John Breckin and Mark Rhodes recall fond Fern memories...
Ahead of tomorrow’s tribute for Rodney Fern, former teammates John Breckin and Mark Rhodes paid their respects to the fondly-remembered Millers forward.
Breckin and Rhodes both shared the dressing room with the popular frontman during a hugely successful era for the club which saw them claim the Third Division title.
The pair were keen to express their condolences to Rod’s family and friends following the sad news of his passing as they placed on record their memories of their former teammate and friend.
“Ferny was a special player and he was a part of a wonderful season,” John Breckin recalled.
“There's no other words for how he played. He scored half-a-dozen goals in little 5-a-sides that we used to play and he just sniffed them out.
“I think Rod openly said that he wanted to drop back into midfield because he was in the twilight of his career but Ian Porterfield put him up front and he just hit it off with Ronnie.
“They were a great pairing and the goals were just unbelievable that he scored.
“He was great in the dressing room as well and a real character. All the lads had so much respect for him and he had that at all the clubs he'd been at. He really took Mark Rhodes, who was just a young kid coming through at the time, under his wing and they went on to become really big mates.
“I remember playing it through in the game against Plymouth. I saw him making his run and I saw the centre half had got mixed up and missed it. Ferny went through and he took ages to put the ball in the net. The lads asked him after why it had taken so long and he said: "I was just waiting for the 'keeper to move.
“That was him. He was just clinical and an out-and-out predator of a striker that would be worth a fortune now.”
It was widely-regarded in the dressing room at the time that Fern was quick to help the younger players using his experience in the game and one player that particularly benefited from his tutoring was the emerging talent of Mark Rhodes.
"We were roommates on away trips, and he was great company. He knew the game inside out and spoke a lot of sense. He was just a really good pal,” Mark recounted.
"He commanded respect in the dressing room. He wasn't loud, but we all respected him.
“He had such a sharp wit, he never missed a trick and he could defend himself with that. I think that is why we got on so well. We had a similar sense of humour.
"The thing I would say about Rod is that he was the most intelligent footballer that I ever played with. He may have been in his 30s when he joined us, but he was so clever on the field that he was always still one step ahead of the opposition.
“He had great speed of thought which got him in the right place at the right time, and that brought him many crucial goals. He was the perfect foil for Ronnie, they were such a threat as a pairing. Rod was the ultimate poacher, he was deadly in and around the six yard area. He was always in the right place.
"When he arrived he fitted instantly into the club. It was clear early on from his first few training sessions and games that he was a quality player. His control, movement, passing - you could tell he had played at the highest level.”
Rotherham United will pay tribute to Rodney Fern and John McGlashan at Saturday’s game with Portsmouth by honouring their memories with a minute’s applause before kick off.
Once a Miller, always a Miller.