THROUGH the autumn gloom of Lancashire, though the driving rain at Spotland came the words for the very first time ...
“Richard Wood is magic, he wears a magic hat.”
The Rotherham United defender had just put the Millers in front at Rochdale with a trademark Woody goal: no thought for his own safety, stuff the weather, just header the f*cker into the back of the net.
The Millers won 1-0 that October 7 day in 2017. They would go on to reach the Championship that season and Woody’s Song would become the fans’ soundtrack for an unforgettable run-in.
Rotherham are back at Spotland tomorrow. They’re chasing third-tier promotion, Wood is still risking life and limb and the anthem is still being sung.
“It was a good win,” the captain recalls. “It was throwing it down and the conditions were awful.
“The pitch is bad again this season so it will be similar to the last time we played there. Hopefully it will be the same result, or maybe even a few more goals for us. I’d love to score again.”
The centre-half’s knack of forcing his 6ft 3in frame into the right place at the right time hasn’t gone away.
He’d hit the target four times this season by the end of January, well ahead of the schedule he set two seasons ago when it took him until early April to reach that figure.
In that campaign, he would finish with seven, helped by that famous double in the play-off final against Shrewsbury Town, and his Dale ‘notch’ was the first of them all.
“I remember my goal, a typical Woody header,” he grins. “I saw it late and just threw my body at it. I hurt myself as well because I smashed into their lad.
“I heard the song at the time. I had a little smile to myself and thought: ‘Yeah, that’s all right. They can sing that one again.’”
It was also the afternoon when manager Paul Warne first referred to his skipper as ‘Wrecking Ball’.
The Millers head across the M62 in second spot, having slipped out of pole position last weekend when they drew at home to MK Dons and nearest challengers Coventry City beat Sunderland.
Wood has been goalless since heading the winner against Ipswich Town on January 8 and is keen to have supporters in full voice again as soon as possible.
“I haven’t heard the song as often in the last few weeks,” he says. “I’m not doing enough. Freddie (Ladapo) is scoring all the time. I need a goal.”
2017/18 culminated in glory in the capital, hundreds of magic hats in the Wembley crowd and a match-winning double for the Wrecking-Ball warrior who had grabbed the Millers by the scruff of the neck in the second half of the season and carried them to glory.
Rotherham, after a run of only one defeat in their last 15 league games, are looking to avoid the play-off route to the second tier this time around and go up automatically.
With the teams around them all in good form, they want the victory, and they also have a score to settle after Dale’s 1-0 triumph at AESSEAL New York Stadium on December 7.
“It’s a difficult place to go to and a difficult pitch. It’s not in great condition,” Wood warns. “We owe them one because they beat us at New York. I didn’t play in that game because I was injured.
“We need to keep the run going. We need a win. End of. Hopefully my next goal will come on Saturday”
All together now: “Richard Wood is magic.”
Rochdale 0 Millers 1 (Richard Wood 57)
October 7 2017
Millers (4-1-4-1): Richard O'Donnell; Shaun Cummings, Michael Ihiekwe, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock; Darren Potter; Anthony Forde (Semi Ajayi 88), Lee Frecklington (Will Vaulks 4), Richie Towell, Ryan Williams; Kieffer Moore (Jonson Clarke-Harris 89). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Josh Emmanuel, David Ball, Jerry Yates.