Paul Warne contemplated tomorrow night’s do-or-die play-off showdown and said it would be a “Roy of the Rovers” moment if his Rotherham United side secure a date at Wembley.
The Millers head into the League One semi-final second leg at a packed AESSEAL New York Stadium all square with Scunthorpe United after last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Glanford Park.
The victors will face Shrewsbury Town later this month with a place in the Championship at stake and manager Warne believes playing at the national stadium would be a fitting reward for the players who have done so well for him in his first full season in charge.
“I feel the club has become more unified and I feel the fans have a good relationship with the players,” he said. “I think that the players enjoy playing in front of the fans.
“I don’t think I have got any odd people at the club or any players who are disrespectful to the badge. If we could finish the season off with a home play-off win to take us to Wembley, then that is Roy of the Rovers stuff. It is so close, but feels like a billion years away.”
Warne has led a Millers revolution after last term’s drop from the second tier with a record low number of point and Rotherham were the division’s third-top scorers on their way to finishing in fourth spot
“There were some doubters when I took the job. I have got no criticism of them. Everyone has an opinion,” he said. “But then there’s the other extreme, those who gave us a fair crack of the whip. The people who backed us, I thank them.
“It is a hard job at the best of times. But if you don’t have the support of the people you are trying to do it for, it makes it even harder.
“I think we have probably gained some respect after the horrendous deficit of last season. Fans definitely turn up with optimism and a smile on their faces and think the players are going to have a right go. In that respect, the lads have won already, although it would be nice if we could finish the season in an amazing way.”
The tie could go two penalties if the scores are level after extra time. The Millers have drawn up a list of provisional takers but won’t make a final decision until a shoot-out actually happens.
“It depends who’s on the pitch at the time,” Warne said. “There are a few of the lads I’d bet my life on to score, but taking a penalty in a normal game and in a play-off shoot-out are two different things.
“I always believe they have to want to take one. If you don’t fancy yourself, you’ve got no chance. We’ll have a list but we’ll also ask the lads on the night.
The boss says statistics show that a player taking a penalty to win a shoot-out scores between 80 and 90 per cent of the time but that the figure plummets to 60 per cent if the spot-kick is to prevent defeat.
“That is the pressure on the poor gits,” he said. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that. I’d like to see it won in open play. It’s a bit of a lottery. It’s an amazing way to win, but an absolutely disgusting way to lose.”
The last time New York staged a play-off semi-final second leg, four years ago when Warne was fitness coach, Rotherham beat Preston North End 3-1 to set up a Wembley clash with Leyton Orient.
“It was a great atmosphere,” the boss recalled. “Preston were a big club and it was a sell-out. I remember the lads really stepped up that night.
“It was pretty magical. But the more I talk about the previous magical nights, the more my mind runs wild that I do not want to be in charge of an horrendous night.
“I remember my son was a ball-boy, so I had to call him in with about three minutes left as my wife thought he was going to get mauled. But he thought it was amazing!”
Rotherham are assessing winger and first-leg scorer Jon Taylor who came off at Scunthorpe with a dead-leg.