By Harley ThorneOver the next few weeks we will be taking a look at some of the sides that we will be taking on next season in SkyBet League One, today it's the turn of Rochdale.
Name: Rochdale A.F.C
Nickname(s): The Dale
Distance: 186 miles from Bristol.
Last season: 10th in League One.
Rochdale were promoted to League One after finishing third in the 2013-2014 season, and in fact this is the highest level the club have ever played at.
The 2014-2015 season led to their highest placed league finish in history, as they had a great first season in the division in which they spent most of the season in the top half – before finishing an impressive eighth.
Last time out they finished tenth, but they have given themselves a solid platform to build upon as they aim to reach the Championship, a league they have yet to grace.
In the last ten years, Spotland has been something of a breeding ground for talented strikers – and there was one in particular that will be no stranger to Rovers fans.
On the summer transfer deadline day 2006, following the departure of Junior Agogo to Nottingham Forest, Bristol Rovers completed the £200,000 signing of Rochdale’s top goalscorer Rickie Lambert. Lambert played a key role in the Rovers promotion that followed in his debut season, and continued to hit the back of the net in League One, as 51 goals in just 128 appearances for the club led to a move to Southampton - for a fee of around £1-million in 2009.
Lambert’s rise continued as he fired Southampton from the lower depths of League One to the Premier League in just two years, and then set his sights on the England national team, where he scored a debut goal against Scotland at Wembley Stadium. A move to his boyhood club Liverpool followed – where he scored 2 goals in 25 appearances, and he remains a Premier League footballer in 2016, now at West Bromwich Albion after a £3-million move last summer.
OK, I may have let myself get carried away there with Rickie Lambert talk. Let’s get back to Rochdale.
In the transfer window prior to selling Lambert to Rovers, they sold another future star – Grant Holt. Holt has since gone on to play for Norwich City in the Premier League, having fired them, like Lambert, from League One to the Premier League. Holt had previously described Rochdale as his “major break-through”. He returned to The Dale in February 2016, at the age of 35.
Two Premier League strikers were not enough for Rochdale, however, and they completed the hat-trick in 2009, when they sold striker Adam Le Fondre to Rotherham United. Le Fondre scored 54 in 96 games for Rotherham, before a move to Reading for £350,000 saw him play a key role in their promotion to the Premier League. Goals against Everton, Stoke City, Manchester United, and Arsenal saw him scoop a Premier League Player of the Month award in January 2013, before winning the Reading FC Player of the Season award in May.
Their current hot-shot, Ian Henderson, scored an impressive 22 league goals last time out. Dale fans will be thankful though that he will be unlikely to depart them for pastures new, as he has already claimed he will be finishing his playing career at the club. Having signed on a free transfer following his release from Colchester United in 2013, he has already scored 38 goals at the club.
Rochdale have thus far made three summer signings as they look to progress this season. Young Manchester United midfielder Oliver Rathbone has signed a one-year deal, whilst Sheffield United defender Harrison McGahey and released Scunthorpe United defender Niall Canavan have signed two-year deals.
The addition of two defenders will no doubt ensure Rochdale are tough to break down next season, as their goalkeeper Josh Lillis claimed an impressive 13 clean sheets – making some superb saves in the process. Lillis was described by one supporter as the teams “saving grace when playing behind a defence that looked bereft of confidence” – and manager Keith Hill has clearly attempted to make life a little easier for the goalkeeper next time out. Lillis also won the Supporters’ Player of the Season award, and is clearly valued as a key member of the squad.
Manager Keith Hill, who has managed Rochdale in two separate spells since 2006, is the only manager in their club’s history to have achieved two promotions. These were both promotions to League One from League Two – in 2010 and 2014. He will no doubt be hoping to extend his promotions record to three this coming season, as they look to build upon two top half finishes with a play-off push. He is already renowned as a Rochdale great.
The Gas will be looking to end up a run of two defeats to Rochdale, when they meet at The Memorial Stadium on Saturday 10th September. The last Rovers win came back in March 2013, when a fresh-faced Ellis Harrison scored his first two home-goals for the club as we ran out 2-1 winners. His opener, a fantastic 20-yard strike after turning his marker and cutting in past another defender, was particularly memorable.
Want to be part of the action? Then purchasing your 2016/17 Season Ticket couldn’t be easier
Personal callers are welcome at Pirate Leisure at The Memorial Stadium or at The Supporters Club Shop 199 Two Mile Hill Road Kingswood, BS15 1AZ.
Alternatively Season Tickets can also be purchased over the phone by calling Pirate Leisure on 0117 909 6648 - option 1 (during office hours) or ‘199’ on 0117 961 1772 (during office hours) or online at www.brfctickets.com
Ambulant Disabled, wheelchair users and carers should contact Clare McDonagh directly, either in person or over the phone, on 0117 952 4001.