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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 9) - Diary of the 2010/11 season
Written by middale on Wednesday, 23rd Apr 2014 15:41

This part covers Dale's January surge with away wins at Oldham and Dagenham & Redbridge, achieved against the backdrop of rumours linking Keith Hill with the Crystal Palace job.

Monday 3rd January 2011

My heart yearned for Boundary Park today, but my body ended up at godforsaken Eastwood Town. I woke up desperate to go to the newly non-all ticket Oldham v Rochdale, but some friends popped round in the morning to scupper the timings on that one. So it was off to darkest Nottinghamshire with Jake where a dour 2-2 draw ensued, if there can be such a thing. The match contained an entertaining first 15 minutes, an action packed last 5 and quite literally nothing in between. An earthy brand of football served up for our delectation in a quintessential working class mining town, the birthplace of DH Lawrence. Eastwood’s literary pedigree cannot inspire me to write great descriptive prose about the match. The beautiful pink sunset was more memorable, bringing with it a sharp drop in temperature and an equally sharp increase in moans from Jake that he was frozen solid. It gradually became apparent that the once mighty Boston United are now distinctly mediocre.

I expect I’ll only remember Eastwood Town v Boston United in years to come for one bit of comedy defending and one comedy prediction. A hapless defensive header across the goal gifted Boston’s Spencer Weir-Daley an early equaliser. Then a hapless, gangling and uncoordinated giant called Mikel Suarez emerged as a late substitute for Boston, and with his first three touches looked as if he’d never previously been acquainted with a football in his life. Trailing 2-1 with two minutes to go, I confidently predicted to Jake that there was no danger of an equaliser with this guy leading the attack. The words were barely out of my mouth when he leapt like a salmon at the far post to score with a towering header.

Me and Jake returned not knowing the Oldham v Rochdale final score, though we knew it was 0-0 at half-time. Twenty seconds after opening the front door, Jake was frantically asking Lyd to search for the result for us on her laptop. She casually stated that it was 2-1 to Oldham. Drat and double drat. She then confirmed this, yes the score it was 2-1 to Rochdale. What??? A minor little inconsequential detail there, jumbling up those cheeky little ones and twos! Who cares, that’s another fabulous result! A double from Chris O’Grady against his old club, I dearly wish I had been there to see it.

Tuesday 5th January 2011

Tonight I trawled the internet to feed my sporadic fascination with run down housing estates. I’m not exactly sure where this one came from, but it’s been somewhere there in my psyche since my teenage years. It’s probably a combination of the aforementioned natural association with the underdog, and their contrast to my childhood experience growing up in leafy middle-class Solihull. More recently and worryingly, perhaps it’s some sort of life prophecy that I’m heading for life on a sink estate if I can’t get another job pronto. Whichever reason, I stand guilty as charged as being a purveyor of poverty porn.

Poverty porn was a bit of a new concept on me until an introductory conversation with a work colleague from Rochdale last year. I asked him for an opinion on the media fascination with social deprivation in the town, culminating in a harrowing BBC2 documentary “The Trouble With Girls”. He just nodded sagely at me and blamed all the voyeurs who are obsessed with poverty porn. Apparently there’s thousands like me with voracious appetites for seeing the decaying insides of tower blocks, the daily grind in gory detail, casual racism, teenage pregnancy, low aspiration and the benefits dependency culture from the comfort of our living rooms.

Well, yes, guilty as charged that’s me. Way back in the early 1990s days of nightclubbing in Birmingham, my group of friends had a taunting song of “You’re Going Back down the Meadway” that we’d sing to each other if anyone had got off with a girl who looked like she might be from a dodgy council estate. I should probably explain that the Meadway is the main A road thoroughfare to any number of run down estates in East Birmingham that were strictly off limits to us namby-pamby middle class boys from Solihull and Kings Heath. Far too scary by half.

