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Rotherham United: A lucky coat, Pep, a dipstick and a play-off place ... that was the Millers season that was

Paul Warne
Paul Warne

The Star’s Millers man, Paul Davis, looks back on the 2017/18 campaign.

First word: Manager Paul Warne: “It takes time to rebuild and there were scars from last season’s relegation. Richie (No 2 Barker) reckons it was like starting on minus-five points because of that. If we finish in the top 10 I would consider that a good achievement and hope other people would too.”

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola

Manager of the Year: Paul Warne, after leading Rotherham United to fourth place and the League One play-offs. Pep Guardiola looks like Warne, not the other way round. And the Manchester City boss copies Warne’s fashion sense.

Best travel companion: Former Millers reporter Les Payne. 99 quiz questions before you’ve hit the M1.

League One Team of the Year (based on performances I saw against the Millers): 4-4-2 formation ... Dean Henderson (Shrewsbury Town); Nathan Byrne (Wigan Athletic), Patrick Bauer (Charlton Athletic), Jason Pearce (Charlton), Amari’i Bell (Fleetwood Town, now with Blackburn Rovers); Dominic Samuel (Blackburn), Jack Payne (Oxford United, then Blackburn, now back with parent club Huddersfield Town), Sam Morsy (Wigan), Ricky Holmes (Charlton, now with Sheffield United); Ian Henderson (Rochdale), Jack Marriott (Peterborough United).

The lucky coat that wasn’t so lucky at first but then became lucky after all: Paul Warne bought himself a ‘The North Face’ coat in a sale in Oxford and decided to wear it for games, even though coach Matt Hamshaw said the hood looked ridiculous. Warne dubbed it his ‘lucky coat’ when its debut coincided with a 3-0 win at Bradford City in the Football League Trophy. He was thinking of returning it for a refund when the Millers drew one and lost three of their next four games, but then a 14-match unbeaten run followed.

Will Vaulks

Will Vaulks

Millers goal of the season: Richie Towell’s strike in the snowy, sub-zero 3-0 win at Northampton Town. The ball went the length of the field in a move involving seven Millers players, with no opponent getting anywhere near a touch. I’d actually passed out through early-stage hypothermia when Towell’s chip went in (there is no Press room at Northampton and I’d been in the stand for four hours by then), but it looked very good on the highlights.

Middle word: Goalkeeper Lewis Price to Will Vaulks, who all the players joke wants to be captain, as the midfielder was walking off the training pitch locked in conversation with Paul Warne: “Oi, Will, you’re wasting your time. Haven’t you heard Woody (skipper Richard Wood) has signed a new deal?”

Middle word 2: Paul Warne to Will Vaulks, the most regular visitor to his office at the Roundwood training complex: “What? Again? Mate, I honestly don’t know what else we have to talk about.”

Middle word 3: Joe Newell after winning the home derby against Doncaster Rovers with the last kick of the game and sparking a mini pitch invasion: “I’m not sure who the random guy I’ve just celebrated with is.”

The lucky coat

The lucky coat

Middle word 4: Paul Warne, a few days after calling Jon Taylor a “dipstick” in an interview, was warning his players to be careful what they said to the media. Taylor: “Gaffer, what’s a dipstick?” Warne: “Yeah, I might need to say sorry for that.”

Dressing-room character: Will Vaulks. Can’t stop talking. Can’t sit still (unless he’s in Paul Warne’s office). Funny.

Best travel companion 2: Former Rotherham assistant boss John Breckin. Some of the worst impressions and best stories you’ll ever hear.

Best display by a visiting player at AESSEAL New York Stadium this season: Ricky Holmes, in Charlton Athletic’s 2-0 win in August.

Richard Wood

Richard Wood

Best display by a Millers players this season: Kieffer Moore’s hat-trick performance at home to Southend United and Jamie Proctor’s first-half show at Huddersfield Town take some beating, while Michael Smith at Wigan Athletic and Gillingham was superb. But Joe Newell in the 3-2 home win over Fleetwood Town shades it. The winger was unplayable.

Mr Nice Guy: Plenty to choose from as the Millers are a good group this season. Will Vaulks has the strongest handshake and is work with Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice tells you what kind of character he is. Richard Wood likes a chat with reporters, particularly when he thinks he has a sniff of Man of the Match. If he’s scored, you can’t get rid of him. David Ball is the one I’d let date my sister. Jon Taylor makes me laugh because every other word is swearword and he has no idea he’s doing it. Bl**dy dipstick.

Last word: Paul Warne: “To be honest, I don’t feel that much personal pride at reaching the play-offs. It’s been a team thing and I’m just one small part of it. The group I’ve built is what really makes me proud.”

Last seen: Pep Guardiola out shopping in Oxford for a coat with a hood.

The Big Interview: Richard Wood