The player who has gone from outcast to inspiration is hoping his commanding performances in Rotherham United’s survival charge will be rewarded with a new deal.
Defender Richard Wood spent nearly two seasons being overlooked by previous managers, but has flourished under Neil Warnock and been a key man in the Millers’ 10-match unbeaten run which has taken them to the brink of Championship safety.
Rotherham will guarantee their place in the second tier if they avoid defeat tomorrow at Wolves, where Wood, described as “outstanding” by Warnock in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town, will continue his partnership with Kirk Broadfoot in the heart of the defence.
“I’m hoping to stay,” said the 30-year-old, loaned out to League One Crawley Town and Fleetwood Town by Steve Evans and sent to Chesterfield for a temporary spell by Neil Redfearn.
“We’ll see what happens with that. The main thing to start with is staying up. That’s what we’re looking at. But I am out of contract at the end of the season and I want to stay.”
Warnock, who turned to Wood as soon as he took over in February, reckoned the combative centre-half held the Millers’ defence together against the Terriers,
Wood said: “I’ve been desperate to play since I came here. I was injured at the start. But from that point on I didn’t get a chance. I’ve been in the office plenty of times.
“I’ve had a good career in the Championship and played a lot of games. I was confident in what I could do if I was given the chance. Neil’s given me that chance and hopefully I’m proving to everyone here that I’m a decent defender in this league.
“I know my strengths. The gaffer will say ‘head it and kick it’ and that’s what I’m good at. We’ve been getting results and keeping clean sheets. We’ve not been conceding many goals at all.
A win or draw at Molineux would see Rotherham exceed the 10-game unbeaten run at this level under Emlyn Hughes in the 1981/82 season and match the achievement of the 1966 team who went 11 fixtures undefeated between February and May of that year. The Millers put together a 16-match sequence in the second tier in 1959.
Warnock, whose short-term deal runs out at the end of the season, has set his players a target of remaining unbeaten in their final three encounters.
“That’s what the gaffer is on us to do,” Wood revealed. “He wants to get a result in every game.”
Warnock has said he will have another year in management although he has yet to confirm whether it will be with the Millers.
Yorkshire-born Wood says his ideal scenario would be for him and his boss to remain in tandem at AESSEAL New York Stadium.
“I’d love Neil to stay as well,” he said. “He’s done a great job. Everybody at the club wants him to stay.
“Before Rotherham, I was with Charlton in London, a long, long way away from my family. I’m settled here now, back where I’m from. If I can get something sorted out, that would be good.”