There were not many things that made Paul Smith forget for a second that he was not just a Sheffield Wednesday supporter but also the Owls’ first-team physio.

Yet a desire to stick it to Steve Evans, the less-than-svelte then Rotherham United manager who had recently skipped jubilantly across the New York Stadium turf, caused him to do just that.

“It was just absolute elation to be honest,” explains Smith of the moment he sprinted in the opposite direction to celebrate Kieran Lee’s winner in front of the travelling Wednesday supporters in March 2015. “We’d gone 2-1 down, it was actually Jordan Bowery who I was at Derby with that scored in the 87th minute. And their manager (Evans) decided to run onto the pitch, thinking they’d won it.

The former Rotherham United manager, Steve Evans (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

“Then the fourth official said to us: ‘The ref’s adding six (minutes) on, but there’s another minute because Steve ran on the pitch’. When we equalised (through Atdhe Nuhiu), I think it was on 93 minutes, I was just delighted. Take a draw, happy days.

“But then after our second goal, we just kept going forward and going forward, just hoping to get the winner. And for it to come in such a way (in the eighth minute of time added on), it was one of those occasions where the supporter in me came out, which was quite unusual for me. I’m usually a bit more reserved and get on with my job even though I’ve always been a fan of the club.”

Wednesday face Rotherham again this Saturday, only at Hillsborough this time. The Owls’ visitors are a club to whom Smith is well connected, having spent two years as head of the Millers’ medical department, while the list of his former colleagues currently employed behind enemy lines is quite substantial.

And Smith, who will not be in the dugout this time having split from his boyhood club after eight years’ service 18 months ago, suspects Rotherham could be tricky opposition for a Wednesday side devoid of form heading into the game.

The Rotherham United manager (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

“I think it’ll be difficult,” he adds. “I think Warney (Paul Warne, the Rotherham manager), who I know really well – he was a player with me at Rotherham – has got them really well organised and working hard, they’re very much a close unit. They’ll be organised and it’ll be tough to break them down. They’ll try and get at us probably in a direct manner and we’re going to have to cope with that.

“For us it’s not as big as Sheffield United, but for them it’s massive. They’ll be desperate to beat us and they’ll smell an opportunity.”

After leaving Wednesday, Smith spent a season at Bury before taking on his current role away from football, as Senior MSK Physiotherapist at his dad’s practice – Alan Smith Physiotherapy Ltd – in Rotherham, of all places. Smith Snr, is himself a former Owls (and England) employee.

The Smiths must have – surely – exchanged one or two playful words with their punters these past few days. “To be honest, I haven’t,” he insists. “We do get a few Rotherham fans, a few United fans as well, but a lot of people who come in are Wednesdayites.”

The Rotherham United striker, Michael Smith (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images)

It was at Bury that Smith Jnr became familiar with a player he feels could be one of Rotherham’s main threats at Hillsborough. A different Smith, this one a 6ft 3ins centre-forward named Michael, left to join the Millers in January and has been directly involved in 13 goals (four in this season’s Championship) from 43 games since then.

It was another of the physio’s old colleagues, the former Wednesday striker Ryan Lowe, that sanctioned the move.

“I don’t think Michael really fitted into Ryan’s plans so much,” Smith says. “He just wanted to play a different style of football. But he’s gone to Rotherham and done well.

“Michael’s the sort of player who’ll do a lot of work for you, he’s not going to get you 15 or 20 goals but he’ll do a lot of work for the team.

“I think he will (be one for the Owls’ defence keep an eye on).”

The former Sheffield Wednesday defender, Richard Wood, now of Rotherham United (Photo by Getty Images)

As for the rest of the Rotherham team, which includes the former Hillsborough quartet Lewis Price, Richard Wood, Joe Mattock and Darren Potter, Smith admits: “I don’t know (the rest of) them that well to be honest.

“I know all the staff. Mike Pollitt was a player with me at Rotherham, Matt Hamshaw was a player with me at Notts County, Richie Barker I played with in Sheffield Wednesday’s youth team – he’s a big Wednesday fan – Stephen (Gilpin) the physio who worked with us (Wednesday). I gave him an internship and then he worked with me for two years before moving on to Rotherham.”

But will he be in touch before Saturday? “No I’ll leave them to it. They’ll be busy preparing. I wish them all the best but I’m absolutely hoping for a Wednesday win, no doubt about it.”

 

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