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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 7) - Diary of the 2010/11 season
Written by middale on Wednesday, 26th Mar 2014 23:45

This part covers the dubious pleasure of listening to a dreadful Radio 5 live commentary on Dale v FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup, and traffic affected failures to get to the Dag & Red (home) and Leyton Orient (away) games.

Saturday 23rd October 2010

What’s the best way to forget about my imminent unemployment? Football of course. Dale are at home to Dagenham & Redbridge, and it looked like the coast was clear to go. Lyd didn’t take Friday’s confirmation of my intentions too well but mellowed by this morning so off I set with Jake and Ben at 12.30. A schoolboy error really, far too late to set off especially as I’d also forgotten this was the start of half term week. Sure enough, I hadn’t even made it passed Walsall on the M6 before the dreaded flashing sign came up, proclaiming “Long Delays Junction 15-19”. Bloody hell, that’s about a 30 mile stretch, Route 66 across America is probably shorter. Assuming that this information was true, there was officially no chance of getting to Dale. Bother. I had my niggling doubts though, suspecting the existence of occasional phantom traffic jams, cynically created to lure you onto the M6 Toll Road. Still, the dire warnings kept on flashing up every mile, so a hastily formed Plan B kicked in when I got near to Stafford– change tack and take in a gratuitous new ground instead at Chesterfield.

This seemed like a good idea, but schoolboy error number 2 was underestimating the required lengthy plod across Staffordshire before reaching the faster roads in Derbyshire. After the dual delights of a dramatic hailstorm and a convoy of tractors near Uttoxeter, all seemed just about OK until the traffic completely snarled up in the godforsaken ex-mining village of Clay Cross. After further torturous weaving around more villages that could easily double up as a set for “The Land That Time Forgot”, we finally made it to Chesterfield v Shrewsbury at 3.15. Quickly relieved of 40 quid for the 3 of us, we took our seats. Oh well, at least the score was still 0-0.

At least this dismal story had a happy ending of sorts. The game ended up as a 4-3 goal feast which was great, although in reality not quite as exciting as it sounds. Chesterfield were 4-0 up with 10 minutes to go before wobbling badly. We were much nearer the wrong end for 6 out of the 7 goals, including a 35 yard screamer into the top corner for Chesterfield’s third in a late first half purple patch. Still, I can’t really grumble too much. Our late appearance ensured the perfect and perfectly suspicious symmetry of a 7,777 attendance including 666 away fans.

Of most interest to me and Jake was the appearance of two ex-Dale loanees. The long haired rocker lookalike Tommy Lee was in goal for Chesterfield (rather than playing guitar for AC/DC), three years after being the penalty saving hero of Dale’s glorious Play Off semi final victory over Darlington that sent them to Wembley. Then up front for Shrewsbury was the artist formally known as Temitope Odebayi, on loan to Dale as recently as the closing months of last season and generally highly clumsy and ineffective whenever we saw him. Yet for most of this match his first touch, passing and vision were all excellent. Very strange, I suspected a doppelganger was at work.

Of most interest to the lady in the row in front of us was the performance of Drewe Talbot, the scorer of Chesterfield’s first goal. I’m not sure whether she was his wife, girlfriend or bit on the side, but whatever her status she was indiscreetly brandishing her Blackberry in our faces at half time, containing various text gems like “Lets get naked tonight honey”. One assumes the said act took place but it was nearly put on hold in the second half, as Mr Talbot nearly incited a riot by gesturing aggressively to the Shrewsbury fans in the build up to their fourth goal.

And what of Dale? They won 3-2 and played really well by all accounts. Wish I’d been there, living and caring about the result. Home is where the heart is. Well, in my case Spotland, which is 103 miles away from my actual home in Birmingham.

Sunday 24th October 2010

I ran the Birmingham Half Marathon this morning in 1:35:56. I have to say I’m bloody pleased with this time as it beats my previous personal best of 1:42:17 by more than 5 minutes. I’ve finished about 800th in a field of 12,000. More importantly, I’ve beaten Nick for the second year running by just under 2 minutes. Ha, ha, he must be gutted to shatter his personal best and still not beat me!

Was it worth it? Just about, but only in retrospect for the bragging rights. It’s vaguely comparable to winning a local derby in football. This is the fourth one I’ve completed and they don’t get any easier. Mile 11 out of the 13 was an uphill killer where I did another passable impression of running in treacle. It was tempting to bail out around the 5 miles mark when the route passed enticingly near to my house, but sustained by high fives with Jake and Ben and the omnipresent fear of personal shame of not finishing, I plodded on.

The majority of the runners were less than impressed with the race organisation and had negative experiences of overcrowding at the start, first few miles and the finish. Some poor sods even had to queue for nearly 10 minutes just to shuffle meekly over the finishing line. The Runners World website was besieged with vitriolic complaints.

