Rotherham United: Why the Warne way could be the right way for Millers
He had to bite down on his bottom lip to keep the tears at bay.
Paul Warne is adamant he doesn’t want the Rotherham United manager’s job long term, but no man could be prouder than the fitness coach that he is in charge of the team for Saturday’s Championship clash at Burton Albion.
He held his first press conference today as caretaker boss after Monday’s shock departure of Kenny Jackett and humour, passion and a deep, enduring love for Rotherham were on show in equal measure.
Warne, a Millers playing legend, just ‘gets’ what makes Rotherham special. And Rotherham, at their best, are special because of characters like him. A small club in a big division, more than the sum of their parts, club, team and fans as one, scoffed at by some outsiders, held together by the spirit and togetherness of those on the inside.
“The chairman has asked me to step in and do a job to help out and I am happy to do that,” he said. “If he asked me to clean the toilets, I’d do it, whatever he asks me to do.
“I am stressed but I am happy to do it for as long as he needs me, whether it be three days, three weeks or three months. I honestly don’t know how long it will be.”
Then came his moment of emotion. He’d already joked that he’d cry if he can inspire a victory on Saturday. But the feeling was all too real when he focused on what the occasion is stirring in him.
“This is a huge weekend for me,” he said, pausing to contain himself. It means the world to me. My wife and kids are going, and it means a lot.”
He didn’t stop talking for nearly 40 whirlwind minutes. The feel-good factor in the New York Stadium media toom was back. It felt like the promotion years of 2013 and 2014, not the season of struggle 2016 has been so far.
A good man offered his opinion on what a good manager should have.
“I like a leader of men, someone who is prepared to criticise players,” he said. “Already I have had two meetings and gave it to them on a couple of things I wasn’t happy with.
“Generally I want a good human. That sounds a bit romantic, but that’s the truth. When I played, if I played for someone who was a good human being and a good football bloke, then I would run through walls for him.
“If I didn’t like him, it might just have been half a per cent less, but it makes a difference.
“I want someone who is straight-talking, honest, hard-working, someone who wants to play football in the way that I think Rotherham fans want to see.”
He’s excited, so excited, by the challenge, but is wary about standing in for too long.
I asked him how he would respond if chairman Tony Stewart turned to him to take the hot-seat for the rest of the season.
“I would have a chat with him,” he said. “I’m truly honest, and would say to him I’m not a manager.
“I do like controlling things. I’m a bit of a control freak, granted, but I don’t think I’m a manager.
“A fear of mine is that I love working for this club and I love my job and f I do the manager’s job for six months and then a new manager comes in in the summer, I honestly don’t believe he would want me sitting behind him talking to a bunch of subs.
“I know what football is like. I know how paranoid managers are, and that is me being as honest as I can be.
“If the chairman asks me to do it to the end of the season, I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to him because he has asked me to do it. But then, regrettably, I would worry that my career would be elsewhere. I will do whatever the club want me to do.”
Whatever happens at the Pirelli Stadium, expect to see the old Rotherham United stand up.
“How I see football at this club is high tempo, athletic, ugly at times possibly, but just the lads giving everything,” he said.
“I had my best years at this club because that is what I was like as a player. I had very little talent, but I was at the best at having very little. No-one won more throw ins than me in their career. I was the best at that.
“That is why I have got an affinity with the fans and everyone here because that is the sort of bloke I am.”
He expects to be in the role for around four games, and most supporters would be happy if it was longer. He is an intelligent, funny and, to use his own phrase, good human being. Maybe his one flaw is that he doesn’t appreciate just how much quality he possesses. He’s more of a manager than he thinks he is.
A final question. I said to him: “You do realise, don’t you, that when you mentioned what an ideal manager should be like, you pretty much described yourself?”
He looked at me, grinned, and played it straight back: “Yeah, possibly ... yeah.”
It was the only one he didn’t really answer all afternoon