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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 4) - Diary of the 2010/11 season
Written by middale on Thursday, 13th Mar 2014 21:56

This part covers the glorious 2-0 away win at Southampton, which I mysteriously failed to fully appreciate.

Wednesday 1st September 2010

Praise the Lord I think I am cured of my football addiction after all. Here’s the latest incontrovertible proof. Last night Dale lost 2-1 away at Port Vale in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and I went to bed not even knowing the final score. I barely remembered until about 21.00 that the game was on, then did a quick score check, and wasn’t remotely disappointed to see that Dale were losing 2-0. I promptly wrote the game off, mentally consigning it to the dustbin of history.

I’ll happily draw the line at attending any game in the early rounds of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, it’s a competition that even its sponsors would probably privately admit is an irrelevance in the wider footballing scheme of things. Teams are forced to play a minimum of 7 regular first-teamers but that doesn’t prevent it degenerating into a bit of a race to see who can get eliminated first. Yet look at the attendances everywhere last night; 2,000 here, 5,000 there, even 8,000 at Southampton! There’s a reported 120 Dale fans in Burslem last night. All quite amazing statistics – have these fans got no standards? They’ve all got their crack cocaine football addiction even worse than me.

Anyway, there’s bigger fish to fry. It’s just ticked midnight. Good. Thursday always feels a bit of a landmark getting close to the Saturday main event, and Southampton away could just be a bit special. It was top of the list of big “must see” games that leapt out of the fixture list. There was plenty of trepidation that the likely outcome would be a 4-0 defeat, but suddenly now the game has nearly arrived there’s genuine hope for Dale. They’re playing well, Southampton have just sacked their manager Alan Pardew in strange circumstances and their natives are apparently restless. Just remember Dale, no fear, home or away – the Keith Hill mantra since his first game in charge 3 years ago.

Becky’s just started a new Saturday morning dance class. The timing of it makes me slightly anxious, a 12.45 finish in central Birmingham is cutting it far too fine for a smooth arrival if combined with the fortnightly pilgrimage to Spotland. I hope my options don’t end up getting castrated to the footballing wasteland that is the West Midlands. If you’re a connoisseur of paying through the nose for Premier League relegation scraps then it’s the region for you. As I’m not I’ll still be looking northwards whenever I can for my footballing fix.

Sunday 5th September 2010

It’s one day on from Rochdale having achieved a 2-0 win away at Southampton. This is being widely described on the fans’ message board as being Dale’s finest league result in anyone’s living memory. The text I received from my friend Nick seems to confirm this enormity. Not renowned for hyperbole unless it comes tinged with heavy sarcasm, he gushes “massive congratulations, what a proud moment!” before contrasting the achievement with the latest Mansfield dross he’s just witnessed at Field Mill, a 1-0 home defeat to Tamworth. Keith Hill also hams in up big time in his post-match interview, describing it as an extra special result for “little old Rochdale” which will be a “life-long memory” for the 539 Dale supporters present. Jake and me were amongst those present to witness this extraordinary triumph. So why do I feel some way short of ecstatic?

Easy. I want everything. I want Dale to live the enduring soundbites of the Hillcroft era. I want them to “football the opposition to death”, show “no fear, home and away”, and win playing “freedom football.” They didn’t. They won with a classic smash and grab raid, breaking twice to score including an admittedly glorious wonder strike from Gary Jones, but generally playing a pretty rigid and stifling 4-5-1 which inevitably surrendered most of the possession and territory. Hill pragmatically described the game-plan as frustrating the opposition and the crowd. Pragmatism sometime works in football but it still sucks.

I feel personally let down, having assured a couple of friendly Southampton fans on the walk to the ground that Dale wouldn’t just be defensive and “park the bus”. They did, and whilst this defensive strategy worked today it’s high on my list of everything I hate about tactics in professional football. Always have done, always will do.

So yes, I’ll savour the result at Southampton like every other Dale fan but I won’t be filing this one away in my list of lifelong memories. Give me the drama and glory of winning 4-2 away at Accrington last season when Dale were 2-0 down with 20 minutes to go, or the sensational 7-2 demolition of Stockport near the start of the Hillcroft reign. Give me the reflected glory of looking on opposition fans websites and seeing their appreciation for Dale’s attacking swagger and positive approach. This scenario unfolded umpteen times last season. I haven’t checked yet but I just know there will have been no lavish praise from Southampton fans. Why should there be? Football needs style and aesthetics to mean anything in my book.

