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