Rotherham United: Warne's message to fans on eve of biggest game of season
Paul Warne issued an impassioned play-off plea to supporters as he pledged to stick with the attacking style of play that has taken Rotherham United to the brink of League One promotion.
The free-scoring Millers, who head to Scunthorpe United on Saturday for the semi-final first leg, are potentially only three games away from returning to the Championship at the first attempt.
Rotherham fans snapped up their allocation of away 1,601 tickets in under two and a half hours yesterday morning, and the manager says they are even more important to the club’s cause than they realise.
“Having a loud away following is amazing,” Warne said. “It’s definitely helped the lads on their travels this year. We’ve had good support everywhere. Even at Gillingham on a Tuesday night we had a few hundred down there.
“I would ask fans that if they’ve waited out in the cold in a tent to get a ticket to please turn up with your voice and get behind the team.
“Our players, because they’re still young - apart from Woody (Richard Wood) the dinosaur, and Bally (David Ball) - like appreciation and love. When the fans are clapping every tackle and every throw-in, it has a massive impact.
“I always think it sounds cheesy when a manager compliments his chairman or the fans. It feels like they’re just saying it so people will like them. But I honestly believe fans play a humungous part in sport, a bigger part than they think they do.”
Rotherham were the third highest scorers in the division during the regular campaign and Warne won’t ask his players to veer from their usual approach for the Glanford Park tie.
“We’re trying to make sure the lads play like they’ve always played this season,” he said. “I want them to smile, to enjoy the occasion. I’m not setting up defensively, I’m not setting up to hold on for a 0-0. That’s just not in us. We don’t draw many games.
“Our job as a coaching staff has been to keep the lads relaxed but highly motivated and to encourage them to play their natural game.”
With Joe Newell fit after a groin niggle and no new Millers injuries, Warne has plenty of selection options. He revealed that he and his backroom staff had all picked sides separately and had come up wth exactly the same line-up.
“Have there been some difficult decisions this week? A little bit. It’s not been too bad,” he said. “I had a team in mind when I spoke to the staff and they gave me their teams individually. Their teams were the same as mine, so I don’t think I have too many problems. I think we’re looking good.”
The boss must decide whether to play fit-again left-back Joe Mattock, who was back in the side for the final league fixture against Blackpool, or opt for Ben Purrington who deputised so well for seven matches.
“I’ve waxed lyrical about Joe Mattock. I think he was one of our outstanding campaigners throughout the year,” Warne said. “But Ben has come in and been brilliant. He played a part in three clean sheets in his last four games.
“Ben Purrington or Joe Mattock? Joe Newell or Jon Taylor? Anthony Forde or Ryan Williams? You could go on and on. There is competition for places all over the pitch. In successful teams, all managers have those problems because everyone is doing well.”
The clash pits Warne against former Rotherham teammate Nick Daws who stepped up from coach to take the Scunthorpe hot-seat when Graham Alexander departed earlier this year.
“I met Dawsy for a coffee last summer,” he said. “Who would have thought I’d still be in this job and he would be in the job at Scunthorpe?”
The second leg takes place at AESSEAL New York Stadium on Wednesday (kick-off 7.45pm).