Striker George Donnelly says he’s just getting started at Rochdale
GEORGE Donnelly has been compared to Rochdale legend Grant Holt by boss Keith Hill, but he’s also looking up to another former Spotland hero who is now playing in the Premier League – Rickie Lambert.
Donnelly, 24, has been singled out by Hill of late for helping to fire Rochdale up to mid-table safety, not just for his goals, but for his newfound workrate.
After a couple of years in the wilderness at Plymouth, Donnelly returned to his native north-west but spells at Stockport, Fleetwood and Macclesfield all proved fruitless.
His start to life at Rochdale was inconspicuous but upon Hill’s return to the club Donnelly has hit the goal trail, notching five in his last eight before Saturday’s visit of Port Vale.
It has not always been a smooth ride – Hill revealed that until recently he’s been at odds with his squad when putting across his ideas – but the exBarnsley boss sees plenty of Holt, who spent three years at Spotland, in Donnelly.
But it’s Southampton’s Rickie Lambert – the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League this season who also spent time at Rochdale, Stockport and Macclesfield – who has Donnelly’s ear.
“Rickie’s a good friend of mine. We grew up together in Kirkby and we’re still close and our families are very close,” said Donnelly. “I keep in touch a lot and I spoke to him about coming to Rochdale
and what the club was like and how I need to keep performing. I’m just enjoying my football, which is important, after a few spells on loan after Plymouth.
“Keith came back and I was speaking to a few of the lads that were here when he was but you want to form your own opinions and I’ve been very impressed.
“It’s taken a while for him to get his views and his message across and there have been some ups and downs but we’re all behind what he’s trying to do.We’ve bonded well.
“He’s been very honest with me, told me what he wants me to do and told it how it is. It’s not like some managers before who have said some things and done others. I’ll take being compared to Grant Holt all day! He’s a fantastic player and he’s the kind of player to strive towards being like.”
Thumping back-to-back wins over Fleetwood and Southend have seen Dale end any lingering doubts over relegation and a top-half finish now looks on the cards. As well as Donnelly, Bobby Grant is also in great form, and Ashley Grimes scored his first goal in 15 matches against the Shrimpers.
And Donnelly believes Rochdale’s strong finish to the season bodes well for a promotion push next season.
“As players we really don’t want the season to end,” he said. “We’re showing what we can do and we want to keep that going right up until the final day.
“There’s plenty of optimism here about what we can achieve with Keith as the manager and we’re already looking forward to next season.”
DOUBLE TOP: George Donnelly wants to be like former Rochdale striker Rickie Lambert, inset, of Southampton
HIGH-FLYING CANARY: Grant Holt