long run of playing three games a week has done them the world of good and they’re all looking very lively.

The trip to the national stadium seems to have come round very quickly and I haven’t really had time to think about what it means to me.

My whole concentration through the season has been on trying to get the team promoted and now suddenly the Papa John’s showdown is here.

I’m more pleased for the lads and their families than I am for myself. I’m also pleased for the chairman. Our run has brought a bit of money to the club, which is always helpful.

Fair play to our supporters. I’m nicely surprised by how many tickets we’ve sold.

This generation of Rotherham fans, those who are around the age of 20, have been spoiled! They’ll have had four Wembley trips in 12 years, which is absolutely amazing.

I joked with the chairman the other day that since 2010 he must have visited Wembley more times than virtually all of his counterparts in the entire EFL.

I don’t want fans to think this will always happen. We might not get there again for another 100 years.

Normally I do something different or a bit quirky in my team talks but I haven’t worked out yet how I’m going to approach it this time. I might just let the occasion motivate the lads and not say very much at all.

What I am very aware of — and will be stressing to the players — is how much this game means to Sutton who are in their first season as an EFL club.

I saw on their website that, win or lose, they’re going to have a party at their stadium when they get back to celebrate the achievement of reaching the final.

Their manager, Matt Gray, and I did a joint interview this week and he was saying all the shops in the town are dressed up for Wembley.

I need to hammer home to the lads just how big all this is for Sutton and that we’re in for a tough game.

The last time we played at Wembley, in the 2018 League One Play-off Final, I didn’t lead out the team. Jamie Proctor did it because he was out with a long-term injury and I wanted to give him a boost.

It might be me this weekend but I haven’t made a final decision. I haven’t got a new club suit so if it is me you co it could be me at the head of the line in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt!

We’re training on Saturday morning then heading to London at around 2.30pm for an overnight stay.

Being a manager at Wembley is nowhere near as good as playing there but I still realise what a privilege it will be to be part of Sunday’s proceedings.

Going there is a big, big thing. We have some members of staff who weren’t around for our 2018 victory. They’re buzzing about it nearly as much as the players and they’ll have it on their CVs forever.

One of the things I really like is how it could help breed the next generation of Millers followers.

How good will it be if a young boy or girl goes with their family, loves the day out and decides they want to be a Rotherham fan forever?


I’LL tell you one player the big pitch at Wembley should suit: Ben Wiles.

I reckon that our young midfielder is the fittest member of our squad.

That opinion isn’t based on fitness tests, just on what I see. Even when Wilesy looks absolutely goosed, he’s always got the ability to put the turbos on one more time.

He covers an unbelievable distance. Nearly always it’s him or Chieo Ogbene who top the figures for high-intensity runs in games.

People always see Chieo’s runs because they’re exciting attacking ones with the ball at his feet. Some of Wilesy’s might be out of possession when he’s flying back to help us defend. He’s got the heart of a frickin’ lion.

I say this with a heavy heart but I reckon he’s possibly fitter than I was in my playing days. God, it hurts me to admit that.

He’s a better athlete than I was. He can repeat high-intensity runs many times and his top speed is more rapid than what I used to manage.

He’s a better footballer than I was well, but he’s not as good-looking or as funny as me.

He’s still a pup but he likes to be seen as a senior pro. He hangs out with two of the older lads, Richard Wood and Joe Mattock. At heart, he’s a Radio Two, slippers sort of guy. He’s like a young Richie Barker.

Wilesy and another midfield man, Dan Barlaser, have chipped in with goals this season, and that has really helped us. Wilesy has nine and Dan is only one behind him

Their tally is a massive part of the reason we are where we are.

Eighty points with seven League One games left is beyond what we could have hoped for at the start of the season.

A successful team get goals from all parts of the pitch. If you’re relying on one player to score and he has a four-game dip, you’re in trouble.

I like to see my midfielders score from inside the box. Trying your luck from 40 yards out isn’t going to get you much.

Thats why I particularly enjoyed Wilesy’s goal against Lincoln City earlier this month. Ollie Rathbone’s pass to him was something to behold and he’d had picked up a great position not far from the net.

He and Dan both have a number of assists to their name.

They’re two of the best midfielders in the division.


THE last time we went to Wembley we won there with two goals from set-pieces.

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a funky free-kick or corner routine that the opposition aren’t expecting.

There is so much video analysis these days you have to keep moving your set-pieces around to keep other teams guessing.

Having said that, sometimes an old favourite will do the trick.

We love the ‘walk of the D’ one that every team seem to hate us doing. They know it’s coming. It’s where we line everyone up outside the box and the lads all run in together. The timing is key.

Virtually every opposition manager after a game is like: ‘Oh my god, we were all standing there thinking ‘This is going to be a goal, this is going to be a goal’.’

We’re all standing there thinking ‘Oh my god, we’ve got the timing wrong’. It’s weird how the different dugouts see the same set-piece.

Because of all the analysis, whatever we’ve done in the last three games the opposition know about it.

We change things and try different ideas, some of which are high-risk. If you play a short one to the edge of the box and lose the ball, the opposition can break very quickly on you.

We try to be creative. Coach Matt Hamshaw is the one who looks at the weaknesses of the opposition and which free-kicks best suit the players we have on the pitch at the time.

It worked brilliantly at Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday when Ben Wiles arrived late at the back post to win headers. Wilesy scored with one at the UniBol Stadium and set up Freddie Ladapo at Hillsborough.

Sometimes you don’t have to be too clever, though. If you have big, committed lads willing to attack the ball, just put it into a good area.

Another Wembley victory on Sunday with two set-piece goals would do very nicely thank you!


WE’RE nearly a fortnight into a three-week break from League One action.

The length of time away from our promotion push doesn’t concern me. There’s nothing I can do about it.

The lads have had a few days off to get away from our voices for a bit but we’ve also been training them hard and with a real purpose.

We haven’t been able to do that for the last two months because of all the matches and we’ve just ticked a long doing list of tactical stuff.

Now we’ve put some physicality back into it.

We’ve got literally a cup final this weekend and then seven more ‘cup finals’ after it.