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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 10) - Diary of the 2010/11 season
Written by middale on Monday, 5th May 2014 00:09

This part covers Dale's amusing waterlogged 1-1 draw at home to Leyton Orient, gratuitous non-league groundhopping in London and some reflections on football fanzine culture in the early 90's.

Wednesday 12th January 2011

Roll on Saturday. I should be able to get up to Spotland for the big clash with Leyton Orient. Keith Hill hasn’t left Dale for Crystal Palace after all. A young striker called Jack Redshaw has left though. Funny really, he was the great white hope of pre-season, signed from Manchester City with a prolific scoring record for their reserves. I remember the high levels of messageboard anxiety when he was injured in a pre-season friendly at Rossendale United. Now he leaves with barely a murmur having made one full appearance for Dale in the meaningless Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Some things change and some things stay the same.

Also roll on next Tuesday. Work have decreed that they’ll no longer pay travel and subsistence for any training for staff who’ve already left. So I’ve found a couple of dirt cheap trains at unsociable departure times on the internet. The return should be late enough to take in some rip-roaring Blue Square South action, probably at Dartford, Thurrock or Hampton & Richmond. Like everything else, it’s up in the air and dependent on various FA Trophy results on Saturday.

Thursday 13th January 2011

I belatedly got round to completing my letter of complaint (well email actually) to Dagenham & Redbridge. This was quite a theraputic act, although I seriously doubt whether they’ll be arsed to reply.

FAO Steve Thompson (Managing Director) / David Angus (Ticket Office Manager)

Dear Sirs,

As a Rochdale fan who attended last Saturday's game, I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at the prices you charge juniors in your away end. I consider it totally excessive for my 2 children aged 12 and 10 to be charged £15 each to watch a League One match.

I got into a conversation with the turnstile operator and his boss on this subject on Saturday. He sympathised and agreed with the overall high cost but suggested your prices are consistent with those charged by other clubs in League One. This is not the case, I have checked on the website of every club in League One and yours is the highest, no other club charges more than £12. A significant number charge between £3 and £7 which is far more affordable for a family.

I was also told in the same conversation that your higher costs are associated with your recent promotion to League One. However, even in the previous season in League 2 you were charging £13. Again, this was comfortably the most I had to pay last season for my children to watch Rochdale on numerous away trips.

I am interested in your views on how you can justify this cost for juniors, and how it is consistent with the statement in the Customer Charter on your website that "the club continues to strive for wider access to matches". I accept you can get minor reductions with advance sales but these still leave your prices the highest. Away fans are your customers too, and children your future customers, and these prices are totally prohibitive for families. Looking around the away end on Saturday I saw hardly any other juniors compared to all other Rochdale away games. I am sure many fans chose not to attend because of your prices. I will certainly not be attending any further matches at Dagenham & Redbridge until you amend this policy.

What I also totally fail to understand is how you won a Football League Family Excellence Award in 2008/09, when one of their main criteria is to provide value for money for families. I know this was an external award, but it is galling that you are still happy to display this prominently around the ground (eg. in your club shop) when your pricing policy is grossly inconsistent with the key objectives of the award.

To end on one positive note, I do accept that the view from your away end is very good compared to most others. I have failed to fully appreciate it for 2 years running now though because of the sour taste left by your pricing policy for juniors.

As promised in your Customer Charter, please can you reply to me with your views on this subject.

NB. As a footnote, it is actually true that yesterday I was sad enough to plod through every single League One website to find the prices charged for away fans. This wasn’t the most exciting hour of my life, and it’s interesting to note how buried away this key information is in many cases. Are some of these culprits and rip-off merchants feeling a teensy bit guilty perhaps?

Saturday 15th January 2011

What’s the secret of a good marriage? I’ve no idea really, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s at least occasionally saying that you’re in the wrong even when you know you’re in the right. Avoid conflict, keep the peace, empathise, and you’re probably on to a winner. Unfortunately, I’m not genetically built like that, so the following exchange took place a few hours ago when me and Lyd were lying in bed just before going to sleep.

“What time are you getting home from London next Tuesday?”

“Late, after midnight.”

“How much after midnight?”

“Not sure, I’m on the last train. About 01.30 I think. Is this why you’ve been a bit off with me this evening?”

