Paul Warne. Sponsored by Kleenex.
It had been an emotional week for the man placed in temporary charge of Rotherham United and, not for the first time, he was struggling to hold it all in.
His team had just been beaten by Burton Albion. Warne, who has put his heart and soul into the job, admitted he’d been unable to contain his feelings with the players. Now it was happening with the Press.
“I gave everything I could. I teared up in front of the lads,” he said, pausing to keep himself in check.
“It’s hard to take. I didn’t come here to draw, I set out to win. I did every single thing I could. We did so much with the players this week. I am disappointed we couldn’t give the fans something.”
He’s had several ‘moments’ since standing in for the short-lived Kenny Jackett last Monday. He quickly regroups and laughs at himself, but it’s evident how much it all means to him, how deeply the responsibility has affected the former Millers playing legend and now hugely-popular fitness coach.
Rotherham went into this match on the back of 14 winless Championship matches. Warne had dared to dream.
“I honestly believed, if there was soccer god, we would have won today,” he said. “I am not religious but I believe in fate.
“It was upsetting for me when I had players coming up to me and apologising. They were devastated. But no-one is more devastated than me.”
Warne loves the club. He’ll go back to his old role soon. Unlike some, he’ll still be here after five matches.
We can all say ‘amen’ to that.
Nobody is held in higher esteem by supporters than the man who ran his socks off in 294 appearances in nine years as a Millers player. Fans packed behind the goal and down one half of the dugout side of the pitch gave Warne magnificent backing at the Pirelli Stadium.
Followers know where the blame lies for Rotherham’s slide to the foot of the table this season and there were uncomplimentary singing about sacked boss Alan Stubbs.
Then came gallows humour as they chanted, among other things, about League One destinations next season, and Warne managed to laugh through his hurt afterwards about how funny they had been.
With Warne threatening to substitute any player not giving their all after 20 minutes, the Millers started brightly and Jon Taylor twice wasted chances to put them ahead after passes from Izzy Brown.
But in the 15th minute Rotherham old boy Chris O’Grady got the better of Dominic Ball and the ball fell for Jackson Irvine to slot it home. Rotherham fell away after that.
O’Grady’s standing among Millers fans is on a par with that of Stubbs for refusing to defer his wages when the club were in financial trouble before Tony Stewart’s 2008 takeover.
He ignored the boos and, on a day of crying, his mastery of Ball almost brought tears to the eyes.
Brown headed wide an inviting opportunity to equalise before the break, but Burton had most of the pressure and Matty Plamer doubled their lead with a fine 20-yard effort after 62 minutes.
The game was already up by the time Tom Adeyemi steered in Brown’s left-wing cross deep into time added on.
Warne reiterated that he will be happy to see a new manager in place sooner rather than later, but will continue as caretaker for as long as Stewart asks him to.
Rotherham are now 13 points adrift of safety at the foot of the table and have lost 14 of their 19 league fixtures.
The truth, plain and simple, is that too many players not capable of making an impact at this level were brought in during the summer.
Warne, again close to tears when senior pros like Richard Wood said ‘sorry’ to him at the final whistle, offered his own apology.
“I gave everything I could and I am sorry that it’s not enough,” he said.
“You can see I am a sensitive guy, I have been crying all week. I think I am pretty manly. I can have a battle and have my say and get my point across.
“Maybe it is just at this club I take things personally. I’ll get on the bus, be absolutely devastated, see my wife and kids, put a brave face on it. I won’t sleep tonight.
“That’s why I don’t think I am cut out to be a manager. It absolutely kills me.”
It takes a big man to cry. And this big man has nothing to apologise for.