At least I got an official time. Unlike my friend John, who in a wretched display of chip- to-trainer attaching incompetence, contrived to lose his crucial appendage and therefore didn’t officially participate. It has to be said that John (aka Chap) is decidedly accident prone, having once left three of us stranded on the M6 for many an hour having stuck diesel in his car at Sandbach Services. Ironically this was on the way back from my first ever trip to Spotland in the mid 1980s, seeing Wolves mash Dale 3-0 (and it would have been worse but for the heroics of Keith Welch). Still, I got hooked on Dale and he didn’t. So who exactly is more accident prone?

Wednesday 27th October 2010

This time there’s no happy ending. I’m off work and was on a day trip to Liverpool with the children when my boss rang me at 11.30 to say that I was unsuccessful in the interview. So that’s it, finished. Perhaps I’m now on the work scrapheap at the age of 43.

Perhaps it’s also fitting that I receive this news whilst in Liverpool, the English pantomime capital of unemployment. It’s probably gone out of fashion now but I well remember being part of Birmingham crowds in the 1980’s serenading Liverpool fans with the popular ditty “Sign on – with hope – in your hearts – but you’ll never work - again”. At least the day at the seaside in West Kirkby was pleasant in the October sunshine, especially the surprise discovery of a beautiful circular path beyond the marina that takes you right out to sea. For the children, the delights of this path came a distant second to the more captivating discovery of a dead fox.

Thursday 28th October 2010

I’m pining for Dale on Saturday but I haven’t had the all important permission conversation with Lyd. However, I’ve been looking after the children all week so it should be OK to go somewhere. The complication this weekend is that Jake has an evening Halloween party starting at 6 which rules him out of coming to Leyton Orient or pretty much anywhere else. So I’ve no idea where I’ll end up. The trudge down to Leyton Orient in East London is a long way, but the ground is vastly transformed from my last visits around 20 years ago when I briefly lived in nearby Walthamstow and I’m curious to go. But I also really want to go and see Dale at home to Oldham next Tuesday. It’s got to be one or the other at best. Decisions, decisions, but maybe I should actually be looking for a job instead?

Sunday 31st October 2010

I didn’t make it to Leyton Orient v Rochdale yesterday. Setting off from Birmingham at 11.30 I was making pretty reasonable progress down the M1 past Milton Keynes and Luton but then got unnerved by a combination of general tiredness (having struggled to get to sleep until the early hours), seeing a 15 mile northbound traffic jam, a long contra-flow stretch and fearing the unappetising prospect of battling through London traffic which would be exacerbated by Arsenal v West Ham. So I made a late decision to bale out and head for St Albans City v Ebbsfleet United instead. Why, you may legitimately ask?

Well, with non-league football I suppose I have this vague desire to at least see all the teams that have made it to the Nationwide Conference at the top of the pyramid. St Albans City made it there for a couple of seasons not long ago but I never got round to seeing them. It’s also lodged somewhere in my consciousness that I’ve doubly missed out, as according to Kerry Miller in “The History of Non-League Football Grounds”, their Clarence Park ground is a thing of rustic beauty, idyllicly set in a public park. Also, Ebbsfleet were relegated out of the Conference only last year, so this had the feel of a bona fide, proper encounter.

In reality, it wasn’t. Ebbsfleet United won 2-1 with all the goals in the first half. It soon became apparent that the visitors were the stronger side so I joined their knot of crude noisy fans on the leaf strewn terrace behind the goal they were attacking. This was the same end where an oak tree had until recently sprouted forth out of the terraces, and for many years prevented any possibility of progress into the Conference for St Albans. Obviously, English sport is in love with its trees. I remember an Australian friend refusing to believe me when I told him that there was until recently an enormous tree just backward of square at the county cricket ground in Canterbury.

Ebbsfleet should have had at least 5 but for some dreadful finishing and panicking whenever a modicum of care and attention was needed with the final ball. Their fans’ baiting of the bald veteran home keeper Paul Bastock was incessant, occasionally entertaining and exceptionally crude. He stoicly ignored a barrage of abuse in the first 20 minutes which variously suggested he was Kojak, ugly, past his sell-by date, a paedophile, a cuckold or all five. Then just like his St Albans team he finally cracked under the relentless pressure, and shouted back to the chief tormentor that he had shagged his wife earlier. The bait duly taken and victory achieved for the Ebbsfleet fans, the vitriol then died down in the second half, being reduced to a few half-hearted quips about his dazzling bald patch reflecting in the low autumn sun.

Paul Bastock is actually quite an interesting character. I’ve just Googled him and checked his career record of over 600 appearances, with the majority at Boston United but many also at Kettering and more recently Rushden & Diamonds. It has to be said that the Ebbsfleet fans have a point and he could easily pass for much older than his 40 years. I remember him though for one of his 28 appearances in 1989 in the Conference for the now defunct Fisher Athletic. Why? Because he spoke to me. I retrieved a stray ball from behind the goal in the pre-match warm up and sent an inch perfect 40 yard half volley back onto the pitch to his team-mate. He was impressed and asked if I wanted a game that night. Fisher’s lack of resources and impoverished state meant that there was a slight chance he wasn’t joking. Whatever the truth, I was flattered.

