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Team of the Decade - No. 7
Team of the Decade - No. 7
Wednesday, 13th Jan 2010 16:51

After a few days absence, our Team of the Decade continues with the best right winger of the past ten years.

Team of the Decade
1) Goalkeeper - Neil Edwards
Had it not been for a succession of injuries in his final few seasons at Spotland, then we may well have been talking about Neil Edwards as being the man who broke Graham Smith's appearances record for the club and not Gary Jones. However, those injuries were not enough to prevent Taffy making over 250 appearances for the club from when he joined back in 1997 to his eventual departure in 2005. Edwards was an outstanding keeper for Dale and time after time, he managed to pull off the sort of save that you'd have written off as being unsaveable. His most acclaimed Dale performance came at Hartlepool back in 1997, but it certainly wasn't a case of his best days being behind him as we entered the 21st Century. Edwards is currently involved on the coaching side of the game, as an assistant to Fred Barber at Premiership Bolton Wanderers. Almost two thirds of everyone who voted opted for Edwards which tells its own story.
2) Right Back - Wayne Evans
Wayne Evans becomes the second man to be voted into our Best Team of the Decade, the second Welshman to put into the side and the second member of that Steve Parkin side to be voted in. The position of right back had long been a problem position for Dale for many, many years, so it was perhaps no surprise when Evans made such an immediate impact after joining Dale. But there was far more to Evans than just being better than the likes of Copeland, Sparrow, Fensome et al. He showed what an outstanding defender he was, and was rewarded with a string of Player of the Season awards in his opening season at the club - something unheard of for a player in his position. He became something of a Dale stalwart over the years, making not far off three hundred appearances in Dale colours before his departure at the end of the 2004-5 season. Thoroughly reliable at full back, but also possessing a wonderful ability to appear as the last line of defence. Goalscoring was never his forté, but he managed four goals during his time, each of which seemed to have some sort of story attached to it.  Evans has recently been appointed as Head of the Centre of Excellence at Shrewsbury Town by his old colleague Paul Simpson.
3) Left Back - Tom Kennedy

When we signed Tom Kennedy from neighbours Bury, you can't say we weren't warned by our nearest and dearest from down the road. Oh how they laughed, telling us how he hadn't been good enough to get into Chris Casper's side, how he'd been cast aside for being Bury's answer to Oliver Reed and how we'd signed a joke of a footballer. How wrong they were. From his League debut, it was clear that we'd signed a cracker. Now into his third season at the club, TK has established himself as not only as a popular player at Spotland, but also as the best player in his position in the Division, something recognised by his fellow professionals last season as he made it into the PFA League Two side. His form has consistently made a mockery of the petty jealousies that accompanied his move to the club. He's missed just a handful of games for the club since arriving, and has weighed in with some important goals to boot and proved himself to be inch perfect from the penalty spot. Kennedy was up against stiff competition for the left back berth in this side, against the likes of Lee Todd and Alan Goodall, but it tells you something that Kennedy attracted almost 93% of all the votes.

4) Central Midfielder - David Perkins
For years, we'd been told that you can't get decent players from non league. Manager after manager had explained that it was far more complicated than just picking players from beneath the Football League and assuming they could do a job amongst the 92. Within a month of getting the job, Keith Hill had made David Perkins his first signing for a pittance. He came described by Morecambe supporters as a left back / midfielder, but wouldn't cut it at league level. In fact, when he signed for Dale, he'd been in and out of the Shrimps side at a Conference level. But nobody could have predicted what we were going to get from Perkins. Within a game or two, he'd been given a run out in central midfield mainly thanks to Gary Jones' injury and he never looked back. It wasn't too long before we'd taken him to our hearts as the lynchpin of our side. He had an engine like we'd not seen in years. He was absolutely everywhere and he must have been an absolute pain in the backside to play against as you wouldn't get a single second to yourself. Perks will always be remembered for his final Dale game in Dale colours that being the 2nd Leg of the Play Offs against Darlington. Minutes after sealing the victory with a wonder goal, he was red carded following Darlington protestations at what was nothing more than a yellow card. His tears on leaving the pitch still bring goosebumps to this day.
5) Central Defender - Craig Dawson
This one came from absolutely out of nowhere. Twelve months ago, no one had heard of him. Six months ago, we were panicking that he was our only defensive cover that we were going to have to rely on with McArdle ruled out for months. Now? He's the best prospect we've had at the club in years. It took until about 3:07pm on the opening day of the season for us to forget that we were starting the season with an 18 year old lad plucked from part time football in the Unibond League. Since then, we've never looked back and the young Rochdalian has gone on to prove himself to be not just a fantastic prospect, but a fantastic defender irrespective of age or experience. He's settled into the side like he's been playing it all his life, and the fact he's a proper Rochdale lad is just the icing on the cake. It hasn't made any difference whether he's been alongside Stanton, McArdle or Holness, he's still been outstanding at the back. And if all of that wasn't enough, he's got this ability to be the invisible man at corners. We know he's going to score, they know he's going to score, but there's nothing they can do about it, as nine goals to his name will testify to. Six months it was unthinkable that we'd be considering Dawson one of our best. Now it's unthinkable not to.
6) Central Defender - Gareth Griffiths
From around 2001 onwards for five seasons, our central defence was always Gareth Griffiths plus one. That plus one changed about 25,000 times during his time at Rochdale in a spell which saw him chalk up over 200 appearances for the club, but Griff was a constant throughout. Noted for both his performances on the pitch and his strong dressing room influence, he was a dominant force at the back. It would be wrong to say that things were always perfect, but the good days with Griff certainly outweighed the bad days, and it was no surprise to see Griff voted into this side. Griff was also a bit of a threat from set pieces and could be relied upon for a few goals per season. His header in front of a packed Sandy Lane terrace against Coventry will be long remembered and I had the pleasure of sitting next to Griff's biggest critic that night that he scored a hat trick against Scarborough in the LDJPTV thing. And if you wanted further reasons for Griff's inclusion within this side, then his role at the beginning of the Hillcroft era should never be ignored. Sidelined from Northwich with a broken jar, it was Griff who came to the club to assist the man he replaced as a player at Spotland - something never forgotten by the management. Here you go Griff, team of the decade and very deserving of it.
7) Right Winger - Will Buckley
If there's one thing that sums up the Hillcroft era, it is the ability to bring players through the ranks and into the first team. Not just as fringe players, but proper players that are vital to the first team. And our right winger in our team of the decade is the second player featured to have gone from the a decent prospect to someone the scouts are flocking to see week in, week out. After arriving at the club in the Summer of 2007 to comments of "that's not Kyle Buckley" from those in attendance of the pre-season friendlies, Buckley has gone on to establish himself as the stand out winger. Not just at Spotland, but across the division. It is honesty rather than hyperbole to describe Buckley as the best player in his position in League Two. The only controversy would be whether he is the best right winger in League Two or the best left winger, though in reality he's probably both. Ten goals in his first full season of football, and a further three in an injury hit second season, it is proof that he cannot be accused of having no end product like most fancy wingers you get in League Two. But it is that fancy play which has seen us take him to our hearts, as he leaves many an opposition player in a heap on the floor as he's left him bamboozled on his way to goal. Beating a player is made to look the easiest thing the world has ever seen, and at times I swear he's gone back to beat the same player again. Just because he can. It's questionable how long we'll have to enjoy his talents at Rochdale before he is poached by by a passing Premiership vulture, but that roar that follows him as he accelerates away having beaten his man will live long in the memory. As a trail of yellow cards from Bradford will testify to.
8) Central Midfielder
9) Striker
10) Striker
11) Left Winger

Photo: Action Images

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