In 1973-74, Britain was in meltdown. The Arab-Israeli War had sent energy prices soaring. Petrol was scarce. Offices were limited to a temperature of 17c and power cuts were frequent. A three-day working week came in as inflation took hold and miners and other workers went on strike.

The northern mill town of Rochdale suffered more than most. Its cotton industry was on shut-down in the face of cheap imports, and the football team was a mirror image of the town – tired, defeated, clinging to life.

The Rochdale team of 1973-74 are considered the worst to play in the Football League. They finished bottom of the Third Division, winning just twice in 46 league matches. They closed the season with a 22-game winless run and played one home match in front of the lowest-ever post-war crowd. That season 32 players played for the team, many of them drafted in from amateur or Sunday league clubs.

The Longest Winter is as much a piece of forensic social history as it is a sports book. It evokes the smells, textures and moods of the early 1970s.

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2022. Hardcover: 304 pages)

2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 7 – Tuesday 27 August 2019: Rochdale v Carlisle United

Matchday programme cover

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that as an only child I started reading because dad had control of the telly, which was good on the occasion there would be sport on, especially football. But I didn’t read novels, my main reading material were encyclopaedia, history books, football books and annuals. I later added the music press to my reading list. As you’ll appreciate, these sort of books are essentially facts and figure based, and I loved reading and absorbing them, even to the point of getting my dad to test me on what I could remember. At one stage I knew all the countries in the world, their capitals, their national flag, their currency, major towns and cities etc and in terms of my football recall, I knew all the winners of the First Division, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup, UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and of course the World Cup, along with goal scorers, home grounds, colours, and individual honours like caps and goals. Sad, I know, but that answers a lot of questions for a lot of people about me!

Anyway my dad used to test me, and we were doing football grounds this particular day. He started off easy-ish with First and Second division clubs, but he would always throw in an obscure one, and on this occasion, he asked, “Rochdale?”, immediately I said “Spotland”. “How the hell do you know that?” or words to that effect was my dad’s response.

Rochdale had perked my interest from being in one of those pub-quiz football questions, Name six clubs in the league whose name ends with “e”? (The others being, Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle, Port Vale, Morecambe, and Stevenage). I also have a penchant for teams with one name, Chelsea, Fulham, Stenhousemuir. Additionally, I like the history of teams with the suffix United as it usually means the formation from two teams, with Wanderers usually having an interesting history and I like the unusual ones like Wednesday, Alexandra, and North End. The other Rochdale connection was that there was also a song in the charts called It’s hard being a Cowboy in Rochdale, by Mike Harding, so I have always wanted to visit Spotland or the Crown Oil Arena as it is now called.

My chance came with a Carabao Cup (the League Cup in my youth) Second Round tie with Carlisle United. ‘Dale had progressed after a First Round victory over Bolton Wanderers 5-2 at home, with Carlisle United impressing in a 3-0 win at Championship side Barnsley. As is the norm for the League Cup, the game was midweek, giving me a fix of walking to a ground of an evening with floodlights in the distance drawing the fans to the ground.

Team handshakes before kick-off

Of the game itself, ‘Dale began brightly with Stephen Dooley seeing an effort saved after jinking