As they did four years ago, Rotherham United rose to the occasion of a League 1 Play-Off Final by defeating Shrewsbury 2-1 to return to the 2nd tier at the first time of asking.
Rotherham had to battle hard for their victory against Shrewsbury. The Shrews have surprised many this year and have done remarkably well under the stewardship of Millers legend Paul Hurst, who now looks set to join Ipswich.
The unlikely hero of the final was Rotherham captain Richard Wood, who in his first Wembley appearance wrote his name in Millers folklore by scoring twice to send his side back to the Championship.
After the absolute mess that was last season, most associated with Rotherham United would have never dreamed that this season would end in such joyous fashion, which would top off a campaign that has restored this South Yorkshire town’s love in football.
But one man who believed from day one is Millers boss Paul Warne. It goes without saying that Warne has done an extraordinary job at a club that is very close to his heart, with him being there as a player, then as a coach and now as manager.
Warne is a man who has Rotherham United blood running through his veins and he knows what exactly makes a successful Millers team. Written off from the start, Warne has completely rebuilt his club and along with his staff, has brought together a team that are a band of brothers on and off the pitch.
All the credit in the world should go to Warne and his staff. They knew a year ago exactly what they wanted to do in terms of recruitment and reforming the club’s ethos.
Warne has regularly emphasised throughout the season that quality is not as important as the character and attitude of the players, who must want to play for him and the club.
Starting all the way back with their gruelling pre-season tour in Austria, the players and staff have stuck together through thick and thin and they never once doubted one another.
This was clear in the final itself. David Ball missed a penalty to go 1-0 up early on and in the second-half when Shrewsbury equalised, any normal team could have succumbed to the pressure of a Play-Off Final.
But the character of this team was never in doubt as they responded admirably to each twist and turn a game like this inevitably brings, to end the game as the deserving winners with the help of Richard Wood’s extra-time goal.
Next season looks like being the toughest Championship campaign that there has ever been, with 19 former Premier League teams making up the 24 in the division.
It is not really in doubt that Rotherham will be the underdogs in the league, just as they were last time, given their inferior budget compared to some of the giants in the 2nd tier.
But this is a totally different Rotherham outfit that is coming up this time. Last time around, the summer following the promotion saw a complete overhaul of players making the squad unrecognisable from the previous campaign. It was this short-term thinking under the previous regime that eventually caught up to them resulting in their disastrous season last year.
Warne has already said that he has no intention of ripping apart this squad, with him wanting just a couple additions of quality here and there. It is clear that under Paul Warne, they won’t be making signings for the sake of it and a lot of thought will go into the kind of person who is being added to the fold.
Rotherham did overachieve to stay in the Championship for three seasons last time given the set up behind the scenes. But now, the club is in a more stable state and in a much better position to be able to compete and to continue on from this season in doing their town proud.
The players and staff will celebrate their Play-Off Final victory tonight with an open-top bus parade through the town, which is due to start at 6pm.