Rotherham United star man Richie Smallwood returns to his old club for the first time this weekend aiming to secure the three points he believes will seal Championship survival.
The 24-year-old midfielder, a clear favourite to win this year’s Player of the Year award, will be a key player in Saturday’s clash with Middlesbrough, the outfit where he grew up before moving to the Millers on a permanent deal last summer.
Steve Evans’ side head into The Riverside showdown seven points clear of the drop zone, and Smallwood reckons safety is within touching distance with five matches to go after Easter Monday’s crucial 1-0 home triumph over Brighton.
“It’s not quite done. I think one more win should do it and hopefully we can achieve that sooner rather than later,” he said. “We’re capable of it.
“The Brighton win was a big lift for everyone. I’m pleased with how it went. It was a good performance, very high tempo. If we keep playing like that, I don’t think we’ll have any worries.”
With Boro eyeing automatic promotion, Smallwood knows how tough Saturday will be, but he has more than just playing well on his mind at the stadium where he is still a popular figure.
“I’ve got a few friends there. A couple have left, but I still know a lot of the people at the club, the players, the coaching staff and the other staff behind the scenes. I’m looking forward to seeing them,” he said.
“I’m after a few tickets, a few complimentaries, so I’ll see who I can ask and get a few of them! I’m friends with a couple of the young ones, Adam Reach and Ben Gibson, and even a few of the older lads - Chris Leadbitter, Dean Whitehead. I’ll be drafting a few texts, I think!”
“It will be the first time I’ve gone back there. They’ve had a very good season. They’re hard to beat, hard to score against, but I think with the high-tempo game we play, if we can get it right, we can cause them a few problems
“I’m looking forward to it and it will be a proud day for me and my family.”
Leadbitter misses out on Saturday for Boro through suspension.