The win wall and the clean-sheet wall at Rotherham United's training gound

The win wall and the clean-sheet wall at Rotherham United's training gound

By Paul Davis | 02/03/2022

The win wall and the clean-sheet wall at Rotherham United's training gound
One of the images on the win wall. Picture by Jim Brailsford

THEY’RE running out of space at Roundwood.

In the narrow corridor leading from the main meeting room to the manager’s office are two features that chart Rotherham United’s success: the win wall and the clean-sheet wall.

After every triumph, a photograph capturing the joy of victory is hung up at their training HQ.

Following every shut-out, a snap-shot highlighting their defensive resilience is added to the ‘thou shalt not pass’ kaleidoscope of colour on the opposite side of the passageway.

“We started with the win wall,” says manager Paul Warne, a voracious consumer of leadership books and broadcasts. “It was my idea to have it.

“I saw it on an NFL documentary that a team made sure they had something that celebrated every victory that they got.

“I noticed that it was nearly always the strikers and other attacking players in the pictures, though. Obviously the pictures of them scoring or celebrating are better than one of a centre-half picking his nose on the halfway line when a goal has gone in.

“Goalkeepers and defenders weren’t getting the same exposure. That’s where the clean-sheet wall came in.

The table-topping Millers have the country’s largest number of wins and the division’s meanest rearguard. That means 29 pictures for one wall in all competitions and 23 for the other commemorating the blanks.

The images all come from the club’s official lensman, Jim Brailsford, who is on duty at every match, home and away. Media chief Sam Todd selects the best ones, which are then emailed to Roundwood where match analyst Carl Edwards prints them off and either he or coach Matt Hamshaw carefully cram them into position.

“We could do with a bigger corridor this season,” Warne smiles with quiet, arrogance-free pride.

The walls are part of Rotherham and Rotherham are part of the walls, which is the only way the boss would have it.

“I don’t want to have the place emblazoned with slogans that aren’t mine,” he says. “For example, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all’ is a great saying — and I love things like that — but it came from the NFL coach, Vince Lombardi, not me.

“I can’t nick it if it’s a bloke who has nothing to do with Rotherham United who’s said it. Photos of our wins and clean sheets are ours. I’m a bit quirky and I like little ‘culture’ things like that.

“When the lads come in every day, I want the lads to be nudged about how well they’re doing, how great they are. I hope it motivates them to think: ‘Look at Smudge on that photo, I want it to be me on the next one.’

“Whether it has any real effect on them, I do not know. They might not even notice the pictures. But I think they do notice because they’re narcissists!”

Virtually every player to have worn a Millers shirt this season is up there somewhere.

Here’s goalkeeper Josh Vickers saving a late penalty to keep Accrington Stanley goalless at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

A few feet away, on the other side of the passageway, there’s Freddie Ladapo jumping on fellow scorer Michael Smith’s back in front of 3,500 Rotherham fans as the Millers down Sheffield Wednesday in the Hillsborough derby.

It’s an ever-tighter squeeze but there’s just about room for a few more as Rotherham close in on promotion.

Captain Richard Wood, the boss of the backline, the doggedest defender, the clean-sheet kingpin, says: “The wall is great to look at when you walk past it.”

Warne’s right. The players do notice.