Richard Wood column: The Millers defender on dressing-room pranks and Jonson Clarke-Harris’s double denim

Matt Ritchie wasn't a fan of my retro boots
Matt Ritchie wasn't a fan of my retro boots
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Ask any ex-professional footballer what they miss about the game and the overwhelming answer will be the dressing-room banter.

After only a few weeks of the close season I start to miss it and look forward to going back in for pre-season.

Nothing can replicate the ‘dressing room’ in everyday life, nothing comes close. 25 men all together in a building. There are always jokes, laughs, pranks and shenanigans going down.

Results haven’t been great for the Millers this season, but you can always rely on the dressing room at the training ground to lift your spirits a little.

No matter what clothes you wear into training, somebody will comment. I’m usually praised for my attire, but there’s always a player who gets hammered. Aimen Belaid’s white jeans get some stick!

There is always something going on at the training ground and it is usually the injured lads up to no good while we are out training. It’s horrible being injured and boredom starts to set in, so what better way to occupy yourself than by causing havoc?

I’ve lost count of the number of times after training I’ve gone to put my socks on, only for my foot to go straight through! Cutting holes in people’s socks is a classic but will never get old.

It’s the same with people’s clothes. They’ll always get criticised and mocked. Jonson Clarke-Harris turned up in double denim last year and, without naming names, a player dressed a training mannequin in Jono’s gear. He wasn’t best pleased and his reaction probably made the whole incident funnier.

The banter doesn’t just stay at the training ground. It happens on matchdays too.

My taste in clothes has changed over the years but when I was younger I liked to wear something different to the norm.

At Sheffield Wednesday, the squad had to wear suits for home matches and I decided for some reason to wear a pair of black shoes that had pink straps. I look back in shame.

Anyway, I’d taken the usual battering from the lads and we’d gone out to warm-up. Hillsborough was starting to fill with fans and, as I was jogging across the pitch, I noticed the assistant manager, Russ Wilcox, pinging balls from the halfway line and trying to hit the crossbar. I couldn’t believe it. He was only wearing my shoes!

There’s no shortage of banter among opposing teams either, with Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie coming for me in our recent game at St James’ Park.

After a bad tackle, all the players congregated around the referee and Ritchie made a reference to my retro Adidas Copa boots. “What are they? Get them boots off!” he joked, much to the amusement of my teammates.

I just laughed it off and replied: “Everybody says that to me, nothing new there.”

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