And what of Rochdale today in my absence? They contrived to lose 2-1 at Leyton Orient having led at half time through Super Chris O’Grady. The equaliser was another highly dubious penalty by all accounts. Still, hard luck stories can’t disguise the fact that alarming Autumn form has now set in and the predicted relegation battle appears to be looming larger by the week.

Monday 1st November 2010

Back at work today and feeling thoroughly demoralised. Against my better judgement, I got feedback on the interview and the criteria where I didn’t meet the required threshold. Earlier in the day, a Director clumsily implied they’d set this threshold pretty low to give everyone a better than good chance. So now I’m officially crap, on top of being imminently redundant.

Still, a minor bit of good news greeted me as soon as I got home in the evening. My key was barely in the front door when Jake bounced up to me excitedly, shouting “Guess what, Tom Kennedy’s signed on loan for Rochdale!” Excellent, TK is a star and more fool Leicester City for not recognising that obvious fact. Onwards and upwards for Dale in the short term now, surely?

Tuesday 2nd November 2010

This was a strange day all round. I was off work having been sick all night. Zero chance of getting up to Spotland then. Just as well really, as Dale’s home game tonight against Oldham was abandoned after 10 minutes following heavy rain all day, which must have been pretty localised as it was fine here in Birmingham. What a relief I didn’t travel up for that.

Most irritatingly of all though, I had a really strong premonition that Chesterfield would beat Accrington 5-2 at home tonight. If I’d been feeling better I would have stuck a fiver on this outcome at 100/1. Sure enough, it came in. Galling doesn’t begin to describe it.

Hang on though, there probably is a silver lining. If I had a big win it’d probably get me back hooked on gambling and I mustn’t go there. I’ve struggled at various times in my life all the way back to a childhood love of seaside amusement arcades. This evolved into fruit machines in my teens, followed by football gambling and even casinos in my twenties. I once won over a thousand on getting 7 results right (placing the winning bet in a Ladbrokes in Market Harborough of all obscure places, whilst on route to watch Kettering v Gateshead), but gave all this back to bookies and croupiers and then some in the following years.

Friday 5th November 2010

Too late, the seeds of gambling duly re-sown, today I sneaked off to Ladbrokes at lunchtime to have a series of Lucky 15 correct score bets. Intoxicated by the novel site of Rochdale emblazoned all over the betting coupon as they’re live on ESPN tonight, I went overboard chasing glory with the improbable correct scoreline of Rochdale 4 FC United of Manchester 2. That’s a 50/1 shot in it’s own right. Chuck in marauding attacking right back Scott Wiseman as the first goalscorer and the combined odds were a mere 625/1.

This one ridiculous bet sums up my entire 25 year football betting career. Forever greedily chasing that elusive and unattainable big win, and through this greed not putting my decent football knowledge across the divisions to any discernable use. What a scandalous waste. The bookies must laugh whenever they see me.

Anyway, having dabbled with the prospect of finding a pub to watch Rochdale v FC United of Manchester, or finding it online, eventually I had to settle for live commentary of the game on 5Live Sports Extra. Great that they’re covering it, but unfortunately they have sent their Z-list commentary team of Jacqui Oatley and Kevin Gallacher to do the honours. A shrill voiced woman and an obligatory dour Scot – deep joy.

The first half consisted of Ms Oatley getting over excited at inopportune moments, completely missing other key incidents (a nailed on Dale penalty passed her by until someone told her about it via a TV replay), trotting out predictable clichés on the professions of the FC United of Manchester players (one defender being a care worker especially tickled her fancy), and banging on ad nauseum about smoke and fireworks. This was interspersed with Mr Gallacher going into full-on lazy stereotype patronising mode about the lack of passing at this level. Some quality research on Dale there, mate. When FC United took the lead just before half time I could take no more of the banal shrieking and condescending generalisations and retired to give Becky a bath.

Dale somehow ended up losing the match 3-2. Keith Hill probably won’t lose any sleep about it as he doesn’t really do cups. I resumed listening properly at 2-2 with 15 minutes to go, still quite hopeful that the 4-2 to Dale was going to come in. Instead they conceded with nearly the last kick of the game. Jake hurled an object across his room in disgust, which probably wasn’t the best mental preparation for his 11+ exam tomorrow morning. The Dale messageboard is adamant that the ball was kicked out of Josh Lillis’ hands. Jacqui Oatley and Kevin Gallacher described it as a goalkeeping howler. I haven’t seen it yet but I know who my money’s on for getting it right.

Sunday 7th November 2010

I finally got to see the Rochdale v FC United of Manchester goals for the first time. The controversial FCUM winner was a close call so I’ll let the dynamic commentary duo off on that one. More amusingly though, the video evidence showed Anthony Elding in splendid isolation near the far post when scoring Dale’s first goal. Jacqui Oatley’s commentary on the goal was something like “Err, I think that might have been Elding scoring there for Rochdale but it’s really difficult to tell in such a crowd of players”. It must have been all that firework smoke in her eyes.

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