Sheffield United: Chris Wilder on Rotherham, Paul Warne and why this derby will be different to the one against Sheffield Wednesday

There has been none of the posturing or psychological point scoring. The atmosphere will be feisty rather than absolutely febrile.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 3:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 3:39 pm
Chris Wilder is a big admirer of Paul Warne: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Wilder is a big admirer of Paul Warne: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But make no mistake, as Sheffield United prepare for their first outing since locking horns with Sheffield Wednesday, Chris Wilder still regards games against Rotherham as proper derbies.

"This is going to be tough," he said. "There's no doubt about it because they, like us, will go out there and give their all. They'll be going out to win, the same as we are. With a full-house, it should be great to be involved in."

Rotherham United manager Paul Warne is a fan of Chris Wilder: Simon Cooper/PA Wire.

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The mood music surrounding this weekend's fixture at New York Stadium has been markedly different to the screeching, ear-splitting soundtrack which accompanied United's meeting with Wednesday earlier this month. Indeed, as Wilder analysed the fixture with journalists yesterday, one could be forgiven for thinking he was discussing a pre-season kickabout instead of a match which, if they achieve the desired outcome, could see his team climb back to the top of the Championship.

But in between the jokes and the bootroom banter, there were plenty of coded messages and thinly disguised barbs, presumably aimed in the direction of Hillsborough, too. Wilder's demeanor reflected United's respect for their neighbours. Not the visitors' determination to win.

"Like us, they (Rotherham) are a hard-working and a working class club," he said. "They're not arrogant and, like us, they don't get above their station either. "They do it similar to us, with good players who are good people as well. It will be a different game to the last one, we've watched the tapes and they'll come for us. They'll do it in a different way to how we do it, but they'll do it in their own way."

Although the passage of time has clouded some supporters' memories, an excellent relationship exists between these two clubs. Indeed not so long ago, when Wilder's assistant Alan Knill was still managing Rotherham, they stood shoulder to shoulder as a financial crisis threatened to engulf his former club. Buckets were rattled on the terraces of Bramall Lane and players, including Stephen Quinn and Jonathan Forte, moved to Millmoor on loan for a pittance as United's board of directors did their bit to help out too.

Chris Wilder says the game against Rotherham will be different to the derby against Sheffield Wednesday: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Football can be a tribal business. But, reflecting upon his own four year stint at Rotherham as a player, Wilder reminded it brings out the best in folk as well.

"There has been a connection, I think, going back a few years and there are similarities in the way we play.  "Both of us give ourselves an opportunity of winning games of football. You can't fail to be impressed with the way Paul (Warne) has turned the club around. He's done that with good honest people off the pitch and on it; people who are willing to run around."

"I've got really good memories of the place," Wilder, who represented both United and Rotherham as a player, added. "Obviously they were still at Millmoor when I was there and I still take a look at the old place. When you see the new ground, it's a great place to go and their chairman (Tony Stewart) has come in and done great for the town."

Fourth in the table, only a point behind second-place and trailing leaders Norwich City by three, United will be favourites to overcome opponents promoted via the play-offs six months ago. However, outlining his respect for their manager Warne, Wilder explained why it would be dangerous to take a result for granted.

Rotherham might not enjoy United's profile or status. But tracing the former striker and fitness coach's route into the job, drawing comparisons with his own journey through the game, the 51-year-old highlighted one thing the two sides do share in common. Having drawn six of their last eight outings, Rotherham, like United, are bloody-minded, hard-working and damn difficult to beat.

"From his point of view, it was a job that was offered to Paul and it was a brave decision to take it," Wilder continued. "He was working in another part of the club and he was willing to put it all on the line. Fair play to him for having the b******s to do that.

'There's Micky Pollitt and Richie Barker there too, but Paul has been at the front of a together club. I'm sure they'll be successful in terms of what they've set out to do at the end of the season."

While Wilder and Knill can expect a warm reception, together with drinks in Warne's office immediately after the match, one member of United's squad is unlikely to be extended the hand of friendship. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson irritated Rotherham's players with his bold pre-game predictions before they travelled to Shrewsbury Town earlier this year. Despite having the final say when Warne's side won, Henderson, then on-loan at Montgomery Waters Meadow, remains a divisive figure among the home team's squad. 

"I should be a great atmosphere," Wilder said. "We're in good nick with no injury or suspension issues."