Played for Both: Dale vs Tranmere
Friday, 14th Feb 2020 09:50 by AtThePeake
Having fired in the goals to help us to a first promotion in 40 years back in the 2009/2010 campaign, Chris Dagnall will always be fondly remembered by the Spotland faithful.
Not always the most gainly of footballers, Daggers' untucked shirt, unkempt hair and unnatural way of running made him seem an unlikely hero to the Dale faithful, but a sublime touch and a deadly instinct inside the penalty box made him a key component of one of the greatest sides to ever wear the shirt.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Daggers was snapped up to the Tranmere youth system as a teenager and made his debut as a 17 year old in a Division Two match against Peterborough United in 2003.
Over the course of the 2003/2004 campaign, the striker would make 11 appearances in all competitions and score his first goal in a 3-1 away defeat at Luton Town as the Super White Army just missed out on the play-offs, finishing in eighth place.
The season after, a young Dagnall would feature much more prominently for the Wirral outfit, scoring six times in 23 outings as the side finished third before losing out on promotion to the Championship by falling to one of Daggers' future clubs Leyton Orient in the play-offs.
Memorably, Daggers marked his first goal at Prenton Park vs Hartlepool in August of that season by jumping into the stand to celebrate with his adoring public only to be shown a second yellow and subsequent red card, but it was a display of fire and passion that would only endear him further to the supporters and would provide the kind of hunger that made him into a star at Dale in the coming years.
It was half-way through the next season when Dagnall would join Dale, initially on loan, with Steve Parkin's side struggling for goals. An eight game winless streak finally ended in Dagnall's third game with the side as the striker opened the scoring in a 1-3 away win at Torquay, with the Gulls' goal coming from Morike Sako who would of course briefly feature for Dale himself at the start of the next season.
A few different internet resources tell me this move wasn't made permanent until the summer, but my memory is of Dagnall transfer switch being confirmed just a day or two after he had come on for his loan debut versus Stockport County. Perhaps TVOS or somebody can confirm that my mind isn't starting to play tricks on me? I'm starting to worry now after the phantom Kevin Kyle own goal memory from the other day!
The side's form picked up somewhat after that win over Torquay, but relegation seemed more than a possibility for the majority of that campaign. The key moment in the fight to stay up came from Dagnall himself.
With Dale trailing 1-0 at Nene Park in April against fellow strugglers Rushden and Diamonds, non-league appeared to be calling as it seemed the Diamonds were about to leapfrog one of their relegation rivals as the game appeared to be fizzling out and getting beyond the Dale.
For this particular Dale fan, his Dad and his friend, it was a particularly sobering afternoon. A wrong turning on the motorway had seen us miss the majority of the first half anyway and with Drewe Broughton's goal appearing to be enough to separate the two teams, the howls of 'you're going down with the Torquay' from the Rushden fans made for a rather grim afternoon... Until.
A long punt forward was headed on by Alan Goodall and after an excellent first-touch, Dagnall settled himself and guided the ball into the bottom corner to earn Dale a huge injury-time equaliser. Limbs. All. Over. The. Shop.
It was the following season when Dagnall really started to find his shooting boots though. Despite a slow start for the side, where Daggers himself only managed one goal in the first nine matches of the campaign, back-to-back braces against Barnet and Wrexham offered glimpses of what was to come.
When Keith Hill took over the side mid-way through the campaign, Dagnall really benefitted from the more attack-minded style and formed a formidable partnership with the mercurial Glenn Murray and finished top scorer with 18 goals in all competitions, with Dale losing just three of their 23 games in the second half of the season to earn an impressive ninth placed finish.
A long injury lay-off saw Dagnall miss out for much of the 2007/2008 centenary campaign, but he still provided some memorable moments in the games in which he did feature. Not least his return from injury, when the forward came off the bench to score three times in the final ten minutes in a stunning 4-1 win over Rotherham United. All in his first game back from injury. Pure class.
After ending 07/08 with nine goals in 19 appearances, injuries again affected Daggers in the 2008/2009 season, but more so the loss of his place to the firing Adam Le Fondre. 'Alfie' led the line for the majority of that campaign, leaving his team-mate mostly featuring off the bench, but still managing 10 goals in 45 outings across all competitions.
With Le Fondre sold to Rotherham in the early stages of the following campaign, Dagnall enjoyed some magnificent form in his final season in Rochdale colours. Linking up with the formidable Chris O'Grady to devastating effect, Dagnall's 20 league goals in the 2009/2010 season will never be forgotten by a Dale faithful that had waited to long to gleefully celebrate promotion to League One.
Stand-out performances with braces against Bradford City and Torquay United plus a hat-trick against Grimsby Town in the latter stages of the campaign, were pivotal for Dale as they blasted their way to that promotion and it came as little surprise in the summer when Dagnall decided not to sign a new contract to remain with the team in League One but instead seek pastures new, signing for Championship side Scunthorpe United on a free for presumably a much larger wage than the one that was on offer at Spotland.
Daggers struggled with the step-up however and managed just five goals in his first campaign in the second tier. Relegation to League One was expected to see the Liverpudlian get among the goals more often for the Iron, but he managed just four in 23 in first half of the following season before returning to the Championship to link up with his former boss Keith Hill, now at Barnsley.
Just six were added to Daggers' Championship goal tally in his 53 appearances for the Tykes and he spent time out on loan with both Bradford City and Coventry City in a bid to find some goalscoring form, but having only managed one goal in a handful of appearances in each of those spells, it seemed he was never destined for success at Oakwell.
A switch down south to join Leyton Orient in January 2014 helped kickstart his career again. As Dale were looking to earn another promotion from League Two, the O's were looking to find themselves back in the Championship and a debut brace in a comeback win against Crewe Alexandra immediately endeared Dagnall to the Brisbane Road faithful. He scored four more times in the rest of that campaign, but the season ultimately ended in heartbreak as his missed penalty in a Wembley shoot-out against Rotherham saw the side fail to win promotion to the Championship.
The season after saw the O's fortunes differ dramatically and they were relegated to League Two, although on an individual level Dagnall enjoyed his most prolific season since leaving Spotland, scoring 11 times to top-score for Orient that season. Rather than dropping into League Two however, he raised some eyebrows that summer by leaving London for India, joining Kerala Blasters on a short-term deal.
After six goals in 13 games in the Indian Super League, Daggers returned to Britain to join Hibernian, but failed to score in 11 appearances for the Hibbees. A summer switch to Crewe proved fruitful as the now experienced forward scored 17 times in all competitions in his first campaign for the Railwaymen to earn himself another top scorer's gong at the club's end of season awards.
Just seven goals in 32 league appearances arrived the season after however and that was followed up with a short, unsuccessful spell at Bury where he scored just twice in 17 league outings before ending up back at Tranmere for another brief spell - although he failed to score in his five League Two appearances for the club as they won promotion last season.
Now aged 33, Dagnall dropped out of the Football League for the first time in his career in the summer, signing for Yeovil Town on a free in October, scoring just once in his first 17 appearances for the club - although admittedly 12 of those appearances have been off the bench.
Having enjoyed a solid career in the Football League, Dagnall will be more fondly remembered by supporters at Crewe, Orient and Rochdale than he will at the club where he first appeared at Tranmere.
For supporters at Spotland, he will always by synonymous with that glorious promotion campaign, but those fans should never forget his contributions that came before that and particularly that goal at Rushden and Diamonds. Without that goal one has to wonder if the few phenomenal years that followed would ever happened at all?
Photo: Action Images
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