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A Dale Fan Abroad - Introduction
Written by DaleAddict on Sunday, 29th Jul 2018 11:41

My 11-month old son is taking his afternoon nap. My wife is sunning herself on the balcony of our apartment in Salzburg, Austria. It’s the height of summer, but I have only got one thing on my mind; Burton Albion vs Rochdale.

In a week’s time the football league season kicks off and for the Rochdale fan abroad there is nothing to do but sit and ponder the prospects for the new campaign. The World Cup already seems like an age ago, and I’m in that stage of preseason excitement during which watching Arsenal vs PSG in a friendly on a suspect internet feed seems like a perfectly viable and productive use of my time. Burton can’t come soon enough. In short, I’m excited, nervous and ready to continue a lifetime love affair with Rochdale Football Club. In my excitement, I have decided that this season, for the first time in eight seasons, I want to write about my football team.

During those eight seasons I have lived in Salzburg and found myself increasingly removed from events at Spotland. This blog, in its mediocre written form, is my attempt to reconnect with my hometown, my beloved football club, and the many Rochdale supporters I call friends, and to share what it’s like to follow a League One side from hundreds of miles away. With each passing year I seem to miss home less and less, but I never miss it more than on Saturday afternoons between 4 and 6pm.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some wonderful places over the past eight years, but I’d still choose Spotland over anywhere else. (As long as the Spotland experience also includes several pints in the Cemetery Pub. The beer garden at the Augustiner Brewery in Salzburg is an excellent Saturday afternoon alternative to the Cem, but the locals don’t have the knowledge, and I don’t have the German linguistic ability, to mull over the finer details of a 1-1 draw against Walsall over a litre of Mӓrzen Bier.)

So what about the season ahead? During preseason Dale fans abroad can only rely on snippets of information from across the various websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts, but it sounds like we’ve done well in all of the friendlies and are continuing to ride the momentum of Joe Thompson’s famous winner against Charlton on the last day of last season.

Of course, I would take defeats in all of the preseason games in exchange for three points against Burton, but football doesn’t work like that, and, from what I can gather, we’re in the best possible position to win the game next Saturday.

The first game of the season is always a bit unpredictable and on paper an away game against a side that played Championship football last season is a tough assignment. But I’d say this is as good a time as any to play Burton, and just like we’re still riding high on the back of the dramatic final day of last season, hopefully Burton will be suffering something of a relegation hangover before they settle back into the demands of League One football.

Of the many scenarios that could befall Dale this coming season, I keep coming back to one question: Would we take mid-table obscurity, given we only survived on the final day of last season? I’ve decided, maybe from a selfish perspective, since I’ll only attend a handful of matches during visits home, that my answer to the question is an emphatic ‘no’. I would never take relegation over a mid-table finish, but I’d take 50 seasons like last year over one season of mediocrity.

The Cup run and the way we stayed up gave the supporters a season that most will never forget, while, to me, a mid-table finish just sounds terribly boring! I think it’s easy for an exiled supporter to say that, simply because, when Dale are playing badly, it’s all too easy for me to look the other way. I already can’t remember the awful draws and defeats of last season because I can look at the result on Soccer Saturday or Final Score, swear at the TV, and then get on with my life.

Whereas I can remember the Tottenham and Charlton games as if they were yesterday and they will go down in my own personal Dale history, even though I was only able to watch them on a small screen in my living room in Austria.

I have no doubt that if I were a season ticket holder there were times last season when mid-table obscurity would have sounded like some sort of footballing paradise. I’d be interested to hear the realistic hopes and expectations of other supporters for the season ahead.

That being said, I think it’s the duty of every fan before the first game of the season to dream of winning the league by a record points total. As unrealistic as that might be, it’s surely better than going into a game against Burton Albion and hoping that, nine months later, we’ll finish 14th.

More importantly, I wish every Dale fan a wonderful new season, the best of health and good cheer (hey, if you can’t say it before the start of the season, then when can you say it?!?), and safe travels if you are heading to Burton next Saturday.

Up the Dale

Jan Harwood

About the Author: Jan Harwood has been a Rochdale fan for all of his 32 years. He followed the team home and away until he moved to Salzburg, Austria in 2009. He has been spreading the good word of Dale internationally ever since. If you want to read more, he writes his own blog about sport and sports literature at www.headinabookeyeonthegame.com.

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