Soapbox rant over. I don’t know, maybe I’m just in a funny mood this weekend. It got off to a bad start with Lyd having a go at me before I’d even got out of bed for the double crime of not washing my sweaty gym kit, and then not telling her that Jake was playing in a football match on Sunday.

The day carried on in that vein. A random collection of inconsequential niggles will now follow. I’m moderately knackered still as the drive to Southampton was pretty gruelling, made worse by traffic congestion near the ground both before and after the game. There’s ludicrous parking restriction zones everywhere around St Mary’s Stadium. The view from the away end could have been a lot better. Just like Barnsley, we were stuck high up in the corner when there was no reason not to gives us the central section behind the goal. The ground catering at half-time lacked anything vegetarian so I had to settle for a bar of chocolate. My car just about made it there and back, but this morning I discovered I’d got a puncture and I can’t sort it out today as no garages are open. I watched the highlights of the game once on the Football League Show but then the Sky Plus recording got deleted. Oh and I still haven’t plucked up the courage to agree a trip to Scotland. In one of Dale’s finest hours, my glass feels half empty.

Now if I was more of a glass half-full person I’d be making more of the weekend’s other minor positives. We were invited to a garden barbeque with some of our immediate neighbours on Saturday evening. It was a pleasant occasion where I managed to hold my own socially, admittedly by mainly sticking to my specialist subjects of geography and football. I amazed one neighbour by correctly guessing he was from Bamber Bridge when he said he was from “near Preston”. There, I knew my encyclopaedic knowledge of non-league football would come in handy somewhere down the line. Another Dad was incredulous and slightly jealous of my regular football trips up northwith Jake.

Meanwhile, back to the gripes. My enthusiasm for journalism is on the wane. I can’t convince myself that I can undertake anything out of my microscopic comfort zone, so although I could maybe do the writing, the pestering and badgering would be a pair of bridges too far. One real life “been there, done that” journalist at the barbeque wasn’t exactly gushing in her encouragement to join the profession either. She flitted seamlessly between offering dire warnings on the diminishing job market and the omni-present dangers of catastrophic legal challenge, through to some tedious blasé boasting about her previous array of travel assignments that took her everywhere “from Aruba to Zanzibar”.

Monday 6th September 2010

Just a typical stressful start to the week. It started with a telephone bollocking out of nowhere from Jake’s usually extremely jovial football coach. Jake and his strike partner in crime / best friend have both been invited to a party at Alton Towers next Sunday. This means they will miss the first match of the season. The coach is less than impressed. I try to remind him gently that he’s running an Under 11s team rather than a Premier League team but he’s not to be pacified for now. Football is king and we’re not getting our priorities right. That’s the long and the short of it, and who can argue with that?

Lyd is also on the warpath, critical of what she sees as my lax attitude to house security. This is one of our ongoing issues, I’ve left the back door unlocked a couple of times and she’s convinced there’s been a further recent transgression which I hotly dispute. She’s also had a dream we’ve been burgled. Cue a pointless argument with the positions we adopt fixed and rigid with no breathing space. Stalemate ensues: we’re both playing 4-5-1.

Later in the evening I started to feel every one of my 43 years. Blues may be pretty dull and reactionary on the pitch, but off it they’ve been white-hot proactive in embracing the new fangled delights of social media like Twitter and Facebook. Good grief, they’ve even employed a Social Media Officer, although I suspect he may in reality be some spotty over-excitable Year 9 work experience nerd type. Despite my line of work promoting ICT in education, these latest trends still feel like a foreign language to me. However, feelings of personal inadequacy soon gave way to feelings of annoyance when I browsed through the full Blues Twitter coverage of the Rochdale game, as tweeted by this esteemed employee, who is quite possibly having a conversation with himself under different pseudonyms. He ludicrously proclaimed that Blues “just shaded the first half”. What game were you watching mate? Were you there at all? Freak! Geek! You need to get out more.

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