Long days and long trips ... how Rotherham United's new recruitment policy will work

By Paul Davis | 16/04/2019

Long days and long trips ... how Rotherham United's new recruitment policy will work
New recruitment duo Rob Scott, left, and Chris Trotter with manager Paul Warne

IT had been a long day and he was still at work, but Paul Warne couldn't have been happier.

The Rotherham United manager had turned up, as usual, at the club's Roundwood training complex at around 7.45am.

Now, as he looked out of his office window into the fading spring sunlight a week last Monday, the clock was ticking towards 7pm.

He had head of recruitment Rob Scott for company, and that's what pleased him most.

It was Scott's first day in the role and time had got away from the duo who have been close since their Millers playing days under Ronnie Moore at the turn of the millennium.

New job. New man. New era.

The Scott family home is in Ravenfield, a short drive from Roundwood, and Warne was already appreciating the difference it was making following the departure of Scott's Buckinghamshire-based predecessor, Jamie Johnson.

“With Rob living locally, that does suit me,” the boss says.

“On his first Monday I wanted to see him so I phoned him up and within ten minutes he's at the training ground.

“We didn't leave until well after six o'clock because we were just talking about players all afternoon.”

Scott will work closely with Chris Trotter who joined Rotherham's talent-spotting department on the same day after ten years with Middlesbrough where he'd risen to head of technical recruitment and senior scout.

“We need recruiters here,” says Warne, whose side are fighting for their Championship survival on the division's smallest budget after promotion from League One last term.

“Recruitment is key in modern-day football. At this club, to compete we have to be really clever with our recruitment.

“I know that if I want to sign a player who, say, Nottingham Forest want to sign, I'm going to lose. We have to spread the net as wide as we can and look in places where other clubs maybe aren't looking. 

“Rob's been in recruitment at Brentford and Watford for the last few years. He's a good addition for us. He's very organised. He's ridiculously organised, to be fair. He's giving me lists all the time.

“Chris has been at Middlesbrough for years. He has a different outlook, a different way or working, which I think will help us.

“I don't think these two are going to revolutionise recruitment and that suddenly, from nowhere, 3,000 players who don't want any money to play are going to pop along and play for us out of the goodness of their hearts.

“But I think they will help us find the players who suit us. They're both really hard-working blokes and they'll get the scouts working in the right way.”

Warne is expecting to rebuild his squad in the summer, particularly if the Millers fall just short in their battle to stay up. Some of his players have proved their worth in the second tier and will be keen to remain at that level.

“If a player is out of contract and we do go down and I try to convince them to stay, I'm not naive enough to think he will remain here if a Championship club want to take him,” he says.

“I understand that. I have no issue with that. I can't say I blame them. It will be more difficult to keep the ones I want to keep if we go down.

“We can only negotiate so far and if their heart isn't in it and they don't want to be here then I'll shake their hand, thank them for everything they've done for this great club and wish them all the best.”

With that in mind, Rotherham knew they had to move quickly when Johnson left at the end of February following a frustrating January which yielded only one transfer-window signing.

“I didn't have much of a recruitment team for seven weeks or so, which was worrying,” Warne says. “This time last year, I'd already spoken to a couple of players. I sort of knew who I was bringing in.

“We've been a little bit behind the curve this season but I think these two will do everything they can to get us in front of the curve.

“Recruitment is an ongoing business. I'm having conversations with some of my players about their contracts and trying to get other players in.

“We can coach a squad and organise a squad and ask them to play a certain way but we're only as good as the players we have at our disposal.

“Hopefully we can sign in the summer the sort of players the fans want to see, players who are exciting. For me, we just need a few who are going to make us a little bit different.”

Meanwhile, as that long afternoon wore on at Roundwood, the conversation didn't always run smoothly.

“Because me and Rob have been friends for years, he doesn't mind stepping on my toes and I don't mind stepping on his,” Warne says. “It's like talking to my brother in a sense.

“There's no 'Okay, let me go away and think about that' when he or me has no intention of thinking about it. Already we've had a couple of heated chats. From both of us, it's more like 'Look, Mate, this is how it is. I don't want him'.

