Whether it’s amateur football on park pitches or the high stakes of the Championship, Neil Warnock just loves a band of battlers.
The new Rotherham United manager is hoping his rejuvenated players can make it four victories in four games today against high-flying Derby County.
And if they succeed it will be because they possess the qualities the 67-year-old first warmed to years ago when he was in charge of a local-league outfit.
“This reminds me of when I did the Sunday League at Todwick,” he said after seeing his third-bottom side’s winning run close the gap between them and a safety spot to just one point.
“I feel the same about this lot as I did about those lads working all week and coming to play for me back then. I demanded certain things of them and they gave it me. I was just as excited when we won games at that level as I am now.”
Consecutive triumphs over Brentford, sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday and top-two Middlesbrough have given the Rotherham squad real belief they can stay up after languishing six points off the survival pace just a fortnight ago.
Derby, who arrive at AESSEAL New York Stadium in fifth place, are one of the division’s big spenders, but Warnock doesn’t fear them or their mega-budget.
“Money doesn’t make it easy for managers. Money is not an issue here,” he said. “They’re all genuine lads on average money for the division, so you don’t get the type of (difficult) characters and personalities that you sometimes have to deal with, and I think that suits me.
“I love standing at the back and watching them in the dressing room after a game when we’ve won.
“It’s wonderful. You can’t buy feelings like that. I love it. It’s the same with going on the pitch afterwards, I have to go on and thank the fans. I really enjoy knowing they’re going to go home happy.”
The last time Rotherham won three succesive games in the second tier was 2003 when the run was brought to an end by a 0-0 draw at Millmoor ... against Derby.
Warnock is well aware of the challenge the Rams present 13 years on.
“Middlesbrough were the best team we have played, although I have to say Burnley were the best organised. Derby have got the best squad, I think, by a mile,” he said. “The owner’s had a real go this year and the money they have spent, for this level, is phenomenal.”
But the boss, looking forward to his seventh match game in charge, believes the Millers have two things in their favour - commitment on the pitch and fans who have raised their level of support off it.
“The lads are really up for it,” he said. “It’s about getting the dressing room right, getting every cog right. The dressing-room spirit is the main thing. The fans have been fantastic. It does help. They know they’re watching the process of a miracle really, and their contribution is enormous if we are to continue down that line.”
From Todwick’s triers to Rotherham’s revival, one thing never changes in his outlook:
“It’s brilliant to watch when players give everything.”