Author Archives: George Sanders

About George Sanders

Trainee sports journalist at Leeds Trinity University. Writer for The Football Forecast, Rotherham United programme contributor and supporter. Also partial to a pint and indie music. Follow my Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

Rotherham United: We’re down, but we’re proud – Thank you, Paul Warne

We all know that Rotherham isn’t one of the most glamorous places to live in the country. But, it does have a football club, which gives the town a sense of pride and togetherness.

Video: Jonathon Ripley. Yes, that is me in the blue coat. No, I promise I’m not giving birth.

To add a bit of context, The Millers’ neighbours, mainly both deriving from the Sheffield clubs, tend to laugh at little old Rotherham’s expense sometimes. After all, we are often labelled: “a town full of Wednesday”.

And that’s fine, maybe we are in some ways. But that makes me even prouder being a Miller, knowing that I’m the one who’s actually supporting my local team. The team that means so much to myself and my family.

It was another rollercoaster season for that local team, too.

The end of the 2018/19 season sadly resulted in Rotherham United being relegated from the Championship, after being promoted the season before.

Relegation was a disappointment, yes. The key reason why it hurt so much this time around, was because the gaffer, Paul Warne, his staff and his players had given absolutely everything and fallen just short. Defender, Sean Raggett even lost one of his gnasher’s for the cause!

Warne’s side earnt many plaudits across the division for their ‘never say die’ attitude, and a second to none work rate.

This is a huge contrast to the last time Rotherham were in the Championship. Roll back the clock to 2017 and The Millers were relegated from the second division, with a measly tally of 23 points. It was a squad full of factions and included players who, on the face of it, didn’t seem to care as much as others.

It’s unreal how quickly Warne turned this around and took us back up.

But, hard work wasn’t quite enough to keep us up…

I could dissect how we played in certain games and discuss what we lacked, but that’s not what this piece is about.

We know we’re a minnow in the league, certainly financially. We accept that. But it was a campaign, upon reflection, of ‘what ifs’.

Local derbies against the likes of Sheffield United at home, and Sheffield Wednesday on both occasions spring to mind for me, where if The Millers had taken all three of the points that they deserved in these fixtures, they could have remained in the division. Oh, and don’t get me started on the amount of goals we conceded within the last ten minutes of games!

Now, supporters from other clubs may laugh at us, and wonder if we go crying to our beers. And maybe we did the first few times this sort of thing happened. Certainly not this season!

But, I will never forget that feeling I had as ‘Warniola’ and those ‘good human beings’ who wore that red shirt, acknowledged the supporters on the final day of the season, and that feeling of pride and one of a strange happiness I had.

Happiness because I think it’s rare that you see a group of wholesome, genuine people all together at a single football club, working against the odds for a cause. I was simply chuffed it was my team.

Rotherham United, really was UNITED.

On a final, personal note, there’s been things in my life which some of you may aware of that have been difficult this season, but this football club has also helped me through that.

RIP, Grandad. The nicest bloke you’ll ever meet and a massive Millers fan.

Little things really can make a difference!

So here’s a final thank you to Paul Warne, his staff, players, and of course my fellow supporters for making this an entertaining season in which, in the end, we can be proud of.

I can’t wait for next season, already.

You know how it goes: #OnceAMiller…

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Former Millers defender discusses Wembley, Paul Warne and being a Man City scout

Centre-back Neil Richardson was just 21 years-old when he made the switch from Brandon United in 1989 to South Yorkshire side, Rotherham United. At Rotherham he made over 200 appearances for the club and arguably enjoyed the biggest successes of his career.

The 6ft tall player made his debut in red and white in 1989. That debut was away at Walsall, in what would be the West Midlands’ club last game at their old stadium, Fellows Park. The game finished with the spoils being shared as the two sides drew 1-1.

Richardson was promoted with Rotherham in the 1991/1992 campaign, after finishing the season in style by defeating Wrexham in their final away game of the season. The Millers ran out as 3-0 winners, in turn ensuring that the club would play in division three the following season. Richardson spoke to Sanders Sport Talk, stating that: “What really sticks in my mind is the large amount of people from Rotherham that had made the lengthy journey that day, they were all behind one of the goals, and the rest of the ground was virtually empty! It was unbelievable!”