“It's an easier working relationship when it's like that. And geographically it works better, that is for sure.

“I  think we brought in some good players while Jamie was here. Fundamentally, it (the working arrangement) broke down in the end, but I got on really well with him.

“The only downside now is that me and Rob will probably argue more!”

Whatever spats the pair have, they are in total agreement on one issue: Rotherham have to cast their recruitment net wider.

“I came from a non-league background and I have no snobbery,” Warne says. “I don't think that the only way to improve a team is to get a player from Leeds United or something.

“For us to get value for money, I think we might have to go to, say, Austria or Lithuania or Ireland or Scotland. The way football is now in England, the finances have become ridiculous.

“We're try to run the club in an efficient way. We're trying to press the 'reset' button on the recruitment front and ask: What are we missing out on? What can we be better at it?

“I think the two new lads have the energy and drive to take us forward.”

Warne headed to Norfolk during the last international break to check in on mum Jenny and his ill dad, Russell.

Paul Warne

While sitting in his parents' North Walsham home, he picked up a copy of the local paper to read about his boyhood club, Championship table-toppers Norwich City.

A piece on Canaries midfielder Emiliano Buendia, the Argentine spotted playing for Cultural Leonesa in the Spanish Second Division, caught his eye and gave him a glimpse of the future.

“The article was written by the Norwich scout and he was saying that he couldn't believe he was the only one watching that player,” Warne says. “If you look at Norwich's recruitment, they've taken free transfers, they've taken on people no-on else has heard of, they've brought in lads from abroad.

“They realised they probably can't compete with the likes of Aston Villa on finances and needed to be more clever.

“It's the same for us really. We can't compete with other Championship clubs on finances so we have to work harder and lift up more stones to try to find a different sort of player.

“The recruitment team's job is to try to find those players. I'm saying this now, but they might not find any this summer or in the next window. However, we need to put things in place so we have the opportunity to look further afield than the best of League One and League Two.

“If you focus on League One and League Two, you get out-priced. Last summer, the players I wanted to bring in, their price tags went through the roof as soon as other clubs got involved.

“Those players I tried to sign, if they were playing in Austria or Bundesliga 2, I don't believe the figures would have been what they were.”

Scott forged his reputation at the Bees and the Hornets by helping to bring in undiscovered English talent and also unknown gems like Neal Maupay and Julien Jeanvier from, among other countries, France, Denmark and Ireland.

“There's a lot to do here,” he says simply, embracing the workload, relishing the challenge.

Working late on his first day was just part of the job. Anyway, it was only a short drive home.

Next up come territories uncharted for the Millers but well known to him.

That's when he'll really clock up the hours and put in the miles.

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

WANTED MEN DON'T CHANGE

ROTHERHAM United transfer targets this summer will stay the same regardless of what division they are competing in next season.

The Millers are fighting to stay in the Championship in a survival battle that could go right to the final days of the campaign.

However, manager Paul Warne says the list of players they want to recruit won't really change whether they remain in the second tier or drop down a level.

“I might sound a little bit crazy, but I don't think what division we are in makes a lot of difference,” said the boss who won promotion from League One last May.

“The players we signed last year, if we stayed in League One they were coming and if we went into the Championship, which we obviously did, then they were still coming.

“The only difference was that their wages were a bit higher in the Championship.”

Among the permanent signings last summer were right-back Billy Jones, centre-half Clark Robertson and forward Kyle Vassell, while goalkeeper Marek Rodak, right-back Zak Vyner, centre-half Sean Raggett and midfielders Richie Towell and Ryan Manning agreed loan deals.

Warne added: “If we stay in this division, I'm not going to suddenly go out and sign £50,000-a-week players.

“If we're in League One, I understand that the attraction for players to come here isn't as great.

“I might have to do a better selling job then – get my hair cut and a sun-tan and go for a better sales pitch.

“The number of new players we need doesn't change whether we're in the Championship or in League One either. We still need a good set of players and back-up for a couple of different systems.

“The big difference between the two divisions will be the budget we have to spend.”

These articles first appeared in the Advertiser


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