Championship relegation ‘feels so harsh’, says Rotherham boss Paul Warne
It is the fact they got so close that makes it hurt even more.
On a topsy-turvy Championship finale it looked for so long like Rotherham were going to beat the drop.
They went into their trip to Cardiff knowing exactly what they had to do – win and hope that Derby didn't beat Sheffield Wednesday.
And when Lewis Wing scored a screeching eighth-minute volley in south Wales they started to believe.
When they got news that an undulating game at Pride Park between the Rams and Wednesday was going their way, they believed even more.
As the clock turned towards 90 minutes perhaps Paul Warne who was celebrating his 48th birthday, allowed himself to think he had got the present he wanted more than anything.
No such luck. In a game where Cardiff had barely turned up, they broke Rotherham hearts in the 88th minute when Marlon Pack scored from distance.
It left Rotherham with two minutes of normal time and four added on to try and rescue themselves, but it was too big an ask.
A season that saw them hit by coronavirus twice, suffer injuries to key players, be on the wrong end of some questionable refereeing and forced to play 12 times in 37 days went to the wire, but it ended in heartbreak.
The 1-1 draw at Cardiff was not the reason they were relegated, but it was symptomatic of their failures.
The hosts were on the metaphorical beach for most of the game and the Millers had enough chances to have had the game wrapped up by half-time.
But they missed them and were made to pay the price.
Warne, who admits he will take time to consider his future having overseen a third relegation in three seasons in the Championship, was left in tears at the end of the game.
“I hope pride will overcome the sadness,” said Warne. “I’ve been asked about my future and all that but I’m absolutely broken at this moment in time.
“We dedicate our lives for 10 months, and right now I can’t see any sunshine. But I’m immensely proud of how far this group has become.
“I feel a bit hollow and devastated for the group. I wanted them to leave the stage like heroes.
“There will be different people in the changing room next season, but that group of players should be cemented as gods of Rotherham football club.
“There would have been no greater feeling than if Derby had lost 3-2 and we’d won. I don’t know when you’re ever that ecstatic about anything.
“If someone gave you a new car you’d think great, but if you have something together as a group of warriors to enjoy but would have been amazing, but it’s been snatched off us and it feels so harsh.”