Perhaps most notably, he played an important role in Rotherham United’s famous 1996 Football League Trophy winning campaign. Richardson started the match alongside fellow centre-back Ian Breckin, and insured his side won 2-1 in the final against Shrewsbury, at the old Wembley stadium. Richardson stated that this was “as good as it gets” for the Sunderland-born defender, although he humorously remarked: “Wembley was a blur, and I only remember little bits about it!”

On that day, Rotherham United striker, Nigel Jemson scored a brace to put The Millers 2-0 up with just under 40 minutes left to play. Shrewsbury could only score a late consolation goal in the 81st minute through Mark Taylor, meaning that Rotherham raised the trophy in front of more than 20,000 jubilant Millers fans.

Richardson, who stated that he was also “comfortable in midfield”, was admired by Rotherham fans for his high work-rate ethic, and no-nonsense style of defending. Richardson had confessed though, that his preference was to play in midfield, as he felt that it enabled him to be involved with play more. He added: “You just play where you’re told basically, and I trained for it.”

The self-confessed Sunderland fan has, to this day, always kept a special place in his heart for the Yorkshire club, after spending a decade there. “Warney [Paul Warne, current Rotherham United manager] was a teammate of mine when I was near the end of my time there and I’m desperate for him to do well! I’ve always checked Rotherham’s results and want them to do well and that will continue until the day I die,” enthused the defender.

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He made a loan switch to Exeter in 1996 before moving to Mansfield Town in 1999, then continuing his career at Mansfield in a management capacity, as a coach after retiring as a player due to his “knees being weaker.” Coaching was something Richardson had intended to go into after his playing career had ceased and he worked hard to complete all of the necessary coaching badges. “It dropped really nicely that after playing for Mansfield there was a coaching role available there straight after I hung up my boots. I was very fortunate in that respect,” Richardson contended.

Richardson is currently a scout at Premier League heavyweights, Manchester City. The former Sleaford Town defender’s work normally entails work on the weekends operating in the East Midlands region primarily.

“I watch two games on a Saturday. Normally that’s an academy game in the morning and I’ll watch the first team game in the afternoon. I’ll also watch a Sunday game and on a Monday there’ll be an under 23 game on a Monday night I attend, and possibly a first team game on a Tuesday night, too. I work around Derby, Nottingham and Leicester mostly. My job is to cover those areas, in the youth side of it and make sure I know, pretty much, most of them. Whereas first team wise, I go everywhere, mainly monitoring the young lads who’re making it into the first team. So say 17 or 18 years of age, up to 21. I report on these so the club knows about them.”

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Whilst Neil’s career as a player is over, the former defender has still kept himself in the world of football.

INTERVIEW: Millers Wembley hero, Richard Wood talks Play-off final celebrations, JDRF, his future after football, and more.

Ossett-born defender, Richard Wood, earned himself a legendary status at Rotherham United by scoring both of the goals in the 2017/18 League One Play-off final, against Shrewsbury Town. This sent The Millers back into the Championship.

“It was unbelievable,” enthused Wood.

“I couldn’t have dreamt of that happening. Even if you’d of asked me what the best scenario was on the day, it’d have just been to win and maybe to nick a goal for myself, but to get two and win, it’s what dreams are made of. It was a great feeling to be involved with it.”

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That game put to bed the hurt of the 2016/17 season. We had a team of players, who were ACTUALLY a team again. Paul Warne, the players, the staff, and everyone associated with the club deserve so much credit for the massive transformation that was made, in such a short amount of time.

Now I don’t know about you, but I celebrated wildly throughout the day and night, after the match had concluded. This was however, a contrast to what the Millers skipper got up to.

“Afterwards, it was a strange feeling because the dressing room was empty, as I had to spend time doing the interviews and everything,” he said.

“So I showered by myself which was a bit of a come down. I then went upstairs and met my family. All of the lads had already left, but it was good to see my children and my missus. She said I was in a bad mood! I had got injured too so that was playing on my mind. But, I’d just won promotion, so it was strange. We all then celebrated by having a party with the lads and by that point I’d come round.”

