Guy Branston column: Chris Swailes once put a dead bird in the away dressing room at Millmoor

Playing Aston Villa at home is an incredible game for the club and shows how tough the Championship really is.

It will be a buzzing atmosphere at New York Stadium and it is an unbelievable place to play. Unfortunately the opposition also enjoying coming and playing there because it is modern and state of the art.

It’s not like when we used to have teams come to Millmoor, the big boys used to come and be shell-shocked when they saw the facilities.

The pitch was on a slope, the dressing rooms were small and we used to do things that you can’t do any more. The game of football has moved on since back then, but we used to do things that made it uncomfortable for the visiting teams.

All sorts of things used to go on, Darren Garner would have a shit in the away dressing room and not flush the toilet, Breck would put the sauna on so it was absolutely roasting when the opposition arrived, we’d get the steward on the door to delay them coming in as much as he could, and we used to make sure there was no hot water on before or after the game.

There was one time that Chris Swailes put a dead bird in there! I think we were playing Ipswich and he knew their manager so he got this bird that looked like it had been mauled by a cat. Swaz was the craziest footballer I have ever met in my life, though. No wonder he is still playing after having heart surgery!

But Millmoor was our little arena and if you didn’t deal with it you would get beat and a lot of teams couldn’t deal with it.

And that’s the problem at New York, you know you won’t have much to worry about and you are not going to experience a bad afternoon.

But making the most of Millmoor was a contributing factor to our success, but it was also the recruitment of lads that Ronnie and Breck identified as having characters that could deal with those surroundings.

There weren’t any big-time Charlies, there weren’t many kids from Premier League teams. I was probably one of the only ones but I had a mentality to be able to deal with it. When I came to Rotherham I loved it.

Those lads all bought into it, it was a horrible away experience, but an unreal experience for us lads.

Saturday is going to be a real tough game. Typically, Villa have just found some form when it was looking tough for Steve Bruce, most people would have expected him to be sacked.

How can we win the game? Well, I think we might have to park the bus and hope for a set-piece. We have to play with no fear, but that is tough when they are short of confidence.

It will be a real tough game, but let’s hope we can get something out of it.

Up the Millers!

*Guy Branston played over 100 times for Rotherham between 1999-2004 and again in 2011. He is an FA approved agent, qualified coach and owner of



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