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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

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

Rotherham United: Promotion means so much more than going up to the Championship

After eventually sobering up from the League One play-off final on Sunday, here are my thoughts on the day where the Millers secured themselves Championship football.

The night before Rotherham United’s play-off final against Shrewsbury Town, I was understandably, extremely nervous. However when the day arrived my emotions were completely contrasting. Now it might have been the lager taking its toll, but I was very calm ahead of the game.

We’d had a fantastic season already, particularly taking in to account the mess we overcame following our woeful campaign in the Championship. I simply thought to myself, as cliché as it sounds, ‘Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be’ and that if we do manage to go up then it will be a bonus on what has already been quite a terrific season.

The coach journey down didn’t seem to last two minutes, with lots of chanting and a real sense of optimism in the air. A special mention to Paul Delaney and everyone at the Bridge Inn pub, who must be mentioned here for their terrific work and patience to organise so many coaches taking avid Millers supporters to games all season, in addition to the massive numbers to the capital.

Once in London there was only one thing to do, head to pub and shaft myself for overpriced lager. We chose the main Millers supporters’ pub, The Green Man. The beers were flowing, chants were being sung, and Richard Wood’s bricks were being tossed in the air. The atmosphere was fantastic and that alone would’ve been worth the lengthy trip.

RW MAGIC

Millers supporters outside the Green Man pub as polystyrene bricks are thrown in the air.

I had to almost pinch myself when I eventually walked down to my seat at the home of English football, as the key thought going through my mind was: ‘We’ve actually managed to make it here.’

The atmosphere was good and credit to the Shrewsbury fans for playing their part in proceedings, too.

I was clearly enjoying myself, as you can see below. (Some people have given me some stick for me wearing my black bomber jacket, but I thought it was necessary to spare the people next to me my disgraceful sweat patches.)

I don’t think anything specific needs to be said about the game itself, the only thing I will claim is that we fully deserved that victory. We all know what happened there and how good it was.

I’ve also reached the conclusion that when I die, I’m leaving everything I own to Richard Wood and Paul Warne.

This promotion means so much more than going up a division and all the various financial benefits that it brings. It’s given the town its pride back. I can’t put in to words the enormous thanks and praise that must go to Warney and his team.

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I’ve always been proud to wear my Rotherham shirt, but from being a university student in Leeds, I received constant abuse and banter from supporters of other clubs last season, in our terrible Championship campaign. Even some Doncaster fans had the audacity to give me some lip (I know, it was THAT bad).

Now when I walk along the streets of Leeds, Rotherham, or wherever I am, I will wear my Rotherham shirt with an even bigger sense of pride. A sense that the players genuinely care about the club again. A sense of feeling that I have my football club back.

Perhaps I’ll even have, what can only be described as ‘a smug Jeremy Clarkson expression’ across my face as I walk past a supporter of a rival team, as I swagger down the streets with the tune of New York, New York by Frank Sinatra in my head.

I can’t wait for next season.

“Happy to be a Rotherham fan, until my dying day.”

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

Rotherham United to fly the flag ahead of the play-offs

A trio of Rotherham United supporters have successfully raised enough money to create a massive banner as the club aims to return to the Championship after sealing a play-off place, with a 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers yesterday.

The flag which will be 12×12 metres in size was initially the idea of avid Millers supporter John Nixon. He took inspiration from a large banner displayed at Plymouth’s Home Park and wanted to raise the pre-match atmosphere at The AESSEAL New York Stadium. John then contacted fellow supporters Jenson Lambley and Peter Rhodes who were fully behind the idea and helped organise the effort to raise the £1100 that was needed to create the flag.

Jenson Lambley explained how it took just five days for Millers supporters to back the plans and raise the money needed: “We started a go fund me page and we thought it would take a huge amount of time. I organised for an advert to be displayed on the screen at yesterday’s game and we kept on sharing the page throughout the groups on Facebook. We even managed to get the club to put a tweet out to spread the word.”

“In addition to that The Sheffield Star gave us a mention of what we are trying to do and to also help spread the word. We appreciated every single bit of help highly.”

Lambley expressed his thanks to supporters and the football club who aided the cause: “To have hit our money target already just feels truly magnificent, the help we’ve received from the club is unbelievable and we can’t thank them enough for the high amount of support.”

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“It also shows how many fans are behind this great idea of bringing a flag to the New York Stadium to boost the atmosphere and get the fans going before the games”, he added.

It was revealed that the flag which was being manufactured in Cardiff would feature the club’s crest, with a red background along with white coloured text which reads “Rotherham United” and “The Millers”.

You can still donate by using the link below and all the extra funds will go to the Rotherham United Ladies.

https://www.gofundme.com/12×12-metres-giant-flag

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

 

INTERVIEW: Charlie Hawkes reveals the positives and negatives of vlogging football games

I spoke to young YouTuber and avid Rotherham United supporter Charlie Hawkes to gain his insight in to being a vlogger of football games. He also offered his thoughts on how he thought the Millers’ season would transpire.

Charlie first discussed what inspired him to start making videos of his experiences at football matches: “For a start there was your channel [George Sanders] and Dylan Lee-Horton’s too that made me want to start doing videos.” He added: “I also thought Talk Norwich City was really good too!”

The 14 year-old who supports Rotherham due to family influence contended that he has had issues with regards to him vlogging Millers games in the past: “At Walsall away a couple of Millers fans started shouting abuse at me and my friend James who was also making a video, but nothing too major has happened really.”

However Charlie explained how the majority of people have supported him and his YouTube channel: “My family know about the channel and they’re quite supportive and all my mates do too. I do occasionally get a bit of stick here and there for it though!”

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I myself have also received a few snide comments from people when I used to create videos at football games, but similarly to Charlie, I also had a lot of good people supporting me too.

Though Charlie did admit that he didn’t see YouTube as a sustainable career for himself in the future, he has clear aspirations for his ever-growing channel: “I’m very close to reaching 500 subscribers and that in my eyes is a massive milestone for me, but if I could ever gain more than 1,000 that would be a dream!”

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Charlie celebrating a goal in one of his videos.

When asked about which of his videos was his favourite, he exclaimed: “I don’t have one I think!”

We then turned attention to his beloved Rotherham United. Charlie revealed that his favourite player currently was “Super” Joe Newell.

Newell is a 25 year-old midfielder who is primarily used as a winger, but can also play in the centre of midfield too. He has scored seven goals so far for the Millers this season.

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So, will Rotherham United achieve promotion to the Championship? Charlie wasn’t so confident on this matter: “I would love us to clench promotion obviously, but I also don’t want us to be embarrassed like last season if we were to go up. In terms of confidence… I’d say I’m about 60% sure we’ll go up.”

The Millers were relegated from the Championship last season after finishing rock-bottom with a measly tally of just 23 points. The club are currently fourth in League One.

Make sure you go on this link to visit Charlie’s channel: 
https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCtOtK9QN_Tz1LofE-YClMbA
Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport
Thanks to Charlie for taking the time to talk to me and I wish him luck with his YouTube channel.
Watch my interview with Rotherham United midfielder Will Vaulks: