Rotherham United: Workhorse Revell the Wembley wonder

Alex Revell
Alex Revell
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Just 15 days ago, he scored probably the most significant goal in Rotherham United’s history to rightfully take his place among the club’s pantheon of legends.

It was a wonder strike that many observers insist is the best yet seen at the new Wembley.

How 20,000 baying Millers rejoiced as his sumptuous, dipping 35-yard volley nestled in the net at the national stadium, swinging the League One Play-off Final their way .

Yet hero of the hour Alex Revell really showed what he brings to Rotherham United on a nondescript afternoon at New York Stadium five months earlier.

And at the time hardly anyone noticed.

For now, let’s talk Wembley. Every Miller wants to keep talking Wembley and how their team beat Leyton Orient in a penalty shoot-out to win a place in The Championship next season.

“It was the best day of my life,” Revell admitted.

“For some reason I wasn’t that nervous about the game. We’d got there the hard way by beating Preston in the semi-final and I honestly thought we would do it.

“I’d been nervous before both play-off matches against Preston but for the final I was feeling pretty calm.

“There was no panic when we were 2-0 down at half-time. We just felt it was our time. We knew it would be difficult to come back but there was a belief we could do it.”

Rotherham duly overturned the deficit with two Revell goals to take the final to extra time and the rest is now shoot-out history.

Revell recalled: “We were all angry with ourselves for how we’d performed in the first half and you could feel the desire between us to put things right.

“We’d come from behind so often during the season, we knew we could do it. We knew we’d been in that situation before and had come through it.

“We knew if we could get one back it would unsettle them and that’s what happened. I scored the type of goal people say I don’t get enough of - a scruffy one, if you like - and it was ‘game on’ again.

“We got it early as well which really helped as it rattled them.”

“Then I scored that second one.”

Everyone knows about that second one. Still showing on a YouTube link or a Millers fans forum near you.

“I hit it and I knew straight away it was going to drop in,” he said.

“When you see the keeper scrambling back and diving desperately like he did, you know you’ve done something right.”

It was just reward for a player loved by Rotherham fans as much for his workrate and total commitment to the Millers as for the 13 goals he scored last season and the way he dominated a succession of centre-halves as his own form mirrored that of the team from the turn of the year, going from strength to strength.

Six feet six inches tall and a towering figure in more ways than one.

“I have always prided myself on working hard, even as a youngster,” he said.

“ People may doubt you but if you keep going and prove yourself again and again then eventually they have to admit they were wrong about you. Wembley was like a reward for working hard and never, ever giving up.

“Never in your life do you think that something so special, something you have dreamed about as a kid, can happen to you. It was a proud moment. Worth all the dark days times a thousand!

“I worked under Roy McFarland at Cambridge United and I still remember something he used to say: ‘You can always work hard.’

“He ’s right. It’s the easiest, simplest thing to do. It’s inside your ears, not governed by anything else.

“Every time I’ve been knocked down, I’ve got back up again and just kept on working.”

But we’re not quite done with that goal yet.

“I could have taken another touch and run on with it but, you know, I was feeling confident,” Revell revealed.

“I’d scored a good one against Preston in the semi-final first leg and came into this game feeling good. I’d scored the first just a few minutes earlier and just thought to myself: ‘Go on, hit it.’

“I controlled the ball - I wasn’t sure if it was with my chest or thigh, it was a bit of everything really - and just let fly. I don’t remember doing it at the time, but I’ve watched it back and I have a quick look to see where the keeper is. I have good technique and just decided to back it.

“It was such an unbelievable feeling when we won. To be honest, the day does tend to flash by, but I had my family by me and that was so important. My little boy was there. It was just special.”

It was just special for every Miller there, the glorious, almost unbelieveable high point of a never-to-be-forgotten occasion.

But what about that other day? Not the one of glory and headlines and endless Sky TV replays. The one that brought frustration and disappointment and defeat.

It was January 1 when the Millers, at this stage of the season showing genuine signs of being a play-off side, ran into Coventry City at New York Stadium.

It was business as usual as the home side dominated from the off and went in at half-time with a 1-0 lead, but then the wheels came off and by the final minute they trailed 2-1.

A late, late penalty offered salvation but Michael O’Connor’s kick was saved and from the ensuing corner the ball was cleared towards the halfway line.

With Millers keeper Adam Collin stranded in the Coventry box, O’Connor lost the frantic chase back as Coventry midfielder Carl Baker got there first and, from inside his own half, stroked the ball towards the gaping empty net.

Game over.

Yet one Millers player kept sprinting. He went from the Coventry penalty area to his own in the dying seconds of a tough, energy-sapping game, the strain etched on his face as he refused to give up on a lost cause.

Even if he had got there, the best he could have done was prevent a goal and the visiting side would have still won 2-1.

He had no chance. But how he tried. How he never gave up. It was pointless in many respects, but some great desire deep inside made him try. “You can always word hard.”

The ball crossed the line and 2-1 became 3-1 with him just a couple of yards away from the rescue act of the season.

No prizes for guessing that player was Alex Revell.