THE tantalising prospect of the play-off wheel of fortune coming full circle for Richard Wood is something not lost upon the veteran Rotherham United captain.
Wood can still vividly recall the victorious 2004-05 League One campaign with former club Sheffield Wednesday when the young defender, then still in his teens, helped the Owls to promotion on a sweet Spring day in Cardiff in May 2005.
The more we are playing together, I think the lads are realising how good we are as a team and we are. I have tried to give them confidence all seasonRichard Wood
Somewhat longer in the tooth these days, the 32-year-old, who lined up for Wednesday in their epic play-off final win over Hartlepool United, is now eyeing a repeat show as the Millers aim for glory in their own promotion quest in the end-of-season lottery almost 13 years on.
During 2004-05, Wood learned plenty from a driven set of senior players – some of whom have gone on to become coaches and managers including Paul Heckingbottom and Lee Bullen.
Now very much the seasoned ‘head’ in the Millers ranks, Wood is the one imparting the words of wisdom these days and just as back in 2005, he spies the right chemistry in the Rotherham dressing room.
Wood, who will lead United in their play-off mission which starts at Scunthorpe on Saturday, said: “We did have a strong dressing room and had experience (at Wednesday). I was a young lad of 19 at the time and I had Lee Bullen playing next to me and that is how I see myself now as that sort of character that Lee was in helping the young lads as the experienced professional.
“We had some good characters and most of those who played in that game have gone on to coach. Paul Heckingbottom played and there was Bully and Lee Peacock is also coaching – we had a good mix. We also had Chris Brunt and Glenn Whelan, who went onto have careers in the Premier League too and, hopefully, we have players like that who I can speak about here.
“We have players who definitely have talent and have enough to kick on and go on from where they are now.”
Just as the Owls’ dressing room was self-policing and would not tolerate any slacking off during that successful play-off run, Wood believes that same mentality prevails in the current crop of Millers’ players.
Testament to that resolve and spirit arrived in the form of their season-defining 14-match unbeaten winter run, never better shown than in the last-gasp derby win over Doncaster Rovers on February 24.
Wood added: “We have got character and it has shown in the games where we have scored the late winners. Everything is geared towards going up and I cannot compliment the lads highly enough. We have got a great squad and we are mentally tough, but I think we are just growing as a team.
“The more we are playing together, I think the lads are realising how good we are as a team and we are. I have tried to give them confidence all season as they are a young group.
“But I think with the more games we play it is giving everybody more confidence. That is why we look a lot better now than at the start of the season. We are playing with more confidence, tempo and trust each other more.
“Everyone is working hard and there is nobody not putting the work in and everyone is concentrating on what we want to get to – which is winning the play-offs.
“I do shout and scream more now as a senior player, especially in games; that is part and parcel of it! But we have got good characters and nobody is taking the mick.”