‘I FEEL LIKE A FOOT­BALL FRAUD’

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE -

PAUL Warne sits be­hind his desk at Rother­ham’s Round­wood train­ing ground and snatches up a scrap of pa­per.

“My son’s match re­port,” says the Millers boss. “I went to As­ton Villa on Tues­day, so he said he’d watch Brighton for me! He’s 13.

“It’s ac­tu­ally pretty de­cent. Lis­ten: ‘Con­fi­dent and pa­tient on the ball. Pass along the back­line quite a lot. Very clever with free-kicks and shoot­ing dis­tances, wingers stay very wide lots of space be­tween the lines’. Good stuff, right?

“My son – I don’t want to say he idolises me – thinks it’s great that I’m a man­ager. But it’s weird. I look at him and just think ‘Your dad’s a fraud­ster’.” A fraud­ster? “Yeah, a foot­ball fraud­ster” ex­plains the 43-year-old, a com­bat­ive for­ward who played 300-plus times for the Millers dur­ing a 15-year pro ca­reer. “I think it’s my up­bring­ing, the way I came into foot­ball. I played Non-League for years, went to univer­sity. So, when I signed for Wi­gan at 23, it was THE big­gest thing.

“It was like join­ing Arse­nal for me be­cause all I’d ever done was play lo­cal foot­ball. Ever since, I’ve al­ways felt re­ally hon­oured to be in­volved.

“I re­mem­ber when they built the new sta­dium at Wi­gan and I left be­fore it was fin­ished. All the play­ers were go­ing ‘It’ll be great to get out of here’ but, in my head, Spring­field Park was a ledge sta­dium. It was amaz­ing. Same with Mill­moor.

“To be a foot­baller felt like a dream and now, to be a man­ager in the fourth-rich­est league in the world, that still seems sur­real to me.

“I know it’s weird. How many games have I played? Four hun­dred? Maybe more. But I still feel like I’m wait­ing to be found out. I’ll al­ways be the Non-Lea­guer who some­how crashed the party.”

Warne is re­mark­ably hon­est and can­did.

In­se­cu­rity

“I think in­se­cu­rity does de­fine me,” ad­mits Warne, who has a de­gree in sports science and trained to be a teacher be­fore be­com­ing Rother­ham’s fit­ness coach in 2012. “I’ve never re­ally said it out loud be­fore, but it’s prob­a­bly true.

“If I was in a room full of man­agers now, I’d al­ways turn into the joker. Be­cause I feel that, if there’s a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about foot­ball, I haven’t got any­thing to bring. That’s my in­se­cu­rity, still feel­ing like a Non-Lea­guer.

“This sea­son, one of our lads was on loan at Gains­bor­ough. I went to watch him and loved it. I was stood on the side of the pitch, re­ally close to the team. You could hear one per­son abuse one player. I felt far more at home there than I did in the tech­ni­cal area at St James’ Park.

“Again, it’s that feel­ing of be­ing a fraud­ster. But I don’t know… doesn’t every­body feel like that deep down?

“I spoke to my mate Ritchie Barker, who’s coach­ing at Charl­ton. He was man­ager at Bury, Craw­ley and Ports-mouth. He asked me how I was find­ing it.

“I said ‘It sounds weird but when I’ve made all my sub­sti­tu­tions and I’m stand­ing on the side of the pitch with noth­ing else to do, I feel re­ally help­less. I find my­self just clap­ping and shout­ing silly s*** just for the sake of it’. “He said ‘Don’t worry, I’ve had that no end of times. Ev­ery man­ager has’. You pre­pare the team as well as you can, make the subs you can. Af­ter that, it’s in the lap of the Gods.” The Gods have not been kind to this Rother­ham side. Ham­strung by poor re­cruit­ment and the de­layed ap­point­ment of man­ager Alan Stubbs, the Millers started badly and got worse. By Oc­to­ber, Stubbs was gone. Thirty-nine days later, so was re­place­ment Kenny Jack­ett, un­will­ing to sad­dle him­self to a lame duck. Warne has been in in­terim charge ever since but has been un­able to over­come deep-seated prob­lems. Now 18 points shy of

safety, Rother­ham are doomed to League One.

“When the team lose, it is de­press­ing,” ad­mits Warne, who won two pro­mo­tion as a Rother­ham player un­der Ron­nie Moore. “But I’m a re­al­ist. I do ask whether me and my coaches could have done any­thing more. But I also ask ‘Should we have beaten that team?’