The Millers have been battling bravely against relegation this season, to preserve the South Yorkshire club’s Championship status. So far, Rotherham have surprised many people this season, by proving to be difficult to beat on many occasions.

“It’s been good, but nothing’s been achieved yet. Our aim is to stay up and there’s still a long way to go. We’re definitely faring better than two years ago,” cemented Wood.

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Rotherham manager Paul Warne guided his side back up at the first time of asking, and has earned himself a lot of plaudits in the process. What I enjoyed most from asking Wood about what ‘Warniola’ was like to work under, was the fondness that the veteran defender had in his voice, when speaking about the Millers gaffer.

“He [Paul Warne] thinks about different sides to football that aren’t usually looked on. Psychologically, he speaks about people being ‘good humans’, not just in football, but outside of the game such as your family life. He believes that if you’re a good person, that’ll transpire into your footballing career. He makes sure we have an understanding of our teammates and are thinking about what they’re going through, because life isn’t simple.”

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“Everybody’s got difficulties in life and circumstances, so it’s nice to come here. I’ve never done anything like it with other managers, that make you think about that side of it. This helps pull the dressing room together as we haven’t got the budget of other sides so, we think this is a different way that makes us stronger. He’s first class.”

Wood is proudly an ambassador for Type 1 diabetes charity, JDRF. He explained his reason for backing this charity in particular: “My son is a type one diabetic, he was diagnosed when he was three. He’s on an insulin pump, he needs that to live and there’s no cure. Now we’ve become more comfortable with dealing with it and managing his condition.”

“There are charities out there looking for cures and JDRF are one of them. I wanted to give something back and help other people with the condition. My son wants to be a footballer, and there’s people out there like, Henry Slade I think it is [England rugby player] who has the condition. It’s about putting a front out there that you can still achieve things with type one,” he enthused.

“I try and help when I can like at events and put it out there so people get more knowledge about it, as it’s often confused with type two diabetes, which is determined by lifestyle. There’s no known cause for type one. I’m hoping I can be a role model, even though I don’t have the condition.”

On a personal note, this struck a chord with me as I am a type one diabetic, myself. It’s not something I normally talk about, but it’s great to see Richard trying to spread awareness of the condition.

I think all Millers fans will hope that ‘Woody’ won’t be hanging up his boots anytime soon. But the defender stated that journalism is a possible occupation option, after his playing career has ended. Though he contended that coaching was his primary choice.

“I think my main career would be coaching. I’m going to complete my coaching badges in the next couple of years. If you’d of asked my five or six years ago, I wouldn’t of wanted to. But as I’ve got older, I think I’m approachable as I’m helping the young lads in the team now, as I am the senior pro. This is my next step when it happens, but I can fall back on journalism.”

I then ended the interview with a necessary, – “Up the Millers”, before letting Richard get on with his day.

I think I’m also obliged to end this article with the phrase: ‘Richard Wood is magic’, and well, you know the rest…

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Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

Twitter Reacts: Manchester United 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Following Spurs’ thrashing of Manchester United at Old Trafford, we look at how Twitter reacted to the result.

Tottenham fans are, and have every right to be, delighted with that result:

Victor Lindelӧf made a crucial mistake which lead to Spurs scoring, prompting some humorous reactions:

We are sorry, your bus has been cancelled…:

After the game, some Manchester United fans had selfies with Lucas Moura… after he got his brace against them:

The game has also raised many discussions about Mourinho’s future at the club:

But many of the United fans stand by their manager:

And just in case you needed reminding of the score:

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

 

Ipswich Town: 5 Things – ahead of Rotherham clash

I examine five things regarding Rotherham United hosting Ipswich Town on Saturday, in the second week of EFL Championship action.

1. The last result:
It wasn’t the best of starts for Paul Warne’s Rotherham side back in the Championship. They were thrashed 5-1 by Brentford on the opening day. The Tractor boys also didn’t fully hit the ground running, after they were held to a 2-2 draw against Championship newcomers, Blackburn Rovers.

