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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 5) - Diary of the 2010/11 season
Written by middale on Sunday, 16th Mar 2014 19:40

This part covers a handful of home games up to the 3-0 victory over Huddersfield, which I was pretty distraught to have missed.

Sunday 12th September 2010

Rochdale are now proudly sitting 5th in League One, just how astonishing is that? Out of the 24 teams in the division, only the East London minnows of Dagenham & Redbridge FC have a smaller playing budget. I wish I’d been there to see the latest 3-2 home win over Walsall. No doubt the 10 Spotland games I get to this season with my country season ticket will all be dull affairs whilst I’m glibly passing up all these early season goal feasts. Instead, after briefly considering a short trip to Solihull Moors, a degree of discretion was applied and I went football free. This might or might not gain me a few brownie points on the home front ahead of definite matches next Saturday and Tuesday.

Obvously, going football free doesn’t extend to avoiding the Chinese water torture of watching Gillette Soccer Special on Sky. So I was subjected to another two hours of full on tension as Dale played with the emotions by going behind, surging ahead, getting hauled back, then nicking the lead again. This rollercoaster ride culminated in glorious release at 16.55 when the full time result from Spotland was confirmed. It goes without saying that as they were hanging on perilously to a one goal lead, Dale’s result was one of the last across the UK to come up with those magic initials FT.

Watching today’s Blues v Liverpool extravaganza from the comfort of my living room had the usual effect. I fell asleep. I don’t think I missed much, it was an uneventful and entirely predictable 0-0 draw. You can just imagine the inspirational McLeish half-time team talk, along the lines of: “Now then lads, it’s all going to plan. We know we can’t win this game as we don’t intend to cross the halfway line more than twice maximum, so lets just make sure we don’t lose it”. He must know these words off by heart by now as he uses them at least 30 times every season.

Thursday 17th September 2010

This Saturday will be one of those difficult times when I want to be in three places at once. It’s a close battle between a) the obvious love of Rochdale, with their fixture away at MK Dons being a mere 60 miles away from Birmingham b) the perennial lure of a new ground with Newport County v Mansfield – with Nick going and offering me a lift, or c) seeing Warwickshire in a major cricket final at Lords. I’m less than comfortable with the new ground option I’m inching towards, it’s starting to feel pretty gratuitous.

Sunday 19th September 2010

God knows how many football games I’ve been to in my life, but yesterday’s was right up there in the Top 10 least enjoyable. The new ground option of Newport’s Spitty Park was totally the wrong choice. I yearned to be watching the Dale or the Bears. Give or take the odd laborious passing move, Mansfield are unequivocal route one crap (and they know they are). The terrace was set back from the pitch by a running track. Fair enough, I knew that in advance. What I didn’t know though was that a) the terrace was also shallow without much graduation, which meant Jake was struggling to see b) the managers dugouts further impeded the view, and c) there was a bloody great net curtain separating the home and away fans and blocking the view of a quarter of the pitch. Deep joy all round. The match was desperately turgid, including a first half hour when absolutely nothing happened beyond less than riveting bouts of head tennis and brutal, attritional scraps for the second ball.

Inexplicably, out of character and out of the gloom emerged a memorable goal for Newport. A corner was stroked to the edge of the area where it was met by a ferocious first-time shot which ripped into the top corner. We just about saw it from our worm’s eye view over the dugouts. The game then reverted to type and quietly died at the 1-0 scoreline Nick correctly predicted. He knows his Mansfield Town inside out. Do worms have eyes anyway?

Meanwhile, where I should have been, Dale drew 1-1 away at MK Dons with the now prolific Jason Kennedy notching again. All pretty respectable, if not overly exciting, that ye olde scenario of procuring a point away from home, much loved and cherished by fans and managers alike (and ridiculously over-rated in my opinion in this well established era of 3 points for a win). For me it’s one of the great mysteries of football why there is such a collective blind spot about that rather crucial difference of 2 between the 1 and 3 points that are up for grabs. The confidence gained by drawing and staying unbeaten? Not for me. You’re down if you draw every game, every time. At least you can console yourself that you’ve gone down with confidence intact I suppose. Was the game at MK Dons any good though? How would I know, I wasn’t there to see it. Just write it off as another poor life decision.

Sunday 26th September 2010

Bloody draws, they’re obviously like buses. This is the day after Dale’s regulation 1-1 draw at home to Plymouth. Predictably this was not a great one to choose to attend, a very so-so sort of game with Plymouth grabbing an early lead through a goalkeeping error from Josh Lillis, then attempting to sit on it for 75 minutes with a tedious display of time wasting and tactical negativity. Anthony Elding missed an easy chance to equalise for Dale just before half time by not looking like he could be arsed to stretch a crucial extra few inches to reach the ball. If that’s your mindset mate, clear off pronto. Dale finally equalised midway through the second half through last-season’s goalscoring defender extraordinaire, Craig Dawson. The game belatedly flickered into life, but then it was abruptly all over and with a quick exit from the ground we were back on the motorway in next to no time. Most of the meaningful action was down the Sandy Lane end, far away from where we sit in the TDS. It all felt rather half-cooked and not the event that it should have been in this brave new world of League One.

Actually, I’m rather smugly satisfied that me and Jake have well and truly mastered the art of the quick escape from Spotland. This is courtesy of our military style exit manouevre which goes precisely like this:

1. The fourth official sticks the injury time board goes up for the obligatory 4 minutes. We immediately leave our seats in the WMG, ignoring the mutterings of 'part timers' from a few old timers on Row N that we are disturbing.

2. We leg it out of the ground, then quickly dart back in to the now open Main Stand underneath that peculiarly sinister looking police vantage point (obviously modelled on Crossmaglen in Nothern Ireland).

3. We march quickly pitchside down the length of the Main Stand at the front, taking care to narrowly beat the closure of the mini level crossing type gate by the half way line, guarding the tunnel where the players will imminently disappear.

4. We stand and loiter for the last minute of the match near the Main Stand/Sandy Lane corner, waiting impatiently for the final whistle with about 100 other fans with the same idea.

5. As soon as the referee blows up, we’re sprinting off down the hill, weaving in and out of badly parked cars, yellow traffic bollards and small handfuls of pavement blocking fans who’ve decided to leave early than us.

6. We reach the car in 50 seconds flat, always parked outside that down at heel looking little parade of shops midway down the hill.

7. We’re off and away, past the Cemetery Pub, down the Roch Valley Way, through all those ineptly sequenced traffic light junctions designed for maximum irritation, under the seminal Birthplace of Cooperation bridge, onto the A627(M), then right onto the M62 where the ‘Birmingham 100 Miles’ sign quickly appears.

Is this elaborate ritual really worth it? I reckon so, it saves up to 20 minutes beating the mass hoards of thousands (we wish) exiting Spotland. Is it worth recording for posterity and interest? Undoubtedly not, but its real purpose is on the home front, where if needed I can always downplay the length of time I’m away getting my football fix on a Saturday, and argue that it’s so much more reasonable and justifiable to be back home from the Dale by 18.50 rather than 19.10. As if Lyd really cares!

At the other end of the football spectrum, this morning Jake’s Bournville Warriors team went goal crazy, winning 8-3. They raced into a 7-0 half time lead, as you do in junior football, but peculiarly this was no cause for celebration. Instead, he was filled with personal angst and acute disappointment at not being among the scorers. Hmmm, there’s no I in team Jake… At least he scored the vitally important 8th and final goal from the penalty spot, which led to a minor toning down of the vitriolic self-abuse that dominated the ritual post-match analysis.

Wednesday 29th September 2010

Dale only went and beat Huddersfield 3-0 at home last night. They’ve just gone fourth in Division One. This is bloody incredible. More realistically it’ll probably be the high watermark league position they will reach in my lifetime. I have very mixed feelings on this probable defining moment of Dale history. Not being there to witness it has really got to me. I was fine at the thought of missing a 1-0, hearing that we were uninspiringly clinging on grimly against the better team, but the last two goals in injury time sent me irrationally spiralling into inconsolable regret. Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro scored his first ever goal for Dale, a speedy breakaway effort barely four weeks after I confidently predicted to Jake that he would never score. Super Chris O’Grady then left the entire Huddersfield defence and goalkeeper on their collective arses before rifling a shot satisfyingly into the roof of the WMG net. Until I saw these goals on Sky Sports News I remained agitated and tetchy. After finally seeing them just before midnight I was merely regretful. In the meantime, the messageboard cranked up the hyperbole, with everyone raving about the match and proclaiming it to be one of the finest nights ever at Spotland. Curses, I was not there for another seminal Dale moment, so somehow it didn’t really happen.

Tuesday 5th October 2010

“So tell me now, stick or twist, tell me which will it be”?

Decision time at work and the prophetic words of Mark Draper from Mansun fill my head. I could take early release and be finished at work by 1st December, or I could hold on for the slight prospect of chasing one of a dwindling number of jobs. In the next couple of days I’ll get the letter outlining the redundancy money I’ll get if I go early.

Life feels bloody tough this week. I have the mother of all colds which has prevented me getting a decent night’s sleep since Sunday. Lyd’s started her full time work and is head down tapping away on her laptop preparing for a talk tomorrow. As a consequence I’m having to remember and even do all the little arrangement things like making packed lunches for school trips that I don’t usually have to worry about. I can’t keep up with the assignments on my online journalism course which seemed a good idea at the time but is now dying a death. Last but not least, Dale meekly lost 1-0 at Exeter on Saturday so there’s been no footballing glow to sustain me through the week and improve my mood.

I learnt Dale’s grizzly fate at Exeter whilst sitting in a backstreet pub restaurant in Brixton. This unlikely setting was part of the festivities for my brother-in-law Andrew’s civil wedding ceremony. Overall, it was a strange but entertaining experience. Some stereotypically gay moments dancing to camp anthems like “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real” by Sylvester were interspersed with some impressive singing of X Factor quality by some genuinely talented female guests. Jake and his 11 year old cousin Ben (another semi-converted Dale fan you’ll be pleased to hear, I should be on commission) decided to liven up proceedings further by starting an impromptu game of street football outside the pub. Then the rain came and barely stopped for the rest of the weekend, leaving us a treacherous journey back aqua-planing up the M40, and cancelling Jake’s match on Sunday that we rushed back for. On the plus side, at least this appearance means I’ve paid my family dues and the coast should now be clear to go to Sheffield Wednesday v Dale on 13th November. Sorted.

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