Rotherham United: Millers in frame as Warnock shuns retirement

Neil WarnockNeil Warnock
Neil Warnock
Rotherham United boss Neil Warnock will carry on managing next year and he's dropped a tantalising hint it could be at the club where he is close to pulling off one of the great Championship escape acts.

The 67-year-old will be a man in demand when the Millers, who are nine points clear of the drop zone after an eight-match unbeaten run, confirm their second-tier survival.

He revealed: “I’ve loved every minute of it here. Who’s to say I don’t stay here next season to continue the project?

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“I have got that little glint in my eye again now. I’m definitely going to manage next season.

“There will be other opportunities and I have to have a look. I will get mentioned because I’m not under contract in a few weeks’ time. I don’t worry about that at my age. I don’t look beyond next month. What will be will be.”

Rotherham, who entertain Nottingham Forest at a near-sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium today, could make safety a mathematical certainty in next Tuesday’s home clash with Huddersfield Town, and Warnock is already pushing to make them stronger next year.

“I’ve spoken to the chairman (Tony Stewart) and, whether I’m here or not, we have to improve the training ground. The chairman agrees with that,” he said. “I’ve already put plans forward for what needs doing this summer. The chairman’s fully behind that. It’s got to be an environment that gives you a chance.

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“My heart might give in next week and the club still needs an infrastructure. If I can leave - whether I leave this season or next season - and I can leave a plan and help the club, that’s what I want to do. I don’t just want to keep the club up. I want to hopefully help them plan for the future.”

Cornwall-based Warnock was lured out of retirement in February to mastermind a 16-match Millers’ survival charge. At one stage, his side were six points adrift in the relegation places, but six wins and two draws in their last eight games mean they could conceivably climb as high as 16th place with victory this afternoon.

He joined Rotherham in February after being bowled over by the reception he received when he was a guest at the home match with QPR during Neil Redfearn’s tenure in January.

“I had no intention of coming here. It was too far. No disrespect to Rotherham, I didn’t think I could do much for them,” he said. “But I went up for the QPR game and was made so welcome. It was an amazing afternoon for me.

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Neil Warnock and Danny WardNeil Warnock and Danny Ward
Neil Warnock and Danny Ward

“I remember saying to the chairman: ‘If I can help you, just give me a ring.’ I never thought I’d end up being his manager.”

Stewart and fans would love him to stay on.

Warnock’s wife, Sharon, has been ill but has given her blessing to the former Sheffield United boss carrying on, and her backing was crucial to his thinking.

“Talking to Sharon at home, she thinks it’s a great idea. She’s very positive at the minute,” he said. “I’ll give it one more season. I hope the old ticker keeps going and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Lee Frecklington was thought to be out for a fortnight when he limped off with a stiff calf during the Millers’ 4-0 win at MK Dons last Saturday, but the midfielder trained yesterday and a decision on his fitness could be left until this morning. Defender Lloyd Doyley is out for the remaining five games of the season after knee surgery.

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Danny Ward is desperate to start, although Warnock could utilise one of the division’s most in-form strikers from the bench again. Ward has been making a huge impact as a substitute as the manager has opted for Leon Best as a lone frontman to make room for Greg Halford in a defensive midfield role.

“Danny, I’ve told him twice this week he’s the unluckiest lad I know,” he said. “I think, the way he is playing at the moment, he could get in most teams in the Championship. He’s on fire. And he can’t get in our team. It’s frustrating for him.

“At the same time, Besty is showing what he’s about. I’ve not felt we’re good enough at the moment to start with them both up front.”

Warnock is looking up rather than down and wants to see his 21st-placed side, who are level with or only a point behind a clutch of other clubs, head towards midtable.

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“We’d like to pull a few clubs down below us,” he said, “It looks well for you when you look at the league table at the end of the season. I don’t want to finish fourth from bottom. I want to finish as high as possible.”

Last week’s destruction of MK Dons in front of 3,000 travelling Millrs fans was a particular highlight of the unbeaten sequence, but Warnock has no doubt which of the six wins his team have pulled off since the end of February ranks the highest ...

“Was MK Dons my sweetest victory with Rotherham? Absolutely.

“No, I can’t tell a lie ... it’s Sheffield Wednesday.”