Anyway, Rochdale has its share of famous housing estates, especially since being outed as the “benefits capital of England” in a media feeding frenzy last year. Right at the top of the chart is Falinge, near the town centre and not far down the road from Spotland. Falinge has been singled out for special attention for its alleged potent mix of crime, poverty and benefit dependency. An episode of “The Secret Millionaire” was filmed there, and the national press have done various outside broadcasts, usually with ubiquitous gangs of chavs in the background flicking v-signs at the cameras. It’s not that bad really. I walked through the grim low-rises of Falinge last year without feeling unduly threatened.

The next grim estate on Rochdale’s list of fame is Kirkholt. A sprawling, claustrophobic feeling place, strangely isolated well out of the town centre and perched on the side of the hill high above the main A627(M) out of Rochdale. There may be no great real life dramas in here save for the occasional carjackings and joyriding that the world can proudly see if you just type “Kirkholt” into You Tube. Instead its fame is really due to its setting as the location for “Waterloo Road”, the BBC1 school drama that’s into its sixth series. The programme is entertaining, but I am no doubt in a considerable minority in loving the occasional extrernal location shots in Kirkholt far more than the over the top plotlines.

Last but not least there’s Ashwell Valley. Now demolished for over a decade, but by all accounts the most notorious of the lot in its heyday (does a word exist for the opposite of heyday?). Rioting. Squatting. Social stigmatism. National notoriety. Immortalised in punk anthems. You name it, Ashwell Valley apparently had it. So I spent the best part of 2 hours tonight reading through its chequered history from 1960s showcase estate through to 1990s sink status. Apparently it still has great educational value to architects as the classic “how not to do it” example. Like a long lost football ground, I can never claim to have seen it. How sad.

My brother-in-law Lawrence has sent me the photo of Dale fans on the pitch celebrations at last season’s promotion sealing game versus Northampton. I’m clearly in there right at the very front, looking uncannily and unfortunately like one of the cartoon characters Beavis or Butthead. Jake has narrowly missed out on being captured for posterity through his lack of height. Lawrence says that the Rochdale Observer sports editor helped him find the picture. I impress him (I think) by knowing the editor’s name – Mr Richard Partington of course.

Sunday 9th January 2011

Dale won again, 1-0 away at Dagenham & Redbridge. That’s an incredible 9 league points in the bag already this year in a mere 8 calendar days. It was extremely scrappy, but the immense Chris O’Grady scored with the game’s only moment of quality. I was there to witness it, but unfortunately was forced to break my principles and fork out 52 quid to watch it. I was left with no option following a near miss getting to Eastbourne as we set off too late, and then the ticket office at Victoria wouldn’t print out our tickets. The plan was to infiltrate the Daggers home end at a more reasonable price, but incredibly they were still charging juniors £13 quid for the priviledge.

So, arriving at the away end of the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium at 2.50 with Jake and his cousin Ben, I had the following cordial exchange with the turnstile operator and his superior.

“Please can you let these 2 children in for 1? I take these two all over the country watching Rochdale and your £15 charge is the highest price I’ve seen for children by at least 200 per cent.”

“I’ll refer that question to my supervisor” (who then entered stage left like some magical Mr Benn character).

“I don’t think that’s strictly true mate, we’re comparatively priced to other clubs in League One, like Charlton and Colchester.”

“Well maybe not 200 per cent always, but last week it was £3 for children at Oldham. I’ve also paid £5 at Brentford and £7 at Southampton. Yours is definitely easily the highest I’ve been to. Please will you let them in 2 for 1?

“No, sorry mate. Now that we’re in League One all of our running costs have gone up.”

“But you were still extremely over-priced last year in League Two. I remember because I paid £13 for the children and complained about it then.”

“Look, whilst I completely agree with you that our charges for children are too high, these are the fixed prices and you’ll have to pay them.”

“OK well I’ll be writing a letter to your club about this pricing. Can I quote you in his letter that you agree that your prices are too high”.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Well I won’t write a letter at all if you let them in 2 for 1. Please?

