The Richard Wood Column ... the Rotherham United skipper on the frustration of isolation, his choice for Millers Player of the Year, the best header of a ball he's ever faced and one of his biggest fears

The Richard Wood Column ... the Rotherham United skipper on the frustration of isolation, his choice for Millers Player of the Year, the best header of a ball he's ever faced and one of his biggest fears

By Paul Davis | 04/08/2020

The Richard Wood Column ... the Rotherham United skipper on the frustration of  isolation, his choice for Millers Player of the Year, the best header of a ball he's ever faced and one of his biggest fears

LAST week I was sending you my column from sunny Majorca, this week it’s coming from frustrating self-isolation.

I’m one of the many people who were in Spain last week and were caught out by the UK Government suddenly changing the rules on travel because of a spike in Spanish coronavirus cases.

I couldn’t get back before the midnight deadline last Saturday and am now in quarantine with my family for two weeks.

It’s really annoying, particularly as I’m so keen to build on the good work all the lads have already done. We started pre-season early and got into good shape. After a quick holiday, I was ready to build on that.

The Gaffer gave the players a week off and me and my family wanted to make the most of the travel corridor that had opened up. 

We had a really good week in Majorca. After all the strain of Covid-19 and lockdown, it was a break the family needed. 

We were due to fly back around Sunday dinner-time, then I had it thrown on me early on Saturday night just as we were having a meal that if you weren’t back by midnight you’d have to self-isolate for a fortnight. 

I found out at around 7.30/8pm and it was pure panic. I was trying to find a flight back to England before the deadline but there weren’t any. There was nothing I could do. 

I ran while I was out in Majorca and I’ve been running on my treadmill every day this week. I’m working hard on my fitness but I’d rather be in training with the lads. 

I’m trying to look on the positive side. The Championship season finished only a week ago so all those teams in it this year will now be off because their players need a break. They won’t be back for their pre-seasons for a few weeks, so if you look at it like that I’m still ahead of the curve. 

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I’VE said before that it’s great to be in the Championship again because I love playing at big grounds.

Newcastle United’s St James’ Park is probably my favourite stadium of all. The Magpies are a Premier League club these days but I’ve played at their place a few times when they’ve been in the second tier.

The last time I was there was with Rotherham early in 2017 and I couldn’t believe how far away our fans were. 
Our supporters were up in the gods and they looked like little stick-people, even though there was more than 3,000 of them. The away following that day was amazing.

I’ve played there with Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City as well. I just love the size of the place and the atmosphere. The fans up there are unbelievable. They’re mad on football. 

One of my big memories from the Millers game is Will Vaulks following Jonjo Shelvey all over the pitch. Wherever Shelvey went, Will went with him. 

I also remember playing there for Wednesday in 2009 and coming up against centre-forward Andy Carroll. 
We lost 1-0 but he didn’t score against me. 

I’d say he’s the best player in the air I’ve ever come across. He’s big and strong and he comes across you. 
Most big lads like to try to ‘pin’ you — get hold of you and keep in front of you while they watch the flight of the ball and then glance it on — but he doesn’t need to. 

He’s that big and strong that he comes across you late and just drives you out of the way. You think you’re going to win the header but then he comes in from the blind side and takes it. 

At our place, Smudge likes to pin you. He gets done for fouls because he’s pulling the defender, but the defender is also pulling him. 

Wembley is a great stadium and obviously holds happy memories for me after the 2018 League One Play-off Final when I scored twice. 

Spurs’ old ground, White Hart Lane, is another good one. I played there with Coventry in the FA Cup. It was an old-school ground: really enclosed. 

New York Stadium, when it’s full and rocking, is very good. I like it more there in the Championship because the opposition supporters fill the away end. 

It makes for a much better atmosphere. I’d much rather play against a big away following as I enjoy the big occasions when there is a more of an edge to the game. When there’s only a few hundred fans in the away end you have to generate your own atmosphere. 

The Gaffer mentioned it a lot last year when we were in League One and struggled at home at the start of the season. If we’re not playing well and the away end is almost empty, you can feel the tension.

When a full away end is going crazy, Rotherham fans rise to the challenge and the atmosphere then is brilliant.

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I SAW that the Advertiser made my centre-half partner, Michael Ihiekwe, their Player of the Year and it’s a deserved accolade for him. He was our best player last season by a mile. 

He’s great to play alongside. What’s good about him? He covers for me! We suit each other and play well as a partnership. We know who’s going and who’s going to tuck in behind. He communicates really well. 

He’s got so much better in his time here since he joined us from Tranmere Rovers. Sometimes, it takes players time to bed in. Semi Ajayi was the same.

Icky went out on loan to Accrington Stanley and came back a different player. He’s grown into it and become more confident because he’s been playing well. I think he knows now he’s a good player. He can certainly play at Championship level. 

I’ve seen the Gaffer say that Icky becoming a dad has been the making of him and I think there is definitely something in that. You’re playing for more. It means more. 

When you have kids, you want to do it for them and make them proud. Fatherhood happened at the right time for him.

I had my two boys quite early. When Jenson was born I was only 22 or 23. I wanted to have kids when I was young because I wanted my children to see me play and have a story to tell about it. 

I’ve been with my missus, Jade, for forever. We started living together when we were 18.

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THE Gaffer might have a new dog but there are no pets at Wood Towers.

I’m not an animal person whatsoever and I’m not keen on dogs. 

I got bitten when I was younger. We were on holiday abroad when I was about six and I had to have a rabies test. I’ve been scared of dogs ever since. 

I’ve relaxed a little bit as I’ve got older, and I’m certainly better around dogs when my boys are there because I don’t want them thinking their dad is frightened. Dogs sniffing round my toes or running up and jumping on me just brings back bad memories. 

I don’t have a good track record with pets. Before the boys were born, me and Jade had some fish but they died quite quickly. 

I had a hamster when I was young and still living at home. That escaped. We left the cage open one night and it got out. We never saw it again. 

I’ve given up on pets now. The boys love it when we go to farms and petting zoos and stuff like that. I just stand back. They know not to ask for a dog. I tell them: ‘Move out when you’re 18. You can buy what you want then.’

It sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Six feet three inches tall and a centre-half and I have to fight the urge to run away from a poodle.




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