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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 15) Diary of the 2010-11 Season
Written by middale on Wednesday, 21st Jan 2015 23:58

This part covers the highs of completing the double over Southampton and the lows of losing to Charlton and Carlisle in controversial and miserable circumstances respectively.


Sunday 10th April 2011

Dale’s amazing promotion push caught a crab yesterday with a 1-0 defeat away at Colchester. The game pretty much passed me by as this is a weekend dominated by Becky's 6th birthday. I've barely had a chance to look at the details of how we played. I don't think I want to know really, it'll just be too galling to hear how we no doubt dominated and got hit with a late sucker punch.

Wednesday 13th April 2011

“Don’t get taken in by this nonsense about losing to little old Rochdale. Dale are where they are on merit.”

So said one astute judge on “The Ugly Inside”, the Southampton messageboard, reflecting on their glorious 2-0 demise at Spotland last night. The pattern is clear now, the blueprint for a home victory over a fallen giant proudly there for all to see. Blitz them with quality football in the first half. Defend as if your life depends on it in the second half.

Getting up to Spotland last night was not without its problems. A third midweek game in three weeks was always going to be difficult enough for me to swing, and virtually impossible to justify taking Jake in light of his liberal use of the f-word over the weekend. I’m sure he accepted the justice of this deep down, but when I confirmed the arrangements straight after picking him up in the afternoon from sports camp, the reaction was predictably volatile:

“This is just too tragic. You get to go to Rochdale and I get to go to Nonna’s! Unbelievable. Well, you’ll have to drag me out of the car. I’m going to report you to the RSPCC.”

It should be noted that the lack of appeal of Nonna’s house is entirely due to the lack of any 21st century must-have purchases such as Play Station 3s, Wii’s and Sky Sports packages. Very short sighted that, meaning Jake never wants to stay for more than half an hour.

The journey itself was problem number two, but disaster was averted by a fortuitous early decision to entirely avoid the accident addled M6. The slow but scenic route via Ashbourne, Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith was a joy to behold on a beautifully clear late spring afternoon. The perfect spine of the country, and one of the few things that unequivocally makes me proud to be English. Then approaching Rochdale I felt smugly proud of my instinctive local geographical knowledge, avoiding the perenially snarled up Roch Valley Way to sneak into town via Castleton. As an added bonus, for the first time ever I got to drive right past the iconic All-In-One-Garden-Centre (legendary sponsors of Dale around the 80s and 90s with their deeply untrendy watering can logo). It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Whatever the effort involved, Dale v Southampton was all worth it and then some. After the match, the Rochdale Fans Network was in near meltdown with a series of rapturous eulogies to the mighty Dale. Here’s a tiny selection of the offerings:

“That central midfield performance Jason Kennedy put in tonight is by far the greatest I have ever seen.”

“Matt Done - take a bow young man. Awesome performance, covered every blade of grass, great passing, great ball control, great tackling. Oh and just how fookin quick is he?”

“Stunning performance tonight. Don’t like to single out any one of them but special mentions to O'Grady,Done,Kennedy,Dawson,Adams and Fon Williams who were all to a man faultless. BRILLIANT,BRILLIANT,BRILLIANT!!!”

“A word for Craig Dawson whose performances we've come to expect now. His display tonight will convince any watching West Brom staff that he can make it at the highest level. Positional play like that is sometimes easy to overlook and difficult for most to notice, but it was first class throughout. For someone so young to be so tactically aware is rare, and he'll definitely go as far as he wants to.”

“For me Joey T sums everything I love about supporting this club. A local lad, doing well, proving all the doubters wrong.”

“OFW - What a game he had tonight, lost count how many saves he made!”

“To be honest I really wouldn’t swap O'Grady for anyone - and I mean anyone. At 25 he's still got his best days to come too. Someone needs to tell Fernando Torres this is how you play well when not scoring!”

“O'Grady was quality again. As was Kennedy. But Craig Dawson is the best Rochdale player I've ever seen. Better than O'Grady, Holt, Jones, Lambert, Murray, Paddy, Edwards, Butler, Whitehall, Reeves. I've never seen anyone better at Rochdale. He is our best player ever.”

