Rotherham United skipper Richard Wood on facing his old club in the South Yorkshire derby

ROTHERHAM United v Sheffield Wednesday. It’s the first game I look for when the fixtures come out.
Richard WoodRichard Wood
Richard Wood

They’re my old side and I love playing against them.

I was there for a lot of years and grew up at the club really after joining them as a boy.

Rotherham fans won’t like me saying it, but I still feel  a connection to the Owls. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat them, though. In a way, it makes me want to win even more.

I’ve been at Rotherham for a long time now and the Millers mean more to me than any other side. Some of the best moments of my career have been here.

We beat Wednesday comfortably last season at New York in the Championship. I’d love a League One repeat but they’ve got a lot of new players, a new manager and a new way of playing. Saturday will be a completely different game.

With fans back in at AESSEAL New York Stadium, I’m certain of one thing: it’s going to be some atmosphere on Saturday.

Wednesday are a huge club, and particularly so at this level. You could see that with the size of their crowd last weekend when they beat Doncaster Rovers ... 24,738. Ridiculous! They’ll no doubt sell out their allocation for New York.

I like their manager, Darren Moore. He was a centre-half, like me, in his playing and I played against him. He’s a nice guy off the field and knows his football.

He was my kind of centre-half, an absolute monster. Had me and him played together, there wouldn’t have been many prisoners taken!

They’ve recruited well, I think, and, obviously, they’ve taken Lewis Wing on loan. Wingy was with us for a spell last season and he’s an unbelievable player, too good for League One.

I was surprised he didn’t leave Middlesbrough for another Championship club but then again Wednesday are bigger than a lot of teams in the division above us.

It’s a shame he’s not a Miller again. We’d have loved to have him here. He was brilliant for us, and he’s a great lad off the pitch as well.

He’s a down-to-earth kid who settled in straight away and got on well with everybody. It helps when you’re a good player, mind. That gets you instant acceptance!

I’ll say ‘hello’ to him before the game and probably have a chat with him afterwards. On the pitch, if I get chance I’ll be trying to wind him up in some way and he’ll be trying to do the same to me.

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BOSS Paul Warne has acknowledged how much is riding on back-to-back derbies as Rotherham United prepare for a double-header against South Yorkshire rivals early in their League One campaign.

The Millers entertain Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and then face Doncaster Rovers at AESSEAL New York Stadium the following week.

Two wins would see them flying but the manager is well aware how much damage two defeats could cause.

“From a footballing point of view, us playing Wednesday and Rovers isn’t a problem,” he said. “You have to play them sooner or later so it is no massive drama.

“From a ‘pressure keg’ point of view, it is a potential problem, though. If we lost both of those games I’d be wincing and  thinking: ‘This is not a good start.’”

The season will be only a fortnight old when the Owls visit New York and teams are still finding their feet in the division.

“Wednesday look like being really strong this season. If they get themselves together and start playing at their best, it’s a problem, isn’t it? But it’s that early on that we will both be a little bit rusty.

“If you win back to back it doesn’t half ‘springboard’ your season. But the worst-case scenario is obviously the opposite.”

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One to watch

Midfielder Lewis Wing starred for Rotherham United last season during a Championship loan spell and the Middlesbrough player is now spending the season with Sheffield Wednesday. Millers boss Paul Warne tried everything he could to bring Wing back to AESSEAL New York Stadium, offering to pay a significant portion of the 26-year-old’s wages, but finances were in the Owls’ favour.

Form guide

Millers: WLLW

Owls: DDWW

Last time out

Ten-man Rotherham won 2-1 in the last minute at Hillsborough in March with the goal that made Freddie Ladapo a Millers legend. Michael Smith had put Rotherham in front in the Championship clash before being red-carded and a Matt Olosunde own goal had brought Wednesday back into the encounter.

Other past meetings

Oct 28 2020, Championship:

Millers 3 (Jamie Lindsay 2, Dan Barlaser pen) Owls 0

Aug 28 2019, League Cup:

Millers 0 Owls 1

Feb 16 2019, Championship:

Millers 2 (Jon Taylor, Richie Towell) Owls 2

Dec 8 2018, Championship:

Owls 2 Millers 2 (Michael Smith, Richie Towell)

April 4 2017, Championship:

Millers 0 Owls 2

Dec 17 2016, Championship:

Owls 1 Millers 0

In 47 meetings between the clubs since 1920, Rotherham have won 14 times. The Owls have triumphed on 24 occasions and there have been nine draws.

Rival manager

Former Doncaster Rovers and West Brom centre-half Darren Moore took charge of the Owls last season but arrived too late to save them from Championship relegation. He was manager of West Brom before taking the Doncaster job and making Rovers League One play-off contenders. The 47-year-old knows what the third tier is all about.

Man in the middle

Tyne and Wear official Marc Edwards was the man in charge when Rotherham won 2-1 in the last minute at Shrewsbury Town on Boxing Day in 2019.

The odds

The bookmakers are offering 13/10 on a Rotherham win and 2/1 on the Owls taking all three points at New York. The draw is 21/10.