RICHARD FOAD ex­plains his life­long love for an un­fash­ion­able club...

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - A FAN’S DEVOTION -

I’VE been asked the ques­tion head­lin­ing this ar­ti­cle many times over the years af­ter pro­fess­ing my sup­port for the Lan­cashire club, usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied with a slight squeak of dis­be­lief.

The fact I live 275 miles away from the town and have no ob­vi­ous links only adds to the in­credulity. If I’d pur­ported to fol­low Manch­ester United or Liver­pool then this would be ac­cepted with­out ques­tion, al­beit with ill-con­cealed mut­ter­ings of ‘plas­tic’. But Rochdale?

It was the late 70s when I first started to take an in­ter­est in football. I lived in Ne­warkon-Trent at the time so there was no lo­cal league club fac­tor when it be­came time to pick a team to ‘sup­port’.

The old cliche that ‘You don’t choose your team, you in­herit it’ might have come into play here and both my dad (Tot­ten­ham) and mum (Manch­ester United) fol­lowed teams that rep­re­sented a chance of con­sid­er­able re­flected glory. At the time, Liver­pool were sweep­ing all be­fore them so were the fash­ion­able team for my play­ground pals.

I was al­ready de­vel­op­ing what would be­come a life­time af­fil­i­a­tion for the un­der­dog though. Scour­ing the league ta­bles af­ter each sea­son, my eyes were drawn to the foot of Di­vi­sion Four and one team who ap­peared there year af­ter year, mostly hang­ing on to their Football League sta­tus by a thread af­ter sur­viv­ing the dreaded re-elec­tion.

Some­thing about this hap­haz­ard ex­is­tence ap­pealed to me more than any glit­ter­ing haul of tro­phies ever could. I had cho­sen my team, and it would be Rochdale.

Of course this rep­re­sented con­sid­er­able dif­fi­cul­ties when it came to ac­tu­ally watch­ing my team of choice. Whilst hu­mour­ing (if not ac­tu­ally un­der­stand­ing) my new found en­thu­si­asm for the Dale, my dad wasn’t about to start tak­ing me on the three-hour round trip across the Pen­nines to see them in ac­tion. When we moved nearly 300 miles away to Brighton what seemed im­prob­a­ble be­came im­pos­si­ble and I re­signed my­self to fol­low­ing my he­roes from afar.

In the pre-in­ter­net/Sky Sports days of the 80s, this meant Fi­nal Score on Grand­stand and for mid­week games Ceefax and the in­ter­minable wait for page 310 to re­fresh it­self so I would be able to see if Andy Floun­ders had man­aged to snatch a last minute equaliser at Hal­i­fax (he hadn’t).

Like a lot of long dis­tant ro­mances, I had my head turned by oth­ers and there were brief flir­ta­tions with closer, more ac­ces­si­ble, teams, but ul­ti­mately I re­mained loyal.

It wasn’t un­til 1990 that I even­tu­ally got my first taste of live ac­tion against Crys­tal Palace in the FA Cup at Sel­hurst Park (the Dale go­ing down 1-0 in the ar­che­typal ‘plucky’ lower league per­for­mance) dur­ing Palace’s run to that year’s fi­nal. My ac­cent may have bore closer re­sem­blance to South Lon­don than broad Lan­cas­trian that day but I sung my

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