Captain Richard Wood has traced the origins of Rotherham United’s trip to Wembley back to the club’s ardous four-sessions-a-day pre-season tour to Austria.
Manager Paul Warne had his players hill-running at 7am in the morning and drove them to exhaustion in later workouts as he made good on his promise to make his side as fit as any in League One.
The Millers went on to finish fourth in the boss’s first full season in charge and on Sunday do battle with Shrewsbury Town in the play-off final for a place in the Championship.
“Austria is how it started,” said Wood who scored the opening goal in last Wednesday’s 2-0 semi-final second leg win against Scunthorpe United that booked Rotherham’s date at the national stadium.
“It was horrible and an awful week, fitness-wise. It was session after session. But it was good camaraderie. It was like: ‘Not again.’ But we’d come to the session and the lads would push each other on. Some were sprinting off in front and you have then got to keep up with them.
“That is how it was and it set the mentality off. The gaffer has not let up on that all season. Fitness-wise, you know what he is like!”
It was horrible and an awful week. It was session after session. But it was good camaraderieRichard Wood
Rotherham, who have defied expectations following last term’s drop from the second tier, and should be backed at Wembley by close to 20,000 followers. Ticket sales broke the 10,000 barrier earlier today during their first day on general release.
Shrewsbury finished a place above the Millers. They won 2-1 at in November at AESSEAL New York Stadium while Warne’s men triumphed at New Meadow in February.
Rotherham respect the Shrews and the job done by their boss, Paul Hurst, a former Millers teammate of Warne, but head to London in positive mood.
“Pyschology in football is massive,” Wood said. “ It is a confidence game. The gaffer says that. If you are strong-willed and keep going, you will do well. That is what this group have got.”
The skipper cast his mind back to his header from a Will Vaulks’ long throw-in on the stroke of half-time against Scunthorpe that put the Millers 1-0 ahead and turned the tie in their favour after a 2-2 first-leg draw.
“It’s a great feeling to reach Wembley,” he said. “You cannot replicate these sorts of feelings in football. To score as well ... I lost the plot. I was absolutely buzzing.
“It was a perfect time to score. I didn’t go up for the first throw-in. We took it short and we got another one. I knew there would be no time left, so thought that I may as well go up. I jogged up, then sprinted at it and threw my head on it.”
Rotherham have been allocated 25,000 tickets for Wembley. although none are on sale at the Club Shop. They are being sold online at www.seetickets.com/go/rotherhamunited or by phone on 0871 620 4024 (calls cost 13p per minute and standard network changes apply).