Sunday 17th April 2011

Oh dear, it’s another case of After the Lord Mayor’s Show. Dale gave a lacklustre, one-paced performance against Brentford and deservedly lost 1-0. There’s precious little to report really, except one curling Nicky Adams shot which hit the post. My cousin Ben is clearly a bad omen, note to self not to bring him to Spotland again any time soon.

The day was probably always doomed really due to the appearance of Clem from the Football League Show. His irksome, ‘I’m everyone’s mate’ act is wearing very thin. Keith Hill humours him patiently, but unfortunately the legacy of this bitterly disappointing game for a national TV audience is a typically egotistical, self-indulgent Clem vignette, this time starting with a suitably arty shot of him leaning out of an upstairs window somewhere within Dale’s Executive Suite. Give it a rest, mate.

Sunday 24th April 2011

I’ve just got back from what started out as a neatly-concocted 3 day family trip to Blackpool, taking in (of course) a minor detour across Owd Betts on the return journey to see Dale v Carlisle. Unfortunately, the day was an unmitigated personal disaster, and not just because of the 3-2 defeat which has almost certainly killed off our play-off hopes.

The problems kicked in due to an ineptly planned Saturday morning. I started getting anxious about leaving in good time for Dale, especially as we’d agreed to go to Madame Tussauds before we left. We dithered around checking out of our hotel somewhere on Blackpool’s North Shore, then spent too long admiring the assorted waxwork dummies. It was after 1.00 when I jogged back to the hotel to pick up the car, then considerably later when I finally picked up the family near to Tussauds having negotiated copious road works, traffic jams, irritatingly nonsensical one-way systems and boozed up Geordies inexplicably staggering into the path of ongoing traffic. Suitably stressed, I ushered everyone quickly into the car. A balloon in the back seat was causing havoc. The boot got re-opened in a hurry and Lyd’s head got hit. I didn’t think it was my fault so I didn’t apologise. Big mistake… It was a long silent journey onwards to Dale, then later downwards to Birmingham with not a single word spoken.

Dale v Carlisle was probably a pretty exciting game if I’d actually been able to enjoy it, but it passed me by in a blurry haze of disconnected events. A comedy own goal from Marcus Holness. Joey T’s dance when he scored. A selection of frustrating crosses from Adams. Jones fluffing his lines. COG looking exhausted. Wiseman outstanding. Carlisle attacking with aplomb and scoring a couple of long range screamers, including one from bloody Craig Curran. A guy sitting next to me and Jake in the WMG Stand telling me at length about his son’s friendship with the Carlisle player Tom Taiwo. A failed Dale injury time siege. Jake laying in to me for jinxing the result by not apologising to Lyd. Hill writing off the play offs. Me in the doghouse, big time.

Tuesday 26th April 2011

This is the day after Dale’s play-off dream officially died with predictable defeat at Charlton. I’m still feeling drained, having just about recovered from the emotional exhaustion of investing time and effort in following Dale this season. It’s become too much of a preoccupation, and now I need a reality check.

Up until half-time, Dale were going out with the puniest of whimpers. Deservedly 1-0 down having picked an ultra defensive team without Matt Done and Nicky Adams, the game plan of “drawing Charlton’s energy” (Hill speak for settling for 0-0 at half-time) had got what it deserved. The mood in the away end at the sunny and sleepy Valley was flat, and Jake latched on to my negative vibes by leading the chorus of moans, repeating every two minutes that we’re “definitely going to go down next season if we play like this.” I agreed, the performance felt like scant reward for leaving the house at 08.30, taking three trains, then an underground, then a two mile walk alongside the River Thames. Though to be fair the final walking bit was quite deliberate, unlike the rest of the trek which can be blamed on ‘planned engineering works’ on the Chiltern line.

Then in the second half, everything changed. Attacking our end, Dale blitzed Charlton and although they ended up losing 3-1, they gave it a bloody good go. Marcus Holness quickly equalised with his first ever goal for Dale. Brilliant! Unfortunately the celebrations were cut short by Charlton going straight down the other end and re-taking the lead. Bother! Four penalty shouts of increasing degrees of plausibility for Dale then came and went, followed by a disallowed goal where COG was highly dubiously given offside, and an agonising near miss at an own goal.

