Derby County’s new boss Paul Warne had a lot of things on his mind when he first stepped foot in Pride Park last week after the Rams announced his appointment.
What will he say to the new group of players assembled before him? How will he put his stamp on this Derby team? How will Warne and his coaching staff prepare for his first game in charge?
But, more pressingly, as the winter months draw in, the 49-year-old – never dressed without a beanie in almost any weather conditions – made the Rams’ superstore his first port of call to pick up some essential apparel essentials.
“I’ve got loads of hats,” he laughed, speaking on the Official EFL Podcast. “I love hats as you well know. I’m a bit hat obsessed. In fact, yesterday, after I did my press at Derby, I went to the Club Shop and went and bought myself three hats. I was highly excited by buying new hats.
“The nice thing was the girl who served me had no idea and the lady who took me in said I could get staff discount. She went, ‘Is it for you?’ She said, ‘No, this is Paul – he’s the new manager.’ That was quite an amazing moment.”
Last week, the Sky Bet Championship’s longest-serving manager, having taken up the post at Rotherham United in November 2016, making the step up from the Club’s fitness coach, opted to join Sky Bet League One newcomers Derby County.
And it was no easy decision for Warne, who has spearheaded three promotions from the division with the Millers, going up via the Play-Offs in 2017/18, and automatically in 2019/20 and 2021/22.
He explained: “I spoke to the Chairman [Tony Stewart] at Rotherham on the Wednesday afternoon to literally have a cup of tea with him and shake hands with him to say, ‘I think this is a goodbye.’ He was fine and he said, ‘I understand. I knew it was always going to happen.’ He was brilliant and in a weird way, it made it worse. I prepped the players really on the Tuesday morning – I’ve never lied to my players.
“It is bittersweet really. Everyone within the football side of the Football Club are all my people. I got in my car and I was a bit emotional. It was a big part of my life and I learnt a lot about myself during that period.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. I had many ups and downs on my decision; one minute, I was going, and I woke up and told my missus, then two hours later, I wasn’t going.”
From there, Warne travelled to Derby to complete the move and headed for a much-needed trip away during the international break before setting off back down the M1 on Monday with his car facing southbound to meet his new squad on little more than three hours of sleep.
“Over the weekend, I got a few people reaching out to me which was quite nice,” he said. “Jon Taylor and Joe Newell – two of my favourite Rotherham players of all time who I’ve managed – were at a party with James Collins, my new striker at Derby. They sent a picture of them three saying, ‘This guy will get you promoted, gaffer!’ I was texting them back and having a laugh and a joke.
“It made me realise over the weekend that although Derby players may have had better careers or are at a bigger Club, they’re the same lads who have been signed by a different Club, in the same way that I’m the same manager that I was a week ago, I just work at a different Football Club.”
Warne now bids a fond farewell to the Club where he first cut his managerial teeth, bowing out on a draw at home to Middlesbrough earlier in the month.
“My wife knew it was going to be my last home game,” he said. “I remember looking at her as I walked off the pitch and she was in absolute tears. My daughter said she was an absolute embarrassment.
“In modern football, the fact that we survived six years is quite impressing. I take responsibility for two relegations on top of that but the fact that the Chairman stuck with me was quite impressive.
“I was disappointed we didn’t win the league and the cup last year, being a bit greedy. Going up automatically and the way it happened and winning the cup, it just seemed fitting to end there. I wanted to leave not being forced out but walking out. I never wanted to be sacked here. I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve loved it.”
At Derby, the Norwich-born boss will be joined by his backroom staff consisting of trusty number two Richie Barker, coach Matt Hamshaw and goalkeeping coach Andy Warrington, who, without them, Warne firmly believes he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“Our success is like the four musketeers, it’s all or nothing,” he added. “They were right behind the move. When we went in the first day, Richie and Hammy have to put the sessions on and Andy has to work with the goalkeepers, whereas I can talk to the players and walk around the group and introduce myself, so I have all that relationship building.”
He continued: “The stars are aligned. I’ve been at Derby for two days and I know it was the right decision. I’ve had a few opportunities to leave in the past that haven’t interested me. However, the Derby one was a different level really.
“I’m a relationship leader and I have to get trust into the players which I can’t do in 20 minutes, and there are only so many minutes in the day. I’m more of a slow burner, I think. I need to keep building and building.”