Richie Smallwood has glorious memories of Wembley, but says helping keep Rotherham United in the Championdship would top the unforgettable League One Play-off Final success last May.
The midfield man, who returns to former club Middlesbrough with the Millers this afternoon, scored one of the spot-kicks in the penalty shootout against Leyton Orient which saw Steve Evans’ men clinch their place in the second tier.
“I think if we can stay up this season it will even exceed last season,” said the 24-year-old who has become a fans’ favourite this season.
“The difference in level and the quality of the opposition would make it a bigger achievement if we can stay in this division. Staying up would even beat Wembley, I think, although that was a great high.”
Boro were 3-0 winners when the two clubs met at AESSEAL New York Stadium, but the Millers had substitute Jordan Bowery wrongly sent off in the first half and played most of the match with 10 men,
Rotherham head into today’s clash one place above the drop zone with five games remaining, and Smallwood is hoping to impress at the club where he grow up and is still fondly remembered by Boro supporters.
“I think I’ll get a good reception,” he said. “I’ve got to put past loyalties to one side for 90 minutes and afterwards I’ll pay my respects to the supporters.
Boro boss Aitor Karanka is aware of the qualities of the player he sold to Rotherham last summer.
“We know Richie Smallwood, we know their style,” he said. “We beat them 3-0 earlier in the season but they were playing with 10 men for I think 60 or 70 minutes. When we were winning 2-0 they had a chance to score. It was a difficult game until the last moment.
“My first concern about Rotherham is their position. They are fighting to stay in the Championship.
“They are a team who like to play long balls, they are a good team, they are organised and it will be difficult.”