This was all too much for Jake. With the Charlton countdown clock ticking round to 86 minutes, yet another non-award of a blatant penalty for Dale made him lose his temper completely. He swore profusely at the “cheating” referee, furiously booted the chair in front of him, and injured his foot in the process.

That was also the moment when I realised that enough was enough. I’ve been far too preoccupied with seeing Dale play at fallen giants like Charlton, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday. The Valley looks great but it’s a football ground, not the eight wonder of the world. Perspective is being lost for posterity. I just wanted out of the Valley immediately. I craved the final confirmation that Bournemouth were going to win so there was no lingering hope of promotion. It’s the hope you can’t stand. I wanted the football season to end there and then, sod Dale’s last two games against Peterborough and Bournemouth, they are now utterly meaningless. I want my life back. I also want to stop ruining my son’s life.

The journey back to Birmingham was long and slow. Still, at least this allowed some real life to break out, as Jake settled into some comedy creative writing for his pre-SATS revision, and I effortlessly passed the “great score for kids” watermark on the SunDial anagram challenge. We then amused each other reading out silly stories from the Sun. The pick of these was clearly their world exclusive that Goth rocker Marilyn Manson is rather partial to Greggs’ Cheese and Onion pasties!

Wednesday 27th April 2011

Over breakfast, Lyd said to me: “You’re not going to renew your Rochdale season ticket, are you.” There is definitely no need to add a question mark here, it was presented as a statement of fact. She’s right though, on the dole I cannot morally justify a repeat purchase for next season. She’s also made the statement at exactly the right time, I’ve still got the post-Charlton blues and need a break from football including all thoughts about next season. Mind you, if I do ever get myself a job I will immediately award myself a new one…

Thursday 28th April 2011

Felt completely low all day. The well-intentioned adviser at Job Centre Plus told me “I was so lucky to get a transfer from a different sector, otherwise I’d be sitting here like you are now.” Gosh mate, great anecdote, you really know how to cheer someone up.

The house is a shambolic tip downstairs, as Lyd has been unearthing every paper in the house ahead of implementing a new filing system. She also makes phone calls to secure the services of a cleaner and a gardener. Meanwhile, the internet is down yet again. I felt that attempting to sort this out once and for all was rather more important than the three tasks that took baffling precedence.

The on-off saga of whether we are going to London for the weekend is drawing to a close. Apparently we are going on Friday, driving down in the middle of the day at the height of Royal Wedding fever, and racing back first thing Sunday to allow Jake to play one of his final matches of the season. This means that I can officially stop dreaming about going to Farrar Road to see the League of Wales title decider between Bangor City and The New Saints. And Jake can stop pestering me to watch Dale’s final home game against Peterborough United, which will be the swansong Spotland appearance for Craig Dawson. I wont be going anywhere, having made a solemn and binding little speech to Lyd that the only match I’ll go to now for the rest of the season is the FA Trophy final at Wembley on Saturday week.

Speaking of which, I booked my Wembley ticket to see Mansfield over the phone. Easy enough. One quick call to the Ticket Office at Field Mill, where a jovial chap sorts me out with the minimum of fuss. Whoopee-doo. It should have been the Fitness First Stadium at Bournemouth watching the Dale crown this glorious season. Plus I feel slightly guilty that I’ve probably got a better seat (albeit somewhere vaguely near the corner flag) than Nick and his impressive family and friends entourage of 10 (miles behind the goal), some of whom will be counting the hours until the match in a state of giddy anticipation. Not me. For now, Dale have drained me right out of giddy anticipation.

When the internet finally re-appeared, some good news from Dale slightly salvaged this dismal day. They’ve signed a 2 year sponsorship deal with the Co-Op. A perfect match, and not before time. I’ve always loved the Co-op by association, now I’ve got an extra reason to do so. Now if only the Co-op would get their act together and stop putting dire warnings to vegetarians on their bread rolls that they were “produced on a factory line that also handles molluscs and crustaceans” I’d be a happy man.

