Rotherham United boss Paul Warne is taking the fear factor out of tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby against the team he rates the best in the Championship.
The Championship’s basement club head to Leeds United who are chasing promotion and impressed Warne when they won at New York Stadium in November.
But the caretaker manager will send his players into the Elland Road clash with the belief that they can upset the odds.
“If I speak after the game at Leeds and we’ve lost 1-0, with all due respect, people won’t be surprised,” he said. “We are bottom of the league and they are in the play-offs.
“The lads are well aware of that. But if you start the game well and are confident - and I think the lads are all pretty confident in the way they play, plus it is a Yorkshire derby and a good game to play in - you never know.
“If I was still playing, I’d love to be playing against Leeds. The lads don’t go into games with any fear. But they’re not idiots either and can see the league table. They are up for a right fight.”
Garry Monk’s team triumped 2-1 at New York, which sparked Millers manager Kenny Jackett’s shock resignation after just five games and Warne being placed in interim charge.
“I thought that they were excellent, to be honest, and the best team we have played,” Warne said. “You look at other teams and think that they have weaknesses, but Leeds are pretty solid and have not got many weaknesses you can get at.
“It is about how well we start the game and how well we can calm the crowd down and slow the game down.
“It will be an interesting game and I just hope that the lads show the character and desire that they have been showing.”
Rotherham won two of Warne’s first five matches in charge, raising hopes of an unlikely survival feat, before suffering a severe blow when they were defeated 2-1 at home by fellow strugglers Burton Albion last Thursday despite having the majority of chances to score.
Fitness coach Warne inherited a side cut adrift at the foot of the table after the reigns of Jackett and Alan Stubbs and the Millers, 11 points from safety, have shown a marked improvement under his guidance.
“The sad reality is, the position we are in is not because of the way the lads have played in the last six games,” he said. “It is deficit we are trying to make up, and I think we are getting the best out of the group.”
Midfield man Tom Adeyemi, now playing his best football since joining Rotherham on a season-long loan from Cardiff City and a first-half scorer against Burton, believes Warne’s men can spring a surprise in West Yorkshire.
“It’s clear for everyone to see that we are a much better team now than we were three or four weeks ago,” said the 25-year-old who played for Leeds last season.
“We go into every game now believing we are going to get something whereas at previous points in the season, I have to be honest, it wasn’t really the case.
“We are really positive going forward and we believe that slowly but surely we can begin to close the gap.”