“No, I’ve only just remembered. Stop misleading me, it’s later than that. I’ve seen your booking email and you won’t be back at Birmingham New Street until 01.40, so you won’t be home until after 2am. What are you doing? Be honest with me.”

“I told you when I booked it on Wednesday. I’ve got to pay for the travel myself now I’ve left work, so I went for the cheapest train which was the last one. It also fits in with going to a non-league football match somewhere near London, but I haven’t decided which one yet. Anyway, the price was the main reason.”

“Well it’s a silly decision and you’re not being reasonable. I won’t be able to sleep when you’re that late back. You’ve misled me haven’t you, you weren’t going to tell me?”

“Of course I was going to tell you what time I’d be back before Tuesday. It’s a one off being that late and I’ve explained why. I know you might worry and not be able to sleep and I understand that. But I’ll be fine, there’s no need to worry. I’ll sleep in the spare room when I get back and won’t disturb you. And I haven’t misled you at all, I told you when I was booking it that I’d be late back.”

“You said you’d be quite late, not 2 in the morning.”

“No I certainly didn’t say ‘quite’ or anything that implied it was nearer midnight, that was your assumption.”

“This will ruin and disrupt our week. And I’ll worry that you won’t lock the doors when you come back.”

“Well that’s really annoying if you think that. And it shows that you’re confusing your feelings of anxiety with me misleading you – they’re two completely different things.

“Why can’t you just admit when you’re in the wrong?”

“Because I’m not. I haven’t misled you at all.”

“Yes you do, you just drip-feed me bits of information. I never get to hear your whole plans.”

“That’s not true. Look, just forget it, I’m going to sleep in the spare room.”

“Thanks for ruining my weekend, I’ve got to work tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks for ruining mine as well.”

Angry and exasperated by this point, I headed downstairs to write. Reflecting on the penultimate exchange, my full and correct answer to the accusation of drip-feeding bits of information should have been something like:

“Well I honestly can’t tell you my whole plans for next Tuesday as I’m not sure which match I’m going to go to yet. It’s a bit complicated. At the moment it’s a choice between 3 Blue Square South games at grounds I’ve never been to before. It could be Thurrock v Basingstoke. Or possibly Hampton & Richmond v Maidenhead. It’s most likely going to be Dartford v Staines Town as their new ground is supposed to be one of the best in non-league and I’ve wanted to go there for quite a while.

But all of these games might not take place. A lot of these teams are still in a cup competition called the FA Trophy which is playing its next round this Saturday. If any of these cup matches are draws then the replays will probably be on Tuesday instead. There might also be a couple of further options for me to go to on Tuesday if other FA Trophy games finish in draws. Or if any of Saturday’s games get called off for bad weather and rearranged, which is possible as it’s forecast to rain all day tomorrow. One of the new options might be Eastbourne Borough if they draw their away cup match at Dorchester. That would also appeal as I was disappointed not to get there last Saturday when I narrowly missed the train connection because we set off from Birmingham too late.”

By which point Lydia would undoubtedly have been fast asleep. Probably round about the mention of Thurrock, if not sooner.

Anyway, it’s now 02.35, I’m feeling drained and god only knows what the weekend is going to bring. Will we both apologise, or will I head off to the match at Rochdale expecting our marriage to be over? And when I return, will it be over?

I can still recall vividly the 2 matches in the last decade where I’ve thought it likely that we were heading for divorce. The first was the Rushden v Rochdale League 2 Play-Off Final First Leg in May 2002. The second was at The New Saints v Airbus UK in September 2009. The precise combination of reasons for the flashpoints are lost in time but the memory of the sinking feeling remains the same. At Rushden I remember feeling the irony of eavesdropping on a conversation amongst the Dale fans in the half-time refreshment queue, with one recently separated Dale fan telling his mate that “at least this extension of the football season (with Dale being in the play-offs) is helping me through the divorce”. Really, mate? Or perhaps like many football junkies it was more like the root cause.

Sunday 16th January 2011

“The writing for pleasure you wouldn’t let me read / the things you miss out when you try to mislead / you said you wrote a page about me in your diary.”

