The story of Joe Skarz, Richard Wood and how Steve Evans 'lost it' the last time Rotherham United played Swansea City

Steve EvansSteve Evans
Steve Evans
Joe Skarz wandered out of the dressing with a look on his face rarely seen before.

The left-back is one of the mildest-mannered, most decent men in football. This was as close as he ever came to being indignant in his time with Rotherham United.

The Millers had just lost 1-0 at Gary Monk's Swansea City in the second round of the Capital One Cup.

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New to the Championship, they had come up against a side well established in the Premier League and had acquitted themselves admirably.

Only Steve Evans, the Rotherham manager, wasn't having it.

“He's hammered us in there,” declared a bemused Skarz who'd been pitched into second-half action from the bench and then kept behind closed doors with the rest of the squad.

It was a long time after the final whistle when he stopped on the touchline at the Liberty Stadium for a post-game chat.

“I thought we'd done all right as well,” he said. “Have you seen some of the players in their team? The gaffer's had a right go.”

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The two clubs do battle again this Saturday for the first time since that August 26 night in South Wales in 2014.

Times and circumstances have changed. Now the Swans and the Millers find themselves in the same division as they prepare for their second-tier encounter at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Some of Swansea's stars are long gone. So too is Evans. He kept Rotherham in the Championship that season. The task in 2018/19 falls to Paul Warne.

Joe Skarz

Evans took liberties at the Liberty. He emerged, still shouting, refusing to undertake his usual press duties.

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Assistant Paul Raynor addressed the gaggle of journalists as the boss paced up and down pitchside, raging at everyone and no-one in particular.

Richard Wood was the next player to sidle up. He had a problem. At the time, he was living in Leicester and was hoping Evans would allow him off the team bus near his home rather than insist he travelled all the way back to the New York.

“He's not in the best of moods, is he?” said the big centre-half. “I think I'll ask him in a bit.”

The Swans' class of 2018 arrive in Rotherham in eighth place, two points away from the play-off places, with an unlikely match-winner in their ranks.

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Daniel James doesn't have the appearance of a world-beater but teammate and striker Oli McBurnie reckons the 20-year-old left winger can terrorise the division.

“He’s just incredible,” six-goal McBurnie said. “For the last three games on the trot, he's taken the match by storm. There’s not a defender in this league who is capable of dealing with him when he’s on his game.

“I’ve seen him do that for the last three years against under-23 teams. The question was always: 'Can he do it at first-team level?'

“I think he’s now showing everyone that he’s more than capable of doing it at this level and even higher.

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“Mind you, he’s terrible in training! He’s one of the worst. You never want to be on his team in training. He looks like this little, small, podgy kid who shouldn’t be able to run and then he gets into a game and he’s ridiculous.”

More famous names were on show in that Capital One clash four years ago.

Jefferson Montero, fresh from his World Cup exploits with Ecuador, was unplayable on the left flank. Swansea brought on Jonjo Shelvey, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wilfried Bony.

Bafetimbi Gomiz, after five years with French side Lyon, scored his first goal for his new club after 22 minutes.

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Wood remained agitated: “I can't bottle it. I'm 29. I'm a senior pro. I have to ask him.”

Then Evans came into view again.” Oh no, he still looks angry.”

Richard Wood

The Swans were worthy winners that evening. There was always a sense that they had another gear if they needed it.

Kari Arnason was immense in a midfield role for the Millers. He could have comfortably stepped into the Swansea team and not looked out of place.

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Conor Newton, then a great Rotherham hope following his switch from Newcastle United but now plying his trade in the National League with Hartlepool United, missed a good chance late on. Evans was still talking about that two days later when he was back on the media beat before a 2-0 Championship home loss to Brentford.

Wood, meanwhile, has never flinched from confrontation in his career. He took a deep breath and prepared for battle.

“Right, I'm going in,” he declared with more authority than he was feeling and disappeared into the Welsh night in pursuit of his manager.

Monk is no more and neither is the Swans' Premier League status, although they're strong contenders for promotion back to the top flight.

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Their results have been mixed since they won 2-1 at Sheffield United on opening day. However, their most recent two outings have brought home victories over Blackburn Rovers and Reading respectively.

“Swansea have done well,” Warne said. “They haven't conceded many goals and they play in a really expansive way. They have a real confidence about them. It should be a good game.

“James is not bad, to be fair. He's come through their academy and he's keeping out established players at the moment.

“I really like McBurnie. I tried to sign him on loan here. He works really hard up top. He's their stand-out player.

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“They've got a bit of everything really. They have a nice combination of old and young. They have a good little squad.”

Just in case you are wondering, Wood got off in Leicester.