Rotherham United: Veteran defender Richard Wood ‘a dying breed’ says Paul Warne

ROTHERHAM UNITED manager Paul Warne is a stickler for treating his players all the same – but makes one honourable exception in the shape of Richard Wood.

The Millers’ captain, defensive leader and part-time ‘social secretary’ has aged like a fine wine and is continuing to set the standards on the pitch and off it as he chases a third-successive promotion to the Championship with the club at the age of 36. Managing his working week has played a big part as to why.

Warne said: “I honestly think that he has played his best football for us in the last two seasons. He has been really reliable.

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“Physically, he is in the best shape of his life. He is in a lot less pain than he used to be, which is good. I probably manage him better as well.

Millers captain Richard Wood. Picture: Tony Johnson

“Earlier in my managerial career, I did not like treating people differently. I thought, naively, that all players should do the same. Now I think that if Woody has to train for only one day a week to perform for us, then that’s absolutely fine. None of the lads will have an issue with that because of how important he is.

“I have got a lot of time for Woody. The way he plays, it is sort of like having a captain, manager and coach out there.

“When we signed Griggy [Will Grigg], he said he used to hate playing against Woody.

“I love to hear that said about my players. He is a dying breed.

“I know a few managers I spoke to during the course of the transfer window were saying they needed an old-fashioned centre-half, someone who just does what it says on the tin. Woody is definitely that.”

In many ways, Wood is a throwback to some redoubtable figures at the back who were team-mates during Warne’s successful playing days with the club under Ronnie Moore – and he sees distinct similarities with one of Rotherham’s icons of that golden era.

Warne added: “Swaz [Chris Swailes] was like Woody. He was aggressive and a leader. Set-pieces are fundamental to us. Woody is in charge of those in both boxes. No-one argues with him.

“He gets respect for the way he is on the pitch and in the dressing room. The lads love him. He’s the one who organises the nights out, the dinners together. That leads to even more respect.

“The lads listen to him and 99 per cent of the time what he tells them is right.”