Panic over, we’re not yet heading for divorce. Yesterday morning Jake booted me out of the spare room early, (which these days has the principal function of being his high-use PlayStation 3 lair), at 9.00, whereupon me and Lyd made up before she disappeared to work and I disappeared up the M6 to Spotland. The evening was then totally overshadowed by the news seen in the Birmingham Evening Mail later in the evening that Trish Keenan, lead singer of Broadcast, has died of Swine Flu aged 42. She was the best friend of one of Lyd’s best friends, and via this route I’d enjoyed a number of their atmospheric songs on You Tube in the last year, especially “Papercuts”. Her words seem strangely apt in the light of our squabbling and her untimely passing puts our bickering into full perspective. RIP Trish.

Earlier today, the Rochdale v Leyton Orient game was pure comedy gold. It was played in the worst conditions of any match I’ve ever seen actually finish, due to incessant rain turning the pitch into a glistening quagmire. The ball was conspiring to make monkeys out of the players, making its own random decisions whether to stick abruptly or skid on violently. Yet the teams adapted surprisingly well in playing out a really entertaining 1-1 draw, with all the meaningful action happening at our WMG end. Dale played fabulous power football for a 20 minute spell at the end of the first half to take the lead, but Leyton Orient improved markedly in the second half. New signing Liam Dickinson was at times magnificent. We nearly witnessed the rarest of sights, a goal for non-scoring defensive midfielder Brian Barry-Murphy. Me and Jake went home feeling royally entertained, and overwhelmingly thankful to have received our weekly fix.

Keith Hill was more peevish in his assessment, labelling the decision to play the match “a farce”. Apparently he said (via the subscription only DaleWorld, just £8.99 a month) that’ll he’ll never watch the game again on DVD. I happily would though given the chance, as both the comedy and some of the quality displayed in adversity will linger in the memory. Fans and managers are different breeds I suppose. Hey, us fans are selfish, but we want our action and we want it here and now, especially when we’ve just travelled 100+ miles to witness it. The 100+ away Leyton Orient supporters would have been justifiably gutted by the 14.15 postponement that very nearly came to pass.

Wednesday 19th January 2011

Back home now after yesterday’s final work-subsidised training course in London on social media. Believe me the pleasure was all mine, learning all about the endless delights and inner workings of Mashable, Quora, Delicious, Re-Tweeting, Flipboard, Slideshare, Wonder Wheels, Technorate, Daily Press, Wordpress, Google Analytics, TechCrunch, Engadget, Involver, Crispy News, Ideastorm, Foursquare and G-Location Marketing. The majority of these applications sound more like acts in the UK Dance Chart to me, but never mind. Actually I suspect the enthusiastic tutor (or geek to the less charitable) may have been making some of these up for a laugh, he certainly could have done and most of us would have been none the wiser. On this principle he also chucked in “FUD” as a frequently used acronym. Apparently it stands for “fear, uncertainty and doubt”. At last, there’s an aspect of social media I can fully relate to.

As a break from the usual course routine of multiple paired exercises, the tutor spent pretty much the entire 7 hours bamboozling us with his exhaustive knowledge of social media. This was interspersed with chucking in a few catchphrases at regular intervals in answers to questions from the floor. “How can I say” was the winner by 10 lengths from “without a doubt”, “almost certainly” and “this is the next big thing” (which is Quora apparently). I was hoping he would chuck in “there’s no question about that” in tribute to Keith Hill, but alas this proved to be a cliché too far.

For some reason I had dance on the brain. As my mind wandered, I started thinking of a sublime dance group from the 1990s called Electribe 101. This was partly because the course was pretty near where I once saw them play live at the Astoria. Also because the whole concept of Tweeting started to remind me of their lyrics “And if it’s alright with you I’ll just talk with myself” and “I thought, god you could be the next big thing” from their seminal “Talking With Myself.”

Overall, I can’t really say that the course inspired me to partake in social media. Football is my drug of choice, thank you very much. I reckon I can live my life without telling the world on Twitter that a) I’m about to buy a vegetable pasty from Greggs, b) I really enjoyed my 4 bread rolls for £1 from Tesco Express, or c) Look out for the photos I’ll be posting on Flickr of my trip tonight to Dartford FC’s Princes Park. Plus the world wouldn’t be listening either; the cyber-shame of having zero followers could be pretty devastating.