“When we lost 3-0 at New­cas­tle, we did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to stop them from scor­ing, but it wasn’t enough. So there’s no point in me com­ing into the dress­ing room be­rat­ing peo­ple. There’s no point com­ing in on Mon­day and run­ning them. They gave me their job lot.

“I read a lot of sport trash. I’ve read a lot about the All Blacks and their phi­los­o­phy. I read a lot on bas­ket­ball, the NFL and sports psy­chol­ogy.

“And one of the main themes is the old cliche about keep­ing your glass half full. I’m a firm be­liever that, if you keep pos­i­tive, peo­ple will want to do well for you. If you talk to my lads, they might say ‘War­ney’s a bit tac­ti­cally in­ept or in­ex­pe­ri­enced’ – this is me be­ing para­noid as usual – but I hon­estly be­lieve they want to suc­ceed for me. I’m not say­ing I’ve got it right. I can’t be­cause we haven’t got the re­sults, but I try to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that’s right.

De­vour­ing

“It’s like this thing about be­ing called gaffer or boss. To me, that’s purely about ego. I spoke to some­one the other night and they said ‘Yeah, but you need that to get re­spect’.

“To me, they ei­ther re­spect you or they don’t. The name is ir­rel­e­vant. I called ev­ery teacher Sir or Miss, but it didn’t mean I re­spected them all. I just don’t buy it.” Warne has also been de­vour­ing Liv­ing On The Vol­cano, jour­nal­ist Michael Calvin’s in-depth ex­plo­ration of foot­ball man­age­ment from the per­spec­tive of 20 coaches.

“Fan­tas­tic, ev­ery man­ager should read it,” he raves. “And some­thing that Bren­dan Rodgers said about how easy life was as an as­sis­tant re­ally struck me.

“When I was fit­ness coach, you’d turn up to a game, sit down with your cup of tea and think ‘Come on lads, en­ter­tain me’. You can’t wait.

“When you’re a man­ager, as Bren­dan said, it’s the com­plete op­po­site. You walk out, stand in the tech­ni­cal area and you want to be sick. You feel the weight of the team, the fans, the board, your staff, all on your shoul­ders. You’re stand­ing there think­ing ‘Please, please let us be good’.

“Mon­day to Fri­day is re­ally en­joy­able. Satur­day is hor­ri­ble be­cause it’s so tense. It’s crazy what it does to you. I wasn’t su­per­sti­tious as a player. Now they’re com­ing out of my ears. On Satur­day, I found my­self think­ing ‘What if I change my watch for this game?’ and I was like ‘What are you do­ing?’ If only life was that easy eh? Put your lucky pants on a

win a match.”

Hor­ri­ble

So why do it? Why stick your head above the para­pet? Warne doesn’t know and re­mains un­con­vinced that he de­sires any­thing longer than a tem­po­rary stint in the dugout.

“I’ve got no in­ten­tion of leav­ing the club, that’s for sure,” he says. “I’ve been of­fered jobs at big­ger clubs this sea­son, to go and do my fit­ness role, but I love this place and the peo­ple.

“That sounds a bit fluffy and ro­man­tic, but it’s the truth. If you came back here in ten years, then, un­less I was sacked, I’d still be here. I never trained to be a man­ager. It’s not some­thing I ever as­pired to do, not even in a pub team with my mates.

“I’ll go on cour­ses in the sum­mer, if it hap­pens, but I know the tra­jec­tory of a man­ager. If you’re re­ally good, you move on, which is not what I want to do. And if you’re rub­bish, you get sacked, which is also not what I want to do.

“I’ve got a good re­spect with the clubs and the fans. I don’t want to dam­age that. And, to be hon­est, I don’t want my kids to see me get sacked ei­ther. My son would be dev­as­tated.

“If the chair­man said to me ‘You can be the man­ager for the next three years’, part of me would be re­ally excited. If he said ‘Look, I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate what you’ve done but I’ve de­cided to bring in Clau­dio Ranieri’, I’d think ‘That’s fair enough’.

“I can hon­estly say – and this isn’t bull **** – that which­ever way it went, I’d be happy. I would will­ingly go back to my old role, and en­joy it just as much.

“I’m re­ally ap­pre­cia­tive. That’s the truth. I’m work­ing for the club I love. All I want is here.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PAS­SION­ATE: Paul Warne in the tech­ni­cal area and, in­set, pre­vi­ous Rother­ham man­agers Kenny Jack­ett, top, and Alan Stubbs

By Chris Dunlavy

GET­TING STUCK IN: Warne in his play­ing days

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