Rotherham United: Why keeper O'Donnell is now stepping up for Millers

In-form goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell says he has finally healed the scars which saw him make a stuttering start to his Rotherham United career.
Richard O'DonnellRichard O'Donnell
Richard O'Donnell

The 28-year-old is ending the season as the Millers’ undisputed No 1 after a series of impressive Championship performances in recent weeks.

But he admits that he wasn’t at his best when he first moved to New York Stadium earlier this term because of being frozen out at previous club Bristol City.

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“I hadn’t played for a while,” he told The Star. “When I came here, my confidence probably wasn’t where it should have been because, obviously, I had a tough time towards the end of my stay in Bristol City.

“I felt I got a little bit unfairly treated there.”

After seven Millers matches, he lost his place to Lewis Price when he damaged his finger while warming up at Brentford in February.

But he returned to the side last month to cement his place under manager Paul Warne who has praised the shot-stopper’s impact in the last four fixtures.

“Since I have come back into the team, I have just wanted to prove my point and play my game,” O’Donnell said. “I think that has come across.

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“I have never really had injuries, so I was gutted, especially as it happened in the warm-up to a game.

“I found it difficult being on the sidelines. I have tried to use it as a positive.”

O’Donnell was a regular starter for the second-tier Robins after making the switch from League One Walsall in January last year.

But he fell out of favour this season and hadn’t made a league start for more than two months until Rotherham came calling in the January transfer window.

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Warne said after the 1-1 draw at Preston North End last Saturday: “Richard has really grown into his shirt. I have asked him to be brave and to come out for things. I think his distribution is excellent. The back four got a real confidence out of him.”

O’Donnell should be between the sticks when the relegated Millers end their three-year stay in the Championship with a home clash against Derby County on Sunday.

Despite his initial troubles, the keeper wasn’t allowed to remain in the doldrums by Warne, who took the hot-seat permanently four weeks ago after four months in caretaker charge.

Rotherham ended a run of 10 successive defeats with a draw on Good Friday against Birmingham City and have since beaten Ipswich Town and earned a point at Deepdale.

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“He is a great character,” O’Donnell said. “He has been really positive.

“It is not easy when you are getting beat every week, but if you don’t come in on Monday morning with a smile on your face, he doesn’t want you around. I think that has been brilliant.”