Rotherham United: Millers legend Alex Revell, the working-class hero

Alex Revell
Alex Revell

Alex Revell is now one of my all-time favourite players. I don’t remember another forward working as hard as him, or another forward with the passion that he has got. He’s found a perfect match with us. He may not be as good as a footballer as Alan Lee was, but I consider him to be more part of this club than Alan Lee is. Revell will go down as an all-time great for this football club, and the star of this period of RUFC lore. An absolutely class act.

Not my words, but a message posted on a Rotherham United fans forum last year that I squirreled away for future use.

So well done, royalfunkness, whoever you are, writing on MillersMAD on October 31 2014. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The Millers are on the brink of bidding farewell to Revell, a player who did as much as any to help the club to back-to-back promotions in 2013 and 2014, as he negotiates personal terms with Championship suitors Cardiff City

True legends are few and far between. But Revell, so memorably ambitious and brilliant with his two-goal salvo in the League One Play-off Final at Wembley last May, belongs in that category for Rotherham.

If he goes, he will depart with the admiration and best wishes of virtually every fan, teammate, official and member of the media who has been part of the crazy, unbelievable odyssey over the last two and a half years under chairman Tony Stewart and manager Steve Evans.

If he returns in Cardiff colours to New York Stadium for the Championship clash on Tuesday March 3, the reception he receives will be something to behold.

Since joining the Millers from Leyton Orient in 2011, he has touched a nerve with supporters like few others. Rotherham fans are decent, hard-working folk with no airs and graces and no pretentions to be something they’re not. They warm to players who see it the same way. They take to a grafter.

And Revell is a grafter like no other.

“I have always prided myself on working hard, even as a youngster. People may doubt you, but if you keep going and prove yourself again and again then eventually they have to admit they were wrong about you,” he said, summing things up as succintly as royalfunkness.

“Wembley was like a reward for working hard and never, ever giving up. Never in your life do you think that something so special, something you have dreamed about as a kid, can happen to you. It was a proud moment. Worth all the dark days times a thousand!”

Most Millers fans liked him anyway. They all loved him after that incredible second goal at Wembley, a never-to-be-forgotten dipping half-volley from miles out which gave this writer his best ever moment in 41 years of watching the club he has followed since boyhood.

“The support of the Millers fans has been incredible. It’s a special feeling when you hear your name being sung by them,” Revell said.

“I think people in Rotherham appreciate what hard work is. I put in so much effort off the pitch to be as good as I possibly can be on it. I think they can relate to that. I worked under Roy McFarland at Cambridge and I still remember something he used to say: ‘You can always work hard’. He’s right. It’s the easiest, simplest thing to do. It’s inside your ears, not governed by anything else.

“People acknowledge you if you work hard. Look at Paul Warne (former player and now fitness coach), for example. It’s fantastic what’s he’s done. He’s idolised by the fans. It’s not like he scored 400 goals every 20 games.

“They love him because he would run through a brick wall for their cause. I hope the supporters see me as someone similar. They’ve been unbelievable with me since I came here. Their backing is an amazing feeling. It gives you pride in yourself.”

Evans quickly learned to love him too.

Revell was already there when the new boss came in and Evans was considering letting him leave as he plotted his journey from League Two to the Championship.

The big man told the Gaffer he wanted to stay and fight and prove his worth. The Gaffer liked what he heard.

Kayode Odejayi began the 2012/13 League Two as first-choice striker, but it wasn’t long before Revell ousted him. He played a major part in the club’s first promotion season and, after recovering from a dip in confidence which brought a horrible half-time substitution at MK Dons in October 2013, was utterly indispensible in the campaign which brought promotion to the second tier.

“If he scored more goals, he’d be a Premier League player,” Evans has said in the past.

The lack of goals has been the one thing his critics - and, sadly, there have been a few dissenting voices in the last three years - have used against him.

Evans’ line has always been: “They keep criticising him. We just keep picking him.”

In 171 appearances for the Millers, the 31-year-old has scored 34 goals, including 13 last season, with three coming in the play-offs, and four so far in the Championship.

Before missing last Saturday’s FA Cup clash with AFC Bournemouth, the day news of the Cardiff interest broke, his name had appeared in 121 consecutive Millers matchday squads.

But stats will never do Revell justice. It’s that unrelenting work ethic, his pride in the Rotherham shirt,

his never-ending refusal to give anything other than his very best, all the things you can’t measure on paper and screen, that mean he will be a Miller forever.

Well, that, his big, beaming smile and the endearingly manic celebrations every time he scores a goal.

Is he a genuine Championship player? I know, because I’ve talked to some of them, that opposing centre-halves in this division genuinely don’t like playing against him, and Cardiff - a club in the Premier League last season and against whom he shone in December - have certainly seen enough to make their move.

There isn’t a trace of arrogance in this thoroughly decent man, but he has confidence in himself and his ability. “The challenge is to see if you are good enough for the Championship. I believe I am,” he said. “Like I said, you have to prove the doubters wrong.”

In proving the doubters wrong, his contribution to Rotherham United, like his heart, has been huge.

And here is the measure of his standing in the town.

Legends very often become known, such is the mutual respect and affection between fans and a special player, by their first name or a one-word nickname.

Thus, down the Rotherham years, picking at random, Wally Ardron has become just Wally, Danny and Hursty contested the appearance record, not Danny Williams and Paul Hurst, we all thrilled to Tiger when Tony Towner was weaving his right-wing magic, the Moore the goals racked up the Moore Ronnie lost his surname, and we’ll never forget the quickfire Le Fondre scoring of Alfie.

To that list we can now add one more.