However, the tutor rightly stuck to his guns. Apparently, most under-25s blur the distinction between the real world and the virtual world to such an extent that conversational Tweeting is an entirely natural phenomemon. Fair enough, but I’m sticking to my view that its pompous and self-indulgent. And for the record there’s only one Flicker that matters – the great Mr David Flitcroft, Rochdale’s Assistant Manager.

Of course my view may be unduly influenced by my technological incompetence. To illustrate the point, it took me about 15 minutes to remember how to turn my new mobile phone on after the course. This meant that when I arrived at Victoria Station, I had to take a flying punt on buying a train ticket to Dartford rather than performing an eminently sensible check with the club to check that the game was actually still on. Thankfully it still was, but this was pretty lucky as both the Thurrock and Hampton & Richmond options were off after yesterday’s heavy rain. Massive relief, it’s got to be one of the worst feelings going to turn up at a match and discover that it’s been postponed. A bit like being stood up for a date, only worse.

With my brain duly frazzled by all the talk of the future and white-hot technology, my predictably in-character response at the ground was to lurch back towards the more reassuring past. This took the form of buying some copies of “Light At the End of The Tunnel”, the Dartford FC fanzine, published between 1990 and 1998. The 1990’s were the heyday of the fanzine before they were blown away by the internet and the advent of fans messageboards. Dale had their own fanzine of course, “Exceedingly Good Pies”, but I reckon this was part of the second wave of fanzines and I only ever saw a couple. Dartford’s effort was definitely considered one of the best of its kind in non-league circles, up there alongside Boston United’s “From Behind Your Fences” and Kettering Town’s “Poppies At The Gates of Dawn.” The mixed up font sizes, dodgy cartoons and local inter-club squabbling all look rather quaint and parochial 20 years down the line, but these best titles are still written with some flair and humour, making them an enjoyable read and a contrast to anodyne official club programmes.

The world of fanzines was pretty incestuous, as my favourite bit from the copies of “Light At The End of the Tunnel” I bought was actually reproduced from Boston’s “From Behind Your Fences”. Their “Coaching tips from Welling FC’s Nigel Ransom” cartoon is captioned:

“Like most youngsters, my game once suffered from being very one-footed. Even so, I forced myself to use my left foot. Now I feel equally at home committing cynical premeditated fouls with either foot.”

I expect the main writers of comic vignettes like these have justifiably gone on to lucrative jobs as sports journalists in the national press by now. Jealous? Me?

As a quick tangent, this mention of Welling FC reminds me of one of the most embarrassing things that ever happened to me at a football match. In the Conference match between Welling v Wycombe sometime around 1991, I managed the dubious feet of walking into a 100 foot high floodlight pylon. This act was unfortunately witnessed my a group of Welling fans, who gave me plenty of abuse along the lines of “you blind spanner, how can you possibly not see that floodlight!”

Anyway, no-one can accuse Dartford FC of not embracing the future. Princes Park is a fabulous ground, complete with all mod cons and an interesting sunken pitch. You can walk all the way around the ground so I did, at least three times. Unfortunately the surrounds couldn’t mask the paucity of the entertainment when the match actually started. The pitch was perfect but the ball was permanently hoofed thirty feet into the night sky. It finished 1-1 having looked a nailed on 0-0 until Staines grabbed a breakaway opener after 70 minutes. The only compensation was that I managed to be at the right end to get close up views of both goals.

The other mini-problem was that I was watching with my overnight rucksack in tow. This made me feel pretty uncomfortable on two fronts, marking me down as a potential terrorist to jobsworth stewards, and far more worryingly, as a legitimate target for the cruel chants of the young football ultras. I felt like I had a giant arrow above my head screaming to the world “he’s a sad groundhopper!” The Staines ‘massive’ of 12 teenagers gave it plenty during the match with numerous renditions of “where’s your tourist gone” and “you’re got a crowd full of weirdos”. Thankfully, neither of these chants were aimed at me, though I did wonder, and decided it’d be a good idea to moderate my lapping of the pitch.

Oh and for the record, after this trip I arrived back home at the perfectly reasonable time of 02:00. Lyd graciously refrained from any further comment. It was just like the row had never happened.

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