Match Preview - Dale v Stockport
Friday, 23rd May 2008 18:05
It's Bank Holiday weekend, which must mean that its Dale at Wembley. All roads lead South!
"And the music that they constantly play, says nothing to me about my life"
The promotion side of 1969 means little to me. Don't get me wrong, I have total respect and admiration for them, and it's only right that the likes of Reg Jenkins are lauded amongst the greatest players to have turned out for Dale.
But given that I started watching Dale back in the very early 1980's, it was always just a brief high spot in the history of the club. And I could listen to the stories of those that watched that promotion, and I did so with envy, and I could read the books telling of that glorious season, but it wasn't my history. It was someone else's, and I could never really attach myself to it. And if I tried to, I'd have been a fraud.
The history I knew about was the one I spoke about in the match preview for the Darlington game last week. It was the memories that I'd built up watching Dale over the years. My history was one of Joe Cooke smacking Barry Diamond, Watering Cans on the players' shirts, and an Egomaniac sticking his face on the front of the matchday programme.
We're guilty at times of overplaying the bad times. Easily done with the lack of success we've had over the years, but when we think back on our times of supporting Dale, it's always the great moments that stand out. Those heroic moments that even many years on, are still guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Now I want you to ask yourself this. Think back on your greatest memories supporting Dale: the 9 man win at Turf Moor, the Wakenshaw goal, Martin Hodge's one man wall at Carlisle as Dale went top of the league, Paddy's run at Halifax, the great escape back in 1987, the afternoon off school as we beat Coventry in the early 70's, Holt thinking he was Johan Cruyff against Macclesfield, the win at Darlington to take us to Anfield, Atko in the last minute or even the promotion itself back in 69......
We've had many great times watching this club of ours.
Now think back on this season. How many memories from this season will make it into your finest Dale moments? It's been a season with more highs than a night out with the Happy Mondays. I'd argue that the comeback against MK, the many, many four goal victories away from home, Alfie's last gasp goal against Bradford, Alfie's last gasp goal against Bradford. Even delaying the kick off at Gigg Lane will remain one of trump cards for many years to come.
But last Saturday took things to a whole new level. Christ, we had two moments on the pitch last Saturday which must rank alongside any moment from our past in terms of Perkins' winner and the Muirhead penalty. And then we had the celebrations on the pitch and in the pubs which lasted well into Sunday. That feeling of singing Que Sera Sera for the first time when it was confirmed we were going to Wembley.
Whatever happens this Monday, this will go down as one of the greatest seasons we've witnessed. At its one that has thrown many things our way, and we've dealt with every one of them. We've had some magical moments, make no mistake.
But it's not enough.
Last Saturday gave me a taste for success and I want more. I feel greedy. I had enough highpoints last week to dine out on for the next few years, but I want more of it. I want the real deal. Yes, reaching Wembley had been a great achievement, and we're immensely proud of the players for taking us there but it's not THE achievement.
You see, this trip to Wembley is not just some sightseeing trip. We're not down there to chalk up another ground. We're not heading to London for a Jolly Boy's outing. We're there because we're just one match away from the promotion which has alluded us for my entire lifetime and beyond. And this Monday we can finally rid League Two of its "Rochdale Division" tag.
We're playing at Wembley on merit. We're there because we deserve to be. But we're there to do a job, and it's very easy to get lost in all of this right now. We're there for a game of football which will ultimately determine our success for the season. And we're taking half the town with us.
We have never been as professional as we are right now. And we can rest assured that when Gary Jones leads the players out onto the Wembley turf (and that roar at Darlo will have nothing on this), we will be completely focused on the task in hand.
Looking at the game, it's almost fitting that what is without doubt the biggest game I've ever seen Dale involved with is against Stockport. Looking back at my time of Dale, I'd argue with anyone that the previous biggest game I've seen us involved with was also against Stockport.
That game against County back in 87 was a turning point for this club. It marked the end of the club's time as a bottom of the league side. Fair enough, it's been slow progression, but a side which had drifted around the bottom four for most of the previous years, has became one which was no longer out of place in the division. Relegation battles became mostly a thing of the past.
Could this Monday’s game against Stockport be another turning point in our history? Could this be the game which launches the League One era? You have to say that whilst there’s no doubting that League One will be far from a walk in the park, we have a management, squad and stadium already set up for it, and it’s something to be embraced and not feared.
We are Rochdale and we are ready. It’s our time. We could be heroes, just for a lifetime.
Photo: Action Images
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