(Considers for 5 seconds and appears to be wavering…) “Err… No, sorry mate.”

“OK, well here’s my £52. Out of interest, how exactly did your club win a Family Excellence Award?”

“We have £2 discounts if you buy tickets in advance.”

“Great. I’m only here anyway because we missed a train connection for another match. I was going to boycott it because of your pricing policy. Keep providing Family Excellence.”

I probably didn’t get the carrot and stick balance right there. As you can imagine I was nice and relaxed after this conversation and still fuming through most of the first half. At least Jake and Ben found it quite amusing, and were laughing non-stop for the next 5 minutes. I’m not sure if the 10 or so Dale fans behind us in the queue were sympathetic though as this exchange probably lasted over a minute, if I’d been one of them with kick off fast approaching I’d have probably come up with “just pay up you fooking joker”!

Looking around the away Dale following of 227, I certainly was one of the only jokers who had brought children along. It was wall-to-wall middle age men, plus a few hardcore singing teenagers thrown in for good measure. Anyway, one thing is for certain. Dagenham & Redbridge are the definite exceptions to my love of the underdog. I can’t stand them and will never darken their doors again. They’ve easily taken over from Wycombe as the team I dislike the most in the whole Football League. Keep getting your richly deserved sub 2,000 crowds in a tin pot stadium. Keep ripping off your loyal fans and visiting supporters. Keep playing crap route one football on a dreadful pitch. Get relegated. Disappear out of the Football League. You give underdogs a bad name. Clear off.

My mood was probably not helped by the epic train journey across London that preceeded it. Leaving Victoria at 13.00 for what should have been a straightforward trundle down the District Line to Dagenham East, the ‘planned closure’ of the line between Barking and Mile End meant that we were treated to the dubious delights of two replacement buses, one replacement overground train and two separate underground journeys. As added bonuses, we got a guided tour of the entire East End including the new Olympic complex, duff directions to superbly non-synchronised replacement buses (missing connections by 30 seconds a speciality) and the dubious pleasure of accompanying various menacing looking West Ham fans en route to Upton Park. We just about made kick off and I’m sure we could have walked the whole journey quicker.

The groundhopping part of me was also acutely disappointed at not getting to Eastbourne. “One chance is all you have”, sang Mark Burgess of the Chameleons, and it’s certainly true when it comes to long distance football trips. I’m sure I’ll never go to Eastbourne now, there will be no second chances. Of course it goes without saying that I missed the better match. Mansfield won 3-1, just like they always do when playing at grounds I haven’t been to. But if I do go, they always lose 1-0. Without fail.

Monday 10th January 2011

I was feeling ill again today (groan), but made a minor recovery by the afternoon. Just enough to stagger downstairs, log on to the messageboards and follow the unfolding will-he-won’t-he saga of Keith Hill potentially becoming manager of Crystal Palace. Apparently this story was doing the rounds last week but it passed me by completely. He must have had an interview, or been tapped up or something.

A number of Dale fans are screaming “hypocrite” about the prospect of Hill joining a club that has been in administration when he has been scathing about their kind for all of his 4 year Dale tenure. Anyway, this latest managerial merry-go-round seems to all depend on which job Eddie Howe of Bournemouth chooses to accept – he’s been offered Charlton and Palace apparently. Is Howe that good? He’s an annoying little mannequin manager, and generally far too defensive for my liking, though admittedly the Cherries are knocking in a few more goals this season. Ironically, Bournemouth were one of Hill’s chief targets for this criticism, causing much antagonism between the two clubs last season.

Anyway, a message to Keith. Thanks for the memories. If you do decide to leave Dale, I quite understand that a visit to the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium was probably the final straw. I quite understand if terminal depression set in. Like me, you may now never have to go there again. Now I must write that letter to Dagenham while my levels of vitriol are still high!

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TVOS1907 added 21:41 - Apr 24
Wasn't it Ashworth Valley or am I thinking of somewhere else?
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