The madman who did the crazy ... Rotherham United survival verdict and reaction: Wolves 0 Millers 0
They earned survival as a team and, when staying up became a mathematical certainty, they celebrated as a team, manager, coaches and players going as one to share the occasion with the travelling Rotherham United fans.
Finally, they turned away to head back to the dressing room, but a solitary figure remained: the gaffer, the miracle-working messiah who has led the Millers’ amazing escape from the drop zone over the last 11 unbeaten games.
He stood alone, arms raised in appreciation of the chanting supporters who told an emptying Molineux what the footballing world has come to know since his February appointment and subsequent ridiculous revival act: ‘Neil Warnock is a Red.’
The man of the moment enjoying his moment.
All Rotherham followers hope he will be the man of next season. But that’s for another day. Saturday was Warnock’s day, Kevin Blackwell’s day, Ronnie Jepson’s day, Lee Frecklington’s day, Lee Camp’s day, Kirk Broadfoot’s day, Matt Derbyshire’s day. The Millers’ day.
Safety secured with a goalless draw at Wolves. In truth, in one of the poorest games you’ll ever see. But a result with a compelling aptness to it. One of Warnock’s biggest accomplishments has been to make his side so hard to beat, and here was a fifth clean sheet in the last six away outings.
“It will take a while to realise what an achievement this is,” Warnock said. “The players have been fantastic and the chairman has been unbelievable. It’s wonderful for me to give them something to smile about.
“It’s great to come to Wolves and get it put to bed. If you’d have told me that at the start when I came here, I’d have snapped your hands off.
“I feel immensely proud . We haven’t brought anybody in, only a couple of fringe lads. The players have all responded in a magnificent way.
“They know I have been around the block in the Championship and seen it all a few times. I say to them ‘Just trust me and enjoy it’, and they have done.
“When you see them putting their bodies on the line to keep the goal intact, that’s when I get very proud. I realise this is my level. I enjoy the football and I enjoy pleasing the fans. Our fans will be really happy.
“Now I want to finish as high as I can. I’d like to be undefeated until the end of the season. You look at the league table and there’s no reason why we can’t climb a couple more of places.”
Eleven fixtures without defeat exceeds the 10-game run at this level under Emlyn Hughes in 1982 and matches the second-tier sequence the Millers put together 50 years ago in 1966, the year England won the World Cup. Rotherham haven’t lost since February 23, when a 1-0 reverse at Reading saw them slip six points from safety, and are now 19th in the table.
Of the 11 games of the 2016 vintage, this was comfortably the worst. It was the fourth consecutive 0-0 the Wolves crowd have endured, and Millers goalkeeper Camp, a player who has shone brighter than any for Rotherham this year, labelled it: “A classic end-of-season non-affair.”
Molineux, where home supporters chanted how bored they were and cheered with wild sarcasm on the few occasions their team had an effort on target, was the venue where the Millers’ survival was officially stamped.
But it was sealed in other more thrilling contests in headier atmospheres earlier in Warnock’s magical reign.
At New York, where Brentford and Boro were beaten, where Derby were disarrayed and Leeds couldn’t hold 10 men. At Hillsborough where Carlos had a nightmare, at Portman Road where Ipswich were Leon Best-ed and, most memorably of all, at stadiummk, in front of 3,000 Millers, where MK were Don for to the tune of 4-0.
That triumph on April 9 in Buckinghamshire, which took Rotherham nine points clear of Karl Robinson’s now-relegated side and the drop zone, was the day the job was really done.
Warnock is loving life with the Millers but knows there will be job offers from elsewhere. Basking in happy satisfaction at pitchside after the game, he peppered his conversation with ‘they’ when talking about the club but more often than not said ‘we’.
Wherever he ends up, the bond he has forged with Rotherham and its people is stronger than he ever expected it to be.
On Saturday, Dave Edwards, setting the tone of things to come, dragged a low shot wide for the home side in the eighth minute of a first half in which the Millers had no clear-cut chances but troubled the home side through the right-flank pace of Grant Ward who gave left-back Sylvain Deslandes a real going-over.
Camp produced excellent fingertip saves to keep out headers from Danny Batth and Joe Mason in the first and second half respectively and twice denied Mason when the striker was clean through, while Stephen Kelly cleared off the line after the break from Jed Wallace and Deslandes headed wide in time added on.
For Rotherham, Derbyshire twice drew good stops from Carl Ikeme from the edge of the penalty area and the Wolves shot-stopper couldn’t hold a Frecklington effort which bounced off his chest and away from goal.
As Camp said, a non-affair. The biggest clash was the yellow shorts the Millers were forced to wear with blue shirts and blue socks when referee Jeremy Simpson, with all the fussiness he would later demonstrate throughout the match, decided their blue shorts were too similar to the black of Wolves.
Warnock doesn’t know where he will be next season or whether he’ll make the anniversary celebration he’s anticipating in 2036!
“We have equalled a run from 1966 today, 11 games unbeaten,” he reflected. “I said to the lads: ‘I want to be remembered for that. We might have a reunion in 20 years, and I want you to speak on my behalf because I might have left this universe by then.’
“It’s a remarkable achievement. We were six points away from safety after I’d been here a week. No-one gave us a sniff.
“A few friends told me I was mad and to go and get a part in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. I’m the man who once turned down Chelsea to stay at Notts County. I am a nutter, aren’t I?”
Then he headed off into the evening with his driver, bound for his Cornwall base, planning to savour a bottle of bubbly on the way home.
The nutter who has presided over the crazy.
Wolves v Rotherham, April 23 2016, was a game to forget.
But what it meant, and what has gone before it, will be remembered forever.
Wolves (4-5-1): Ikeme 7; Doherty 6, Iorfa 7, Batth 7, Deslandes 5; Henry 6, Coady 5, Saville 6, Edwards 6, Enobakhare 5 (Wallace 64, 6); Mason 5. Subs not used: Martinez, Hause, Price, McDonald, Hunte, Collins.
Rotherham United (4-1-4-1): Camp 8; Kelly 8, Broadfoot 7, Wood 7, Mattock 7 (Richardson 73); Halford 7; G Ward 7, Frecklington 6, Smallwood 6, Derbyshire 6; Best 6 (Clarke-Harris 87). Subs not used: Kenny, Green, Belaid, Burke, Newell.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).
Attendance: 18,757 (668).