Rotherham United v Charlton: Evergreen Richard Wood makes case for starting role

HE may have bellowed out the orders and got on the case of his fellow Rotherham United defenders on Wednesday night, but Richard Wood also knows the value of when to keep quiet, too.

Bidding for place: Rotherham United's Richard Wood. Picture: Tony Johnson

Brought in for the Carabao Cup tie at Huddersfield Town to add a dominant ‘sergeant-major’ type voice and authoritative influence to a Millers’ backline whose communication lines have been blurred at times this season, the experienced centre-half performed that role to a tee – fulfilling the organisational brief assigned to him by manager Paul Warne in the process.

Wood’s relish for the battle was all too obvious at the John Smith’s Stadium, with his old-fashioned tussle with Town’s brawny Belgian forward Laurent Delpoitre, built like a big battleship, being an absorbing one.

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Speaking after the game, sporting a minor ‘war wound’ close to the bridge of his nose, you quickly got the impression that Wood felt he was truly back at first-team level – after enduring frustration in not appearing in the club’s opening three league matches.

It remains to be seen whether his performance will warrant a starting berth against Charlton this afternoon, but Wood is cute enough to know that actions usually speak louder than words with a manager.

Banging on a manager’s door seeking reassurances or otherwise may have its place on occasions in football. But not now for Wood, a streetwise and seasoned professional, who gets the script.

Wood, 32, who signed a one-year deal in the summer, said: “That is what I am here for and why the gaffer signed me for this season – to talk, organise and communicate. I think it helps with the younger lads that we have got.

“That’s me trying to plug my starting position on Saturday! I just want to be playing and I don’t just want to be a back-up, but in that team. That is why I am here.”

On his straightforward relationship with Warne, hewn from a similar footballing cloth and someone whom he genuinely respects, Wood added: “He doesn’t say anything. Me and him get on all right and he knows he doesn’t need to do anything with me. I am old enough and know the game.

“I respect the manager 100 per cent. He has been a breath of fresh air for the club.

“It is a good place at the moment and the atmosphere around the place is good. We just need to turn that into wins.

“I have just got to be patient. There’s that many games this season in this league and with all the different cup competitions. Hopefully, I have done enough and then we will see, won’t we?

“I will keep fighting and pushing with the other centre-halves and then it is up to the manager in what he does.”

In the modern era of ever-evolving sports science techniques and enlightened coaching methods, gaining just an extra percentage point or two on your rivals is something that managers and coaches place considerable stock in.

But sometimes, keeping it simple has its advantages. For all the advancements in football, you do not find too many teams who achieve success without a ‘voice’ or two in the spine of the team, those who are able to organise and cajole – especially lower down.

Wood said: “I believe it (talking) is a big part.

“I don’t know how it works now with the generation of younger lads coming through. But I am more old-school – I talk, head and kick and am a solid defender and that’s how I want to push myself in this team and I think every team needs one. Talking definitely helps and keeps people switched on and concentrated. I try and do that the best I can.

“I don’t stop. We have a good squad with Potts (Darren Potter) and Frecks (Lee Frecklington), who are experienced lads and Will (Vaulks) is very vocal.

“I am just trying to bring it out in Semi (Ajayi) and Ben (Purrington) at the side of me and get them shouting at me. I am not going to bite their heads off if they have a go at me. If they are a bit more vocal, it will only help them in their careers.”

Wood’s desire to retain his place and make his first League One start of the season this afternoon is given a touch of extra piquancy by the arrival of one of his former clubs in Charlton.

But just as the defender acknowledges that he has no divine right to expect that he will be starting, so his former club have perhaps learned – certainly from last season’s experiences – that they should not expect a routine progression back to the Championship, traditionally their natural preserve, either.

On his time at SE7, Wood added: “It was a difficult year. I moved down there on my own, away from the missus and kids.

“I enjoyed it and living in London. But it was a difficult period and Chris Powell got the sack and there was a change of ownership and it was a bit awkward and that’s why I ended up signing here.

“They are a big club and should not be in this league. But you can’t do anything about that; you are where you are and have no divine right.

“We have got a tough start against teams who are going to be up there. We need to cut out the silly mistakes that have cost us when we have conceded, but I think we have done fairly well.

“It is a decent start and we look strong and mobile with plenty of options up front and good quality.

“I can only see us doing well if we nail down these mistakes. Tactically, we have been good as well and the gaffer and Richie (Barker) have been spot on. We are a high-tempo, pressing team who create chances.

“We have a lot of good players with good attacking options. That’s how I see it and the manager has a tough choice in deciding who he picks in every game.”