Manager of the Year Paul Warne is preparing for a step into the unknown as Rotherham United gear up for their assault on promotion to the Championship in the boss’s first full season in charge.
The Millers’ League One play-off campaign begins after Saturday’s final regular fixture, at home to Blackpool.
Warne - named top boss at the Star Football Awards on Monday night - believes his team, who sealed their top-six spot 10 days ago, are good enough to win the end-of-season showdown, but admits he isn’t sure how he’ll react when the tension is at its peak.
“I’ve quite enjoyed the last week because the pressure powder keg has reduced a little bit,” he said. “Coming into this week, it was still quite enjoyable. But I know it’s going to ramp up massively in the play-offs.
“If I’m truly honest, because I’m inexperienced, I don’t know how I’m going to be on the side of the pitch in both of the semi-final games. I just hope that the lads perform to the level they have done.
“If they do, then I’m hoping that will be sufficient. I’ve got a real belief in the group, and it would just be a great way to finish off an amazing season if we could get to Wembley and go the whole way. I’m also aware that the football gods can be nasty at times, so I just hope they’ll smile sweetly on us this year.”
Rotherham, set to end the season in the fourth place they have occupied for weeks, will play either Scunthorpe United or Charlton Athletic over two legs for the right to contest the final at the national stadium.
Warne, who took the hot-seat full-time in April 2017 after a spell in caretaker charge, collected his Star award at a ceremony at the Double Tree by Hilton hotel in Sheffield and immediately dedicated his prize to others at the club.
“The title is ‘Manager of the Year’, but it is to do with the staff I’ve got, the players I’ve got,” he said. “I’m only as good as them. They’ve outperformed themselves this season and they deserve the credit more than me.
“There have been really good times in the last 12 months, really difficult times as well. A lot of our good work was done pre-season, which has enabled us to go the way we have.
“A year into it, I know what football management is all about now. As good as we’ve been, I know that if we lose the next three games I’m rubbish again. You’ve got to keep trying to be the best every day, as cheesy as that sounds.
“I’ve got a really good group and I am enjoying it more the longer I’ve done it. I’m not so hard on myself in defeats and I’m not so joyful in victories. It’s been going really well and it’s a great club to work at at the moment. It’s an enjoyable place to be.”
Scunthorpe are the only club with a mathematical chance of overhauling the Millers. Warne’s men would have to lose to Blackpool and the Iron win at home against Bradford City and produce a five-goal swing in goal difference.
If Rotherham finish fourth, their first play-off game will be away on Saturday May 12 (kick-off 12.30pm), with the return leg at AESSEAL New York Stadium on Wednesday May 16 (KO 7.45pm).
Will Vaulks was named Millers Player of the Year at the Star presentation evening, with chairman Tony Stewart receiving a Special Achievement honour 10 years after saving the club from administration.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 5.30pm.
Tickets for the home play-off match are now on sale to season-ticket-holders (two per person) before being made available to Mayday members (two per person) on Friday. They go on general sale on Monday (five per person).
They are on sale at the Red and White Shop at New York, by phone on 01709 827768 and online at www.rotherhamunitedshop.co.uk