2. The Managers:
Paul Warne manages the South Yorkshire side. He successfully guided the club back to the Championship at the first time of asking, following the club’s 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury in the Play-Off final.

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Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst was that very manager in the Shrewsbury dugout. He did very well last season with the Shrews, who were one of the relegation favourites. This earnt him the chance to move to Ipswich where he signed a three-year deal. Hurst was also a fans’ favourite at Rotherham, with him playing as a defender for the club.

3. Last season’s finish:
Rotherham: 4th (League One)
Ipswich: 12th (Championship)

4. Ones to Watch:
Rotherham – Joe Newell: He has the ability to be a real threat by creating and scoring goals. The 25 year-old has also been involved in Rotherham’s more recent campaigns in the Championship, and he looks very comfortable in this league.

Ipswich – Gwion Edwards (via @BenRowland1314): “The Welsh winger was the main highlight from Saturday and I think anyone watching the game would agree. The former Peterborough man had a sublime competitive game for ITFC and topped it off with a goal, an assist, and that flick.”

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5. What do the fans think:

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

Opposition Preview: Brentford vs Rotherham United 04/08/18

With the Millers facing Brentford away on the opening day of the season in the Championship, I spoke to popular Brentford blog, Beesotted about the game and how they see their season transpiring.

What was last season like for The Bees?

“Brentford had another impressive season overall, but we were hamstrung by a poor start to the season results wise, even though the performances were consistent for almost the whole nine months. Clinical finishing cost us a play-off place, but in truth, we weren’t quite good enough and the fans could have all done without yet more end of season lottery heartbreak.”

So how’s this transfer window been for yourselves?

“It’s not over unfortunately. We are bracing ourselves for losing Ryan Woods plus maybe one or two others before the window closes, even though we have brought it some excellent replacements. There’s never a dull moment at Griffin Park.”

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Midfielder Ryan Woods was voted as ‘Supporters’ Player of the Year’ last season and has been linked with Swansea City. The 24 year-old joined Brentford in 2015 from Shrewsbury Town.

Who could be the key player that the Millers should look out for?

“We are hoping for an impressive debut by Said Benrahma, and Marcus Forss could be one to keep a watchful eye on if he gets the nod up front.”

Benrahma is a young, versatile player who can play as a striker or a winger. The Algerian international joined Brentford from French Ligue 1 side Nice for an undisclosed fee, on a four-year deal.

What’s your score prediction for the game?

“Brentford 3-1 Rotherham.”

Finally, how do you see the 2018-19 season panning out for the Bees?

“Another top ten finish for the Bees I reckon, play-offs are not beyond the realms of possibility, but unlikely. We are arguably too lightweight up top to mount a serious promotion challenge in all probability.”

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

 

Thank you to the England National Team – 2018 World Cup

Thank you to Gareth Southgate, the England players and staff:

Strangers were hugging each other, singing ‘Three Lions’ while throwing pints in the air. Roads were shut down with people dancing in the middle of them, and I’m buying 100 waistcoats.

Club loyalties have been set aside and the country has been brought together in inspiration and adoration.

You’ve given us a Harry Kane last-gasp winner against Tunisia.

Harry Kane’s brace against Tunisia.

You’ve given us a thrilling game with six goals against Panama.

You’ve even given us a surreal penalty shootout victory against Columbia, (and I never thought I’d be singing ‘Three Lions’ with that Robert bloke from Emmerdale in the boozer after that win, but there go).

That’s the moment ‘It’s coming home’ went from naive optimism to a feeling of real optimism.

The national team have done our country proud. I’ve never really been nervous watching England before, just when I’m watching my team Rotherham. But my goodness, the way you’ve got myself and millions of others invested in this World Cup genuinely believing, is amazing.

There’s still a game to play against Belgium for third place, but I imagine it’s a bittersweet feeling for the nation.

The likes of the Scottish and the Welsh can make their jokes, but if anything, the jokes’ on them.

The World Cup trophy itself may not be coming home, but football most certainly is.

A country divided is now a country united together. Let’s keep it that way.

Southgate you’re the one…

Kane Image: https://goo.gl/images/AZzTKw