Rotherham occupy the final relegation spot in the Championship table at the time of writing*, five points off safety. What have you made of the last three months, from a Millers perspective?
Rotherham United are the type of team that are very well organised and try exceptionally hard, it’s just that quality sometimes lets them down. Their work ethic and team spirit has kept them in it but, in many of their matches, the narrative seems to be the same: it could’ve been, should’ve been or might’ve been. I saw the recent match against Nottingham Forest and Forest were, undoubtedly, the better team on the night but, boy, did Rotherham miss some chances. I’m afraid that’s a theme that has affected quite a few matches recently that they haven’t won. I have no doubt they’ll be in with a chance of survival going into the final weeks of the season, but they are – as I mentioned ahead of Brentford’s game against Sheffield Wednesday game – one of about eight or nine teams that might stay up or might not.
They do still have two games in hand over many of the teams around them, though. How important do you think those will prove to be?
Crucial, really. It’s a glimmer of hope but every match they have now is a cup final and Paul Warne has already described the remaining games like that. After the performance against Reading, which was decent, but ultimately ended in another hard luck story, it was all too apparent that they could do with just being rubbish and winning games, rather than it being the same old story. They don’t like to pick and choose results, so the idea that they might not get something at Brentford because they are flying high doesn’t matter to them. Each game is massive for them and carries equal importance.
Do you think being able to call up recent experience of relegation from the Championship and the lessons learned will be able to help them?
Yes and I think it has already. Across Paul Warne’s tenure, you’ve seen Rotherham progress and get better along the way. When he took over, they were in a dire situation that no manager could, really, have got them out of but, ultimately, they learned from that and the next time they were in the Championship, it went down to the final weeks of the season. They have a group of players that are almost tuned into the battle. They know that they can’t compete week in, week out with the teams who are better off financially as they operate in a different world. But they can certainly bring everything to the table in terms of blood, sweat, guts and tactical acumen and they are fine with that, so having that mentality actually serves them quite well. With most games they go into, you could paint the picture that you wouldn’t be surprised if they got something.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on this Saturday?
If he plays, I think one of the outstanding performers of the season so far has been Ben Wiles. He’s a midfielder got a great engine, gets up and down the pitch well, has played in various different roles within the team and, as a prospect for the future, he is excellent. In addition to him, goalkeeper Viktor Johansson has been outstanding recently and some of the saves he has made have been tremendous. Someone who has been round a little longer is Matt Crooks and if he’s on it, he can cause anybody in the Championship problems.
How is Warne likely to set up at the Brentford Community Stadium?
I would imagine he will go 3-5-2, but it could be 3-5-1-1 and that, ultimately, depends on where Crooks plays, not least because Rotherham are away from home against one of the better sides in the Championship. If he can rustle up enough fit centre-backs for the weekend, then he’s likely to stay with three at the back. They do have options but, principally, that’s the way he’s gone because one of the problems earlier in the season was that they were playing one up front, which left the question mark over how open that left them. He’s played about with the formation, settled on this on this one and that’s how they’ve gone about it, to relative success.
Brentford came away with all three points from the first meeting this season back at the start of December, but what’s your score prediction for this one?
A bit like they were for the Sheffield Wednesday game, Brentford are overwhelming favourites but they will know they have been in a game after facing Rotherham. It would be hard to predict anything other than 2-0 or 3-0.
*This interview was conducted prior to Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
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