Neil Warnock assessed today’s sold-out clash against Leeds United and declared Rotherham United’s fight for Championship survival doesn’t hinge on victory for his side.
Only the message doesn’t seem to have got through to his players as they prepare to face former boss Steve Evans at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
After four wins and a draw in their last five matches and a well-earned rest during the international break, Warnock’s motivated men can’t wait for Yorkshire derby hostilities to begin.
“My job this week has been to calm them down, not get them up,” he revealed. “They’re absolutely flying in training. It’s frightening really.
“I’ve had to slow them down a little bit. They’ve not liked it either. They’ve wanted to do more.”
The recent run under Warnock has seen the Millers produce an 11-point swing to climb two places above the drop zone, two points clear of MK Dons and one above Fulham, and they now have seven fixtures in April and one in May to seal their safety.
“It’s not a must-win game,” the manager maintained. “It’s about getting points over the next eight games.
“The break has refreshed everybody at the club. We know what we need to do and we’re looking forward to it. We have not achieved anything at the moment. We’ve got to push on and try to get as many points as we can and hope that that’s enough.
“It’s nice to have players who would play every day if they could. That’s the type of player you have to have at Rotherham.
“We are a bit limited in certain areas but we make up for that with a lot of heart and desire. We’ve got an abundance of that.”
Warnock was in charge at Elland Road in 2012 and 2013 and appreciates the stature of the West Yorkshire visitors.
“Leeds are the biggest club I’ve ever managed,” he said, recalling cup clashes at home to Spurs and Chelsea which he said generated “Champions League” atmospheres.
Yet life as an underdog with the Millers is suiting the 67-year-old just fine.
“No disrespect to Rotherham, we’re punching above our weight,” he said. “It’s a fabulous little club and probably our expectations aren’t as much as they are at Leeds.
“But we’ve still got a little bit of pride. We still want to challenge and play against these big teams, like we have in the last few weeks. It’s great for a group of lads and a manager to go to places likes Hillsborough and Portman Road and be able to compete at that level.”
Rotherham can pick from strength this afternoon, with forward Danny Ward, left winger Jerome Thomas and centre-half Richard Wood all returning to fitness during the break.
In-form Ward missed the win at Ipswich Town on March 19 with a back spasm which occurred two hours before kick off.
“He knows what he’s got to do to strengthen his back,” Warnock said. “He’s going to have to live with it. It’s not something he can have an operation on. He’s been flying in training. I’m pleased with him.”
The Millers boss is anticipating a battle against a “good, strong, physical side” and is ready for the stick from Leeds followers which will inevitably come his way.
“Their fans will fill the away end and will be noisy,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get a few adjectives aimed at myself. That’s the part of football I actually miss when I’m sat at home on my tractor.
“Our fans will loud too. It won’t be for the faint-hearted at New York, but this is what football is all about.”