Ten years of AESSEAL New York Stadium and Richard Wood has been there for nine of them. Rotherham United's club captain takes a fond look back ...

The Millers skipper's weekly Advertiser column.

I CAN still recall my first experience of New York Stadium.

It was just before I signed for Rotherham United and I was being shown around by Paul Raynor who was number two to manager Steve Evans at the time.

There were other offers on the table for me as I was about to leave Charlton Athletic but I looked at the place and thought to myself: “Yeah, I can really see myself playing here.”

I’m mentioning this because last week there was a dinner to mark the ten-year anniversary of New York becoming Rotherham United’s home.

I’ve been there for nearly all of those years. The old girl opened in 2012 and I came to the club in 2014 in the weeks after promotion to the Championship had been secured.

My first league match there was a 2-0 August defeat against Brentford. I played all right but I injured my knee and had to have an operation that kept me out until January. Then I had to go out on loan to Crawley Town to get game-time.

Evans was picking Kari Arnason and Craig Morgan, who had both played in the League One promotion, at centre-half and Kirk Broadfoot and I were the two new lads trying to force their way into the side.

The New York match from that season that really stands out for me is the Reading one on a Tuesday night in late April when we secured our survival with a 2-1 win. I was back from Crawley by then and I came on for Broady in the 62nd minute and gave a good account of myself.

We were leading through Matt Derbyshire and Lee Frecklington and then we saw out the game after the Royals pulled a goal back late on.

The atmosphere was amazing. I remember going upstairs, standing on the West Stand balcony and celebrating with all the fans who had come on to the pitch and were all gathered below us.

Every time I’ve run out at New York in my nine years as a Miller I’ve always got a buzz. That’s why I’m still playing at the grand old age of 37.

One of the reasons I like the stadium is because the fans are really close to the pitch and make a right old racket. It’s a brilliant arena. Rotherham did the sensible thing and didn’t make the capacity too large so for a lot of matches the stadium is close to a sell-out.

When I’m in the team, I come out of the tunnel, give my kids and missus a wave and then get stuck into the game. I like matches where the opposition fill the away end. Our supporters respond to that and it creates an incredible atmosphere. Away players comment on how good New York is to play at.

Maybe my greatest recollection of all comes from a fixture I didn’t even play in: the 3-3 draw with Derby County in March 2016 when we came back from 3-0 down in the last eight minutes.

It was during our great relegation escape under Neil Warnock. I was in the team for most of Neil’s 16 matches in charge but I must have been injured for that one because I was sitting in the press box working as a co-commentator for the club’s online channel.

It was just mad, I’ve never seen anything like it. I was out of my seat when Leon Best stuck in the equaliser  in the last few seconds. Utter pandemonium!

I’ll tell you something: had the game lasted another two more minutes we would have won 4-3 because Derby were ‘gone’.

The New York goals I scored earlier in the campaign are the highlight of this season. I got four in three matches, one against Reading, two against Birmingham and another against Watford. My two lads had persuaded me to do celebrations taken from the social-media site, TikTok, and those daft dances I did seemed to go down well with everyone.

I’ve always enjoyed it when the crowd have sung the ‘Richard Wood is magic’ song. I don’t encourage it or milk it because I’m just not that sort of character but it’s always given me a little tingle when it’s come booming out of the North Stand.

It’s a lovely thing. I’ve never known how to react to it so I haven’t really reacted at all. However, I’d like fans to know just how much it has meant to me.


THE centre-half I’ve admired most in my time in football is Rio Ferdinand.

He was unbelievable for West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United and England. I never tried to model my game on him because I wasn’t good enough to.

Rio was like a Rolls-Royce. He strolled around looking so comfortable in possession but could also really shift when he needed to. He did all the ‘dirty work’ defending that was required of him and, on top of that, could play better than any other central defender in the Premier League. He was pure class.

In more recent times, people have called Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk a Rolls-Royce as well, but Rio has the edge on the Dutchman for me.

It may surprise you to hear that I began my career as a central midfielder. That’s the position I played when I first joined Sheffield Wednesday as a ten-year-old. The Owls then put me at left-back because I had a decent left peg and I played in that role for quite a few years as I moved through the age groups.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I had my first outing at centre-half. I was already tall by then but I was as skinny as anything: a 6ft 3in rake. When I was 17 or 18, I started working in the gym a lot more and began to fill out.

I took to being a centre-half straightaway; it just suited what I was good at. Although I still filled in at left-back quite a few times afterwards, I knew I’d found the position where I would spend the rest of my career.

No-one has ever described me as a Rolls-Royce, by the way. I’m not sure what vehicle I should be compared to, to be honest. I’d settle for a tank!


THIS season is all about staying up.

We can look to build from there but, first and foremost, we must maintain our place in the Championship.

We’ve put ourselves in a good place. Had you said to us at the start of the season that we’d be this many points clear of the relegation places with only nine games left, we’d all have taken it.