Interim boss Paul Warne revealed the toll that Rotherham United’s losing battle against relegation had taken on him as the club’s exit from the Championship was confirmed.
The Millers will be a League One side next season after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Fulham left them 24 points off a safety spot with only 21 left to play for.
“It’s a lot harder than I thought. It’s brutal,” said Warne, who stepped up from fitness coach into the caretaker role last November with the club at the foot of the table following the ill-fated spells of Alan Stubbs and Kenny Jackett.
Sone Aluko’s 65th-minute goal condemned Rotherham to the drop, and Warne said: “Today was the first time I was nervous. I hadn’t eaten all day. I went to the gym, but I just felt sick. It is not an easy job, it is not an easy lifestyle. It takes a hit on your family life.”
Despite the pressures, Warne says he will take the job permanently if chairman Tony Stewart offers him the role. The club plan to make an announcement about their way forward on Wednesday.
“I have had a lot of people say to me that not many people would enjoy what I have been doing for the last six months,” he said.
“We have lost a significant amount of games and I have to pick the lads up. If I was given the honour of doing it, I don’t think I could turn it down.
“There is part of me that thinks it’s a little bit in the stars that I would be a manager at this great club. I do think that. I know people will be reading this and thinking: ‘Oh my god, not Warney.’ I am not trying to sell myself, but I give everything I can.
“The chairman doesn’t want to see his team lose every week, nor do I. No-one takes it harder than me.”
Warne says he will accept whatever decision is made by Stewart and his board, who have also been considering “two or three” outside candidates.
“I don’t mind the ambiguity of the situation because if I wake up tomorrow and it is definitely for me I can have that conversation and if I wake up tomorrow and it is definitely not for me I can also have that conversation,” he said.
“I feel like if this was going to be my only managerial stint, I feel like I have been dealt a tricky hand. But I have still been honoured to do it. It has been a privilege.”
Meanwhile, Richie Smallwood admits he would “love” to be a Rotherham player next season, despite their fall into the third tier.
The midfielder’s contract expires in the summer and the club have yet to make contact with him about a new deal.
But the 26-year-old said: “I’d love to stay. I’m not one to throw in the towel just because we’ve gone down a league. I don’t want to jump ship.
“I’ve had some great moments here and I’d like to continue them next season.”