But appropriately enough, the day ends on a low. The short BBC highlights of Charlton v Rochdale confirm that Chris O’Grady was well onside for his disallowed goal when the score was 2-1. The penalty decisions were no doubt deemed too controversial to show. I was pretty stoical on Monday when Dale’s play off chances officially died, but now I feel a belated surge of anger and disappointment. The world is not fair when you’re a footballing minnow.

Sunday 1st May 2011

Back now from the weekend trip to London, where my solemn pledge not to attend a match was reneged. More accurately, it was handed to me on a plate by Lyd. She must have felt I’d earned another game for good behaviour (nothing springs to mind), and as she wanted to head off to Wood Green Shopping Centre she positively encouraged me to go somewhere. So it was off to the East End to see if Leyton Orient could succeed where Dale had faltered and sustain their bid for the League One play offs. On my own; interestingly and for only the second time this season, Jake turned down the opportunity to go to a game. He’s all footballed out as well.

Unfortunately, I set off too late from Colney Hatch, compounded the error by staying on a local bus too long, and lacked the necessary local knowledge needed to get on a branch of the North London overground line that would have taken me direct to Leyton Midland Road. So after jostling past assorted Goths and fashionistas on the streets of Camden, I limped along on the wrong overground branch and still alighted 2 miles short of the ground. Another bus finally deposited me near the ground at 15.10.

Predictably, I entered the ground to the sound of the tannoy announcer sullenly announcing that visitors Tranmere Rovers had taken the lead. And of course, it wasn’t a scruffy tap in that I missed but a 30 yard screamer. Bloody typical. Who cares though – why am I here anyway?

The game proceeded to become a curious non-event. Tranmere won 3-0 without breaking sweat. Considering Leyton Orient had to win to keep their play off hopes alive, their lack of urgency was totally baffling. They had plenty of the ball but repeatedly passed it square deep inside their own half. Just getting over the half-way line seemed to be a major achievement, such was the incompetence of their forward players.

I spent much of the match staring at my hastily purchased 22 quid ticket and asking myself, was it worth it? The answer was a resounding “no” on so many levels, except crucially for the groundhopper in me. Brisbane Road is intriguingly unrecognisable from the moderately run down dump I remember from attending various matches when living in nearby Walthamstow in the early 1990s. It now boasts 3 excellent stands with steep gradients, unimpaired views, sky high executive boxes and designer flats overlooking the pitch. Just perfect really for a club of their size.

I had every expectation that Dale v Peterborough was going to end up with some ridiculous scoreline like 5-5, which would have seen me cursing profusely for not being there. The reality was 2-2, a scoreline I could live with and which to free scoring Peterborough must seem like a 0-0 draw. It was only when Jake greeted me excitedly when I got back to Colney Hatch that I realised I had indeed missed something pretty special from Dale. Firstly, one of their fastest ever goals, from Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro after a mere 12 seconds. Secondly, a highly appropriate farewell goal from Craig Dawson on his final home appearance. Two slices of Dale history carelessly but unavoidably missed.

Wednesday 4th May 2011

The cricket season has been trickling along for a few weeks now but its barely registered in my psyche, such has been my preoccupation with Dale. However, today saw Warwickshire’s first home championship fixture, and I was there to see the first half of it. I’m sort of defying Lyd’s wishes to do so, as she’s suggested that I’ll be down at Edgbaston all summer given half a chance, that it will hinder my job searching and I should have stuck to the cheaper and far less time consuming 20/20 membership only option.

Lyd has a pretty good point. The post-lunch two hour session is quintessentially dull. Lots of Lancashire batsmen leaving the ball outside the off stump. A funereal scoring rate of well under 3 runs an over. Do I actually like this stuff anyway? Deep down, I only really like seeing sixes and fours so I’m no cricket purist. The crowd are nearly all sleepy looking octogenarians, is this a scary glimpse into my future? Cricket at its best can be tranquil and relaxing, without the tension and stresses associated with football. However, Edgbaston in May 2011 is anything but relaxing, as the builders clank and crash their way towards finishing the new stand, and the tannoy pumps out Classic FM and incredibly leave it on throughout the first over of the match. A living nightmare on many levels.

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