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Papa Johns Trophy

"I was ready to shake Sutton boss’ hand" – why Warne was stunned by Rotherham win

3 April 2022

Rotherham United boss Paul Warne was so convinced his side were on the brink of losing the Papa Johns Trophy Final, he was preparing to congratulate Sutton United manager Matt Gray before the game had even finished.

The Millers were moments from a Wembley defeat, with the Yellows leading 2-1 deep in injury time, before Jordi Osei-Tutu’s dramatic 96th-minute leveller took the game to extra-time and an eventual 4-2 win for Warne’s side

“I considered with about two minutes to go to shake Matt’s hand and say well done, because I think if you beat our team I think you’ve performed really well,” said Warne.

Read more: Wiles fulfils childhood dream at Wembley

Report: Rotherham win Papa Johns Trophy in extra-time

“I just didn’t think it would be our day to get that equalising goal. First half we looked rusty and nervy and I said at half-time we have to relax a bit.

“When it went into extra time it felt like we had healthier players on the pitch, and I’m not being disrespectful to the opposition.”

Rotherham are sat top of Sky Bet League One but came into the Final with just one win in five league games, and Warne believes the intensity of playing at Wembley may have hampered his players.

“You play at Wembley and your mouth is really dry, you want the best game of your career and it mounts up in your head,” he said.

“They’re humas, not robots. Pressure does affect players and I do think it affected our players in the first half, or it could be Sutton were excellent.”

The Millers have seven games remaining to secure automatic promotion to the Sky Bet Championship, but are just one point clear of third-placed Milton Keynes Dons.

Warne hopes lifting a trophy at Wembley could provide the boost his players need to finish the season strongly – and he sincerely hopes he does not return to the National Stadium again this term in the Play-Offs.

“I’d be devastated if we come back this season. It would be amazing if we do manage to get automatic,” he said.

“We might have to win five or six games. It’s serious and hopefully the lads can take it from here.

“It’s nice to win a trophy but I wanted to win a trophy more for the fact anyone who doubts this team in our own fan base, it doesn’t give it more petrol on the fire.

“I want the positivity of wining the trophy for the last seven games. If it went the other way it could have had a detrimental effect.”

And while Rotherham will be leaving London with the Papa Johns Trophy, Warne has also been left with a sense of pride in his players’ commitment and togetherness.

“I said to them, in 10 years’ time if you put a bat signal up in the sky I will drive anywhere if you need my help,” he said.

“You’ll always be part of the team that won at Wembley. I wish it was after the season and we can enjoy it but it’s a brilliant thing for them and if they don’t achieve promotion then they’ve achieved something.”

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