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Richardson has Millers and Leeds at heart

Growing up as a youngster in Rotherham, Frazer Richardson only dreamed of playing for Leeds United.

Richardson, who attended Wickersley Comprehensive, was a boyhood fan of the Elland Road outfit and grew even closer to the club when he joined their youth set up as a schoolboy.

Progressing through the ranks, playing for England youth at every level along the way as well, Richardson was able to live the dream as he made his first-team debut as a 20-year-old.

It wasn't your average debut either, it came against Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the UEFA Cup in Israel, and was given to him by former England manager Terry Venables.

Richardson first joined Leeds - a team he supported - as a schoolboy in the mid-1990s
The right-back then made his Premier League bow the following year and was given a stern test when forced to mark Thierry Henry in an FA Cup game which Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners later that season.

A long and distinguished career with the Whites looked on the cards as he broke into the team on a regular basis following their relegation from the Premier League and scored his first goal for the club on the opening day of the 2004/05 season.

He played consistently over the next five years in a number of positions, with highlights including a play-off semi-final winning goal against Preston and being made captain in 2008.

But Richardson was playing at a club who had endured the fall-out of a period of success under David O’Leary and were languishing in League One.

Despite being keen to stay at a place where he had given his all and loved for 15 years he was told his contract would not be renewed and in the summer of 2009 left Elland Road.

Richardson went on to have distinguished spells with Charlton and Southampton before a year-long stay at Middlesbrough ended with a loan move to Ipswich.

As a schoolboy on the books of a thriving Premier League side, with the world at his feet, Richardson can be excused for aiming higher than playing for his hometown club.

After all the Millers were a lower league outfit with out-dated facilities and limited prospects during his youth.

And as his Leeds career progressed it seemed even more unlikely that Richardson would one day be representing Rotherham at all, never mind against the club he grew up at.

But after another quick rise, this time under Steve Evans, the right-back joined the Millers this summer to help in their Championship battle and as a result it pits him against his former employers this weekend.

The fact the Evans was able to attract Richardson to New York is testament to how far the club have come over a short period of time and while he may not have considered the possibility in the past, he was only too happy to come home and represent the Millers.

And despite fond memories of his time at Leeds, Richardson will only have Rotherham on the brain on Friday night.

Leeds will always have a soft spot in my heart and I have said that before,” he exclusively said.

“They were my boyhood club and it will be another important game for us. 

“I am thoroughly looking forward to it, but I am thoroughly looking forward to playing for Rotherham against Leeds and hopefully taking the three points.

“First and foremost I am a Rotherham player and that’s where my loyalties will lie. I will be working just as hard as anyone in our team to get the win.

“But I had some good times there and some bad times, but that’s football. I wish them all the best, but I would prefer us to win on Friday.

“It shows how far Rotherham have come in quite a short space of time, but we will be going toe-to-toe with them.

“The club have gone from strength to strength and it’s one that is going in the right direction.

“I was more than happy to join, it’s brilliant playing for my hometown club.

“I am enjoying being at home, I am Rotherham lad through and through so I am loving being here.”

Richardson has now established himself as Evans’ first-choice right-back after initially being made to wait for his debut following an injury in pre-season.

It is the second time in his career that a start at a new club has been hampered by time in the treatment room after his dislocating his shoulder in the first few days of training at Southampton.

Richardson played for Leeds against the Millers in the famous 2004 encounter
But the 31-year-old is fit again and has provided the answer to the precarious question of how to replace James Tavernier.

“It was disappointing to get injured in the week building up to the first game of the season and spending six or seven weeks out,” he added.

“But now I feel good and I feel fit so I am just looking forward to push on.

“I suppose I haven’t had the best of luck with injuries, when I signed for Southampton I dislocated my shoulder in pre-season and was out for three months there, but injuries are part and parcel of the game.

“Hopefully I am over it and getting fitter and fitter.”

With over 300 appearances under his belt -  the majority in the second tier – Richardson is one of the more experienced players in the Millers camp at this level.

And he knows his role in the team.

“I am 31 years old, I can bring experience,” he said. “I have played the majority of my career in the Championship so I know what it is about, it is very fast paced.

“I like to get forward and put crosses in but I have probably learned to do it at the right times and defend first and foremost.

“It is important that we defend solidly in this league and when the games start opening up I will look forward.”

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