Leaving Rotherham United, joining Sheffield Wednesday, dropping down a division, what he said during negotiations and deleting social-media Millers pictures ... Michael Smith talks to the Advertiser

Leaving Rotherham United, joining Sheffield Wednesday, dropping down a division, what he said during negotiations and deleting social-media Millers pictures ... Michael Smith talks to the Advertiser

By Paul Davis | 26/06/2022

Leaving Rotherham United, joining Sheffield Wednesday, dropping down a division, what he said during negotiations and deleting social-media Millers pictures ... Michael Smith talks to the Advertiser
Michael Smith

 

MICHAEL Smith this week ended his four-and-a-half-year spell with Rotherham United by turning down a new contract and signing for Sheffield Wednesday.

The 30-year-old striker, who hit 25 goals last season as Paul Warne's side earned promotion to the Championship and won the Papa John's Trophy Final at Wembley, spoke to the Advertiser about his time with the Millers and how it came to an end.

 

Are you sad to be leaving?

There is an element of sadness, particularly with the way it has turned out in the end. From the bottom of my heart, I've loved my four and a half years at Rotherham. It's well known that I didn't know where my career was going before the gaffer plucked me from obscurity. He saved my career; I'll be honest and open and say that. The work he, Richie (number two Barker), Hammy (coach Matt Hamshaw) and all the staff at Rotherham have put into me over the years I'll be forever grateful for. They've put me where I am today.

 

The Millers have been good for you and you've been good for the Millers:

I've played the best football of my career with Rotherham. I'm proud to have played a part in three promotions. The success was down to having a good group full of the right type of characters the manager has brought in over the years.

 

Missing only one league game (through suspension) throughout all your time at AESSEAL New York Stadium is an amazing achievement:

That's down to the robust training that the manager and Ross (Burbeary, head of player development), when he was there, put me through. Your body becomes used to the high-intensity stuff. I always made myself available to the manager even in the times when I was carrying injuries.

 

Negotiations went on between you and Rotherham for nearly two months. How close were you to staying?

I was in constant contact with the club over the summer. Whenever I spoke to them, I always, always, always said to them: 'Look, if you need to move on from me, that's okay. I'm not ready to commit to anything yet.' I said to them: 'If you need to get your ducks in a row, so to speak, then crack on.' I'm sure the manager will vouch for that. Because of my affiliation with Rotherham, it was massive thing for me to eventually make a decision to leave. I can leave with my head held high knowing that I've given absolutely everything for the club in my time there.

 

Manager Paul Warne said he was hopeful you and Michael Ihiekwe would sign new deals, then both of you left the following day. What happened there?

There were conversations with the manager at Rotherham. I said I wasn't sure what I was doing and again said: 'If you need to move on, move on.' I had conversations with my family as well. The Wednesday move came up and it was a move that suited me and my family long term. It was an opportunity for me and my family that I couldn't turn down.

I've always wanted to put my family first. It was a family decision.

 

Sheffield Wednesday are the one club many Rotherham fans won't accept you going to. How do you feel about that?

I'm a smart enough lad to know that my Rotherham reputation built up over four and a half years is going to be tainted now, which is sad on a personal level. I've given my all for the club. I made the decision, I'm big enough to take everything that comes with it. It's really sad that it's ended this way. Football is completely ruled by emotion and I completely 'get' the response to what I've done. Hopefully, once the dust has settled a bit, people might understand. They might not. That's just part and parcel of it.

This is my opportunity to say 'thank you' to the Rotherham fans for all the support they've given me over the last four and a half years. It's meant the world to me; not only to me but to my family as well. I can't speak highly enough of what Rotherham have done for me and my career. I'd never say a bad word against the club. The fans have been nothing but top-class with me. They've been lovely to my missus and little one as well.

 

It's well known that you're a big Newcastle United fan. Is how Millers fans feel now how you would have felt had Alan Shearer turned down a new deal with the Magpies to join Sunderland?

Football is a short, short career. Being in the game, being a player, I'd probably understand it a little bit more. I’ll always hold every Rotherham fan I've met in high regard.

 

You've deleted all references to the Millers on your social-media accounts. Why have you done that?

Do you know what, it's nowhere near as bad as it looks. I changed my profile picture because I'm a Sheffield Wednesday player now. I'd had it in the back of my mind that I'd come off Instagram and Twitter for a while and give them a bit of a breather. I'm useless on the technical side of things and didn't know how to deactivate or suspend the accounts or whatever it is you do. So I just did the next best thing and made it look like I wasn't using them. It had absolutely nothing to do with Rotherham. It was never meant as any kind of slight. I've still got all those pictures on my phone, all those memories to still look back on; it's just that they're not out there for the wider public to see. I'll always look at those pictures with fondness.

 

Was it tough deciding to stay in League One after spending a season working so hard to get out of it?

No, not really. I've seen things online about me dropping back down to League One but I'm okay with it. The move to Sheffield Wednesday was something me and my family couldn't really turn down. I know I can play at the level. I proved that last season. I'm just looking forward to getting going with Sheffield Wednesday now.

 

Are you leaving on good terms?

You know what kind of people the gaffer, Richie and Hammy are. They're lovely blokes who have been unbelievable with me over the years and I Iike to think I have a really good relationship with them. I've spoken to them and they've wished me good luck in my career, which is nice. I wouldn't have expected anything less from them. They are top, top blokes.