Paul Warne: Derby County boss relieved after Rams seal promotion

Derby player celebrate promotion
Derby's promotion ends their two-year stay in League One [PA Media]

Boss Paul Warne says Derby County's return to the Championship has left him emotionally exhausted.

A stunning strike from Max Bird and James Collins' 19th goal of the season against Carlisle sealed Derby's promotion at Pride Park.

Derby finished second with their highest-ever points tally, just two seasons after they dropped out of the Championship while in administration.

Warne said: "I'm just relieved, half-way between death and being alive."

He continued: "My missus will tell me off in a minute for not having any promotion emotion, but I'm just exhausted."

For Warne, it was his fourth promotion as a League One head coach after previously taking Rotherham up three times.

And while the Millers yo-yo'd between the second and third tiers, Derby's promotion was just their second in 27 years and the first automatic promotion sealed at their Pride Park home, having relocated there in 1997.

Warne said the enormity of restoring The Rams to the Championship and delivering success for owner and lifelong fan David Clowes, who bought the club out of administration in the summer of 2022, was an overwhelming moment.

"I had a few minutes in my office just laying on the floor thinking 'thank goodness for that'," he told BBC Radio Derby.

"David brought us in here, and I appreciate I was probably not the most popular choice, but we have come in here to try to get the team promoted. And we have done it.

"I'm really pleased for everyone that works at the football club and all the fans - and there is no greater fan than the owner.

"It's nice if someone shows you that much respect and belief, that you can pay them back. So the highlight for me was seeing David and his wife afterwards.

"All the heartache, stress and years it took off my life were worth it."

The 50-year-old Warne was mobbed on the pitch and celebrated among fans immediately after the game.

He joked that taking Clowes in to see Derby's players in the dressing room afterwards was like walking into "a scene from The Hangover" movie.

But he said he would mark his success by returning home to his labrador named Chief.

"I'll drive home tonight and take the dog out and buy him some pork scratchings, and be pleased to be with him," Warne smiled.

"I just want to, weirdly, get back to my own house and sit down and just think 'oh thank God', because emotionally it just exhausting."

'Closing a near-devastating chapter' - analysis

BBC Radio Derby commentator Ed Dawes:

Promotion back to the Championship draws a line under three years of turbulence, discontent and hope.

The latter has been forged by the inimitable Paul Warne, his staff and a squad of players who have forged a bond that has propelled the Rams forward and closed a near-devastating chapter in its history.

Owner David Clowes will be lauded for his investment, level headedness and ability to bring success from his day to day property business into the boardroom at Pride Park.

For supporters it is a reward for loyalty. Pouring money into the club through attendances and the match-day experience. Following Warne's men over land and sea to keep their foot on the gas of the promotion trail.

A happy supporter is a productive supporter, Derby's economy thrives on the feel-good factor and being back in the second tier gives a fresh start for all, with the villains of the past long gone.