Rotherham United: Mandela's words drive Rhodes on

World icon Nelson Mandela is driving on Millers winger Alex Rhodes to new heights.

A 142-word quotation from the freedom fighter's inauguration as South African president has been tattooed onto Rhodes leg – and he draws inspiration from it every time he takes the football field.

The passage, written by peace activist Marian Williamson and recited by Mandela, means everything to the quietly-spoken former Bradford City midfielder – the tattoo taking a painstaking five hours to complete.

And Rhodes – who has fought back from several blows so far in his career – is hoping the words of wisdom help him continue to make an indelible mark at United, where he is thoroughly enjoying his football once again.

The speedy raider played a full part in the Millers' turbo-charged early-season form, benefiting from a settled run in the side which he failed to get with the Bantams.

Rhodes, who started his footballing career at non-league Newmarket Town, was pretty much on the fringes at City, as he was for large spells of his time at Brentford, his first professional club.

The 26-year-old did have some highs at Griffin Park, along with a fair few lows – most notably being forced out of the game for the best part of a year following a cruciate injury in early 2005 – but is enjoying his upward ascent with United.

Rhodes, who penned a one-year Millers' deal after being freed by Bradford at the end of last term, said: "The message really drives me on every day. A lot of the stuff on it I think quite deeply about.

"With stuff that's happened to me in the past, you can't really dwell on it. You are the only person who can decide whether you are going to be playing or not, really. You determine your own fate.

"That's why I had it done. And every day, I have a look at it and it reminds me of what I might not have, but have got. And I'm grateful for that.

"In terms of football, I just want to play games and that means being constantly involved. When I was at Brentford I was playing and then there was a change of personnel and things didn't work out.

"I left and went to Bradford, which was a new challenge and I enjoyed it. But, obviously, I didn't play as many games as I'd have liked.

"So being at Rotherham and being involved all season and – touch wood – having no injuries has been great. Hopefully, I'll be involved for the rest of the season which is all I've wanted."

Ironically, Rhodes was omitted from the starting line-up for the first time in a few months for the Millers' recent home derby with his old club Bradford when he had to settle for a spot on the bench.

But, while being a tad disappointed, Rhodes – who came on in the game at Exeter a few days later – isn't exactly down in the dumps after already starting more games with Rotherham this term than he managed in the whole of last season with City and the previous one with Brentford.

Although it did ensure that the pre-match banter with his ex-Bantams team-mate Kyle Nix was somewhat diluted. Nix, whose form was actually the main reason why Rhodes copped mainly bench duties at City last term, was also a substitute for the November clash.

But of more concern for Rhodes than bragging rights is for United to start getting their just desserts after suffering a bout of ill luck recently.

The recent draw at St James' Park brought an end to a five-match losing streak and with United fully recharged after a weekend off, Rhodes is hoping the club can kick on again.

On the Bradford game, Rhodes said: "Nixy's a good mate and there was a bit of banter to start with.

"But, to be fair, we both then knew we weren't starting. So we were just thinking 'ah well, we might get on for a bit and change it'.

"I was disappointed not to be playing – because it was my old club and the way the result went.

"But that's just football, really. There will be another day for me to play against them and the same for Kyle as well.

"We were unlucky to lose – it's just been the way it's been going recently.

"It's not as if we've been bad, just unlucky, in most games. In the Bradford game, we had 10 or 12 chances in the first half and could have scored three or four.

"Bradford then scored a really good first goal and we were thinking 'where's the luck?'

"But we'll get through it. There's no reason we should think we'll do badly for the rest of the season.

"We went to Exeter and got a point and were quite happy about that and it's just a matter of making sure we kick on now.

"We were told at the start of the season that our main objectives were, to start with, to make sure we got the 17 points wiped off and seeing where we go from there.

"Basically, survival's the most important thing.

"Our schedule's been quite hectic. Having that rest last Saturday has, not necessarily helped, but has been nice. A lot of the boys are raring to go now.

"With the cup runs, we knew it would be hard. But we can't really make excuses by saying we've played a lot of games because, at the end of the day, the more games you play, the fitter you are going to be.

"We haven't had a lot of training because of the schedule really, but it's worked out all right so far – a lot of teams in this league would have liked to have had some of the games we've had.

"We can't really complain, most players have been getting the games in, which is nice."

Felix Wiedwald

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