The Spotland Stadium may not be regarded as the bedrock of football in the North West, but a night of talking with Rochdale supporters suggests there’s more to the club than first meets the eye.
Ambitions at the club are humble, with a number of fans declaring that League One consolidation is the number one priority for ‘little old Rochdale’ and getting to Wembley would be a ‘fantastic bonus’.
But as their second round Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match unfolds against Walsall, tales of years gone by reveal that the club has recently held the signatures of four strikers of an excellent calibre.
Grant Holt, Rickie Lambert, Adam Le Fondre and Chris Dagnall have all graced the Spotland turf in recent times, scoring a mighty 154 goals between them.
It raises the question of what could have been had the club secured these players for another year or two.
Holt now plays Premier League football with Norwich City, while Lambert is making waves at Championship side
Southampton. Dagnall and Le Fondre have also taken the number nine shirts at Scunthorpe United and Reading respectively.
But despite these high profile departures, fans are still optimistic about their club’s future with the appointment of former Manchester City youth coach, Steve Eyre, as manager.
“He’s got a good footballing pedigree, if he’s given enough time he’ll do very well and hopefully develop some good young players,” said season ticket holder, Robert Smith.
Eyre’s philosophy is clear to see on the pitch. In a cagey first half against Walsall, several instructions about the use of space and defending as a unit were barked to Rochdale’s young side.
In the final third, Rochdale’s management encouraged a faster tempo to their passing play.
They broke the deadlock after half-time through a scrappy finish from 21-year-old striker David Ball, before Walsall
responded with a near-post tap in from Kevan Hurst.
With the game tied after 90-minutes, both teams prepared for a penalty shoot-out. The home fans played their part in creating an anxious atmosphere for Walsall players, who only scored one of their four penalties.
But the Rochdale players scored every one of their spot-kicks in a clinical fashion, winning the shoot-out 3-1.
Perhaps proof that the Spotland Stadium is the North West’s striker factory.
Johnstone’s. Bringing colour to the beautiful game.