From cast-off to key man ... Rotherham United centre-half Richard Wood has taken just two matches to repay the faith shown in him by new boss Kenny Jackett.
Jackett turned to the experienced defender as soon as he took charge of the Millers’ Championship survival fight 12 days ago, ending Wood’s 11-game spell in the wilderness under previous manager Alan Stubbs.
And the 32-year has responded with man-of-the-match displays against Reading and Ipswich Town as the Millers have shown a huge defensive improvement since Jackett’s arrival to lead their fight for Championship survival.
“He’s just the kind of experienced, solid defender we need for a battle like this,” Jackett told The Star.
“He’s fought back well into the team and performed in a very industrious way.
“He has had two very good games. I’m very pleased with him. He’s organised, he’s talked.”
Central defender Dael Fry, aged 19, has produced his own best form of the season since Wood was recalled to team up with him.
Jacket added: “Any which way in terms of team selection, Richard is going to end up with a young lad next to him. Goalkeeper and centre-backs are normally experienced players. He’s responded very well as an individual and also helped his partner out.”
Another youngster, Dominic Ball, 21, is the only other Rotherham centre-half who is fully match fit, with Kirk Broadfoot, Kelvin Wilson and Aimen Belaid having suffered various injury ailments.
Stubbs dropped Wood after a 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa on August 13, when Villa centre-forward Rudy Gestede scored twice, and never used him again.
The Millers player took a severe bang to the head in that game and was close to coming off but soldiered on to the final whistle.
A 2-2 draw at Portman Road saw Rotherham arrest a run of seven straight defeats and Jackett is glad of a week with no midweek fixture before Saturday’s home clash with Preston North End as he sets about bridging an eight-point gap between his side and safety.
“It’s a chance to work with the players and get my message across,” he said. “But when the game do come, we have to ready. We have to be fit enough.
“It’s a hard-running league. I talk about set-pieces, I talk about hard running, I talk about physicality. We have to get those basics first and then, after that, play the football we want on top.”
The draw in East Anglia brought Jackett his first point in his second match at the helm, but the Millers were only seconds away from a 2-1 win before David McGoldrick equalised in the fourth minute of time added on.
“Glass half-empty or glass half-full, depending how you look at it,” the manager said. “The best way to look at it is half-full, but we’re aiming for completely full.”
Meanwhile, Rotherham supporters have rallied round to help out the family of Millers old boy Gerry Gow who died last month at the age of 64.
Gow’s son, Chris, posted a message on a fans’ Facebook group asking if anyone had a Rotherham flag which could be displayed at his father’s funeral, which takes place later this week.
After a flurry of offers, a flag has been posted to the Gow family.
Rotherham’s Academy clash with Notts County in the Youth Alliance League last weekend was abandoned when Millers youngster Revarnelle James suffered a broken leg in the first half.