Old boy Richie Smallwood on facing Rotherham United, still living in the town and why he left the Millers

Old boy Richie SmallwoodOld boy Richie Smallwood
Old boy Richie Smallwood
ROTHERHAM United may just spot a familiar face on the M62 as they head to Blackburn Rovers for their final Championship clash before the international break.

Somewhere on the same stretch of motorway could be Richie Smallwood, the midfielder who joined Rovers in 2017 after a successful three-and-a-half-year career with the Millers.

The former Middlesbrough man liked life in Rotherham so much that he still lives in the area and commutes from his home in Wickersley to Ewood Park.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I said at the start of last season I would see how the travelling went and there have been no problems,” he said. “I'm seeing plenty of the Woodhead Pass and plenty of the M62!”

Smallwood, who was a popular figure at AESSEAL New York Stadium, has become a cult hero with Blackburn supporters after deciding that Rotherham boss Paul Warne's dawdling in the slow lane was a signal that his future lay elsewhere.

“I have good memories of my time there,” he said. “Warney offered me a new contract in the end but I just felt that he had waited a bit too long and obviously wanted to bring in his own players.

“I moved on and won promotion from League One. Rotherham got promoted with us. It's worked out well for both parties.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It's gone pretty much perfectly for me at Blackburn. We've had success on the pitch and I've got a great relationship with the fans. I can't fault it.

“They came up with a chant for me last season and they still sing it now. It's good to hear when you walk out. It's a nice added extra.”

Smallwood hopes Rovers are on the road to more glory in this campaign. He and his teammates could find themselves in the play-off places if they can see off the Millers this weekend.

“I think it will be a tough game,” he forecast. “Rotherham's away form hadn't been great, but the last two performances - draws at Middlesbrough and Preston North End - have obviously been good.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I know their manager has them working hard. It's about us putting our stamp on the game with the quality we have.

“We're in eighth spot and with a win on Saturday we would hopefully be in the top six, so that is a massive incentive for us. Rotherham won't lie down, though. They'll be fighting.”

One Millers player who would definitely have been up for the scrap is Will Vaulks, but the stand-in skipper is suspended, robbing the contest of a midfield duel with his old teammate that could have been a touch tasty.

“It'll be nice to see Will. He's a pal of mine,” Smallwood said. “It's a shame he's not playing. It would have been a good battle. We swapped texts a couple of weeks ago about it, but he's banned now.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I'm in touch with a few of the Rotherham lads still, not all of them. I play golf with some of them now and again.”

Although the 27-year-old is a blue-and-white boy these days, he still has a soft spot for his former club.

“I always check to see how they're doing,” he said. “They look strong at home this season and obviously they'll have some confidence after two decent away results on the trot.

“I felt it was the right time to leave. It was positive for me and positive for Rotherham.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Different routes for the motorway man and Warne. But no hard feelings.

This article appeared in yesterday's Rotherham Advertiser



ALAN Stubbs had been in charge of Rotherham United for only eight Championship matches when the ‘R’ word was mentioned for the first time.

The boss was standing on the touchline trying to explain a 4-2 Championship defeat at Blackburn Rovers.

“It's a bit early in the season to be talking about relegation,” he protested on a September 17 Saturday afternoon in 2016.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Izzy Brown and two-goal Danny Ward had kept the visitors competitive. Scott Allan, one of Stubbs' marquee signings, had hardly touched the ball and was replaced after 51 anonymous minutes.

The boss was sacked fives games later, with a single win to his credit, and the Millers headed back to League One at the end of the campaign.

Stubbs isn't the only Millers manager to suffer at Ewood Park.

Rotherham travel to Saturday's opponents, Blackburn, for the fifth time in five years and have yet to return with a point.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last term, as both teams headed for promotion from the third tier, Paul Warne's Millers turned in one of their worst performances of the season and were soundly beaten 2-0 on September 26.

Things might have been very different had a Richard Wood 'equaliser' from a second-half corner been allowed to stand. His header was disallowed - wrongly, replays later proved - and the home side wrapped up their triumph in the dying minutes.

Semi Ajayi looked on from the bench and Ben Purrington was preferred at left-back to Joe Mattock. How times have changed.

Steve Evans headed across the M62 on February 10 2015 during the Millers' first season back in the Championship following their League One Play-off Final success over Leyton Orient at Wembley.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Rovers old boy Matt Derbyshire looked to have earned Evans' men a draw when he struck in the second half only for Jordan Rhodes to decide otherwise. Evans, being Evans, went down fighting. A Football League conspiracy, not Rhodes' 86th-minute goal, was the reason behind the 2-1 loss.

“We're Rotherham and some people at the Football League possibly don't want us in this division,” the manager said. “We've been on the receiving end of some atrocious decisions by officials.

“People say that decisions even themselves out. If they do, then we have got a lot to get.”

The other boss to try and fail was Neil Redfearn. He was undone by one of his own players on December 11 2015. Luke Hyam was brought in on loan from Ipswich Town and the midfielder would make only two starts for Redfearn. He marked the first of them by burying an own goal past goalkeeper Lee Camp to hand Rovers a 1-0 triumph.

If you want a Rotherham win at Ewood Park you have to go back 39 years. Jimmy McGuigan led the Millers to a 3-0 victory in September 1979, two months before being replaced by Ian Porterfield.