GIVEN the type of player and character he is, it will come as no surprise that Richie Smallwood is keen to get one over on former side Rotherham United this afternoon.

But not even what he describes as a disappointing end to his time at the New York Stadium can detract from three-and-a-half years of great memories for the all-action midfielder.

A promotion winner in 2014, he gave blood, sweat and tears for the Millers during his 133 matches. But farmed out on loan last August before being recalled in January, a contract stalemate allowed Rovers to move in and land their man in June.

Of his final months at Rotherham, he told the Lancashire Telegraph: “They could quite easily have kept me. They had a full six months to take up a year’s option on me but at the end of the day the manager didn’t quite want me and that’s fair enough.

“They did offer me a contract but they could have just taken up my option without offering me a new contract and they didn’t do that.

“It was disappointing because I felt I was playing well towards the end of the season and it was the first time I had been in the situation where my contract had come to an end.

“I didn’t like the uncertainty so it was a bit disappointing at that point but I had a good three-and-a-half years, made some great memories, we had some great times and it was just unfortunate how it ended especially with relegation.”

Smallwood has become a hit with the Rovers fans since his summer move but it is likely to receive a warm reception from all quarters this afternoon. He featured 20 times in the promotion campaign of 2013/14 after arriving in January, initially on loan and scored from the spot in the play-off final penalty shoot-out win over Leyton Orient.

The Millers twice survived relegation from the Championship but weren’t able to make it three times lucky last time around. Smallwood however was part of a memorable period for the ambitious Millers following their move to a state-of-the-art new stadium in 2012.

His departure was announced through a heartfelt social media post but all parties will consider themselves happy since, with Darren Potter brought in to take over Smallwood’s role in the middle of the park, while his impact at Ewood Park can’t be underestimated.

Smallwood, who has made Rotherham his home, said: “It was very good for the club it just didn’t quite move forward as much as everyone had hoped.

“The stadium is great, the club is great but the facilities at the training could maybe have been improved especially over the three years we were in the Championship, they stayed the same. We got the hard work done around the place and picked up some good results over the past three seasons.

“Rotherham are very good at home, the fans are good and on New Year’s Day there should be a good crowd from both sides and hopefully one hell of a game.

“I had some great memories at Rotherham and that was my club for three-and-a-half years and I gave my all for that club. But now I’m at Blackburn and I’ll be hoping to get one over on them.”

Steve Evans led the Millers to back-to-back promotions but departed in September 2015.

A host of short-term appointments soon followed, with Neil Redfearn lasting just 21 games before Neil Warnock saved them from relegation in 2016.

Alan Stubbs took over the reins in June of that year and was in charge when Smallwood was sent out to League One Scunthorpe.

After Stubbs’ departure five months later Paul Warne was placed in charge, quickly moving to recall Smallwood from his time at Glanford Park with the midfielder going on to play 21 more times for Rotherham, including a 1-1 draw with Rovers in February.

Warne was fitness coach under Evans prior to taking the top job and when asked if the 44-year-old can lead the Millers back to the Championship, Smallwood said: “Time will tell – they had the same aim as us at the start of the season.

“They are a few points off it but especially at home they are very good and it’s a long season and they can certainly pick up points in any games.

“If they can improve their away form a little bit they could be pushing right up there and I’m sure every team that has been to the New York would say it’s one of the hardest places in the division to go and try and win.

“I think he’s doing a good job, with a few additions maybe, because I know he has a few injuries and suspensions, they could have a very good second half of the season and there’s no reason why they couldn’t do it.”

Smallwood has been an ever present in the league since his Rovers move and has overcome some established names in Peter Whittingham and Corry Evans, a Championship regular and Northern Ireland international, respectively, to cement his place in Tony Mowbray’s side.

Mowbray worked with his fellow Teessider at Middlesbrough and has been impressed with his impact.

So what has Smallwood made of his Ewood spell?

“It has probably surpassed expectations, obviously I believed in myself but the squad is very strong.

“They had Corry Evans, brought Peter in, brought Rekeem (Harper) in from the Premier League – I know he’s very young but he had still played in the Premier League.

“I think my performances have merited me getting the shirt and long may it continue because a couple of average games and you could be out of the team and if the team wins you have no argument.

“I know my game, I know my limits and if that’s what I get called them I’m happy as long as I’m playing and doing my job for the team.”