Rotherham United: Richard Wood column ... the Millers defender reveals what goes on behind the scenes when players are injured

The Millers take the lead against Forest
The Millers take the lead against Forest

The Millers battled for a point against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night and I believe it was the best performance of the season so far.

After having Darnell Fisher sent off, and then conceding a goal straight after, we showed great spirit and endeavour to get the equaliser. Watching from the stands, you could see the effort and commitment by all the players, and this was rewarded with our late leveller, which was the least we deserved. If we produce more performances like that, then I think we’ll be in for a good season.

Joy near the end as the Millers hit back for 2-2

Joy near the end as the Millers hit back for 2-2

I haven’t been in the squad for the last two home matches due to injury and it’s so frustrating not been involved. I took a nasty bang to my ribs when landing awkwardly in a behind-closed-doors game against Notts County last week. I’ll be back in training next week but I know I’ll have to train and play through pain for the foreseeable future. It’s one of those injuries that just doesn’t get better over a few days.

Football fans and people outside the bubble of a football club probably don’t realise that when they watch a football match some of the players won’t be 100 per cent fit. They’ll be playing with niggles, tight muscles or small injuries that don’t stop you from participating.

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes from the medical team to get the players prepared and ready for a match day. You often hear of players passing a late fitness test, and probably they haven’t trained all week. The key to success in football is confidence and momentum, so if your top goalscorer and likely match-winner who has played every game is struggling to be fit for Saturday, then you give him as much recovery time as possible. The main thing is to have him fit to play come kick-off.

Obviously, I am not the top goalscorer, but I have played many games in my career a lot less than 100 per cent fit. My mentality is that I don’t want to lose my place in the team, and as long as I know I can perform and not let my teammates down I will play.

As an example, while on loan at Fleetwood last season, I had two bruised big toenails that became badly infected. The pain when I put on my boot was excruciating so I had injections before matches in the big toe joints, called a block, to numb my big toes. I was running around the football pitch with no feeling in my toes. (Some of the lads might joke that it looks like I play with numb toes every game!)

It was strange but I managed to get through the game and I actually played quite well! The major problem was in the second half when the injections started to wear off, but the adrenalin got me through. The downside and negatives to this are that it made the toes worse. They were throbbing over the next few days and I ended up needing injections for the following games until they improved.

When you are struggling to be fit but desperate to play, it’s definitely a tough call, knowing you could cause more injury and be out for a longer period.

It’s a dilemma that happens at football clubs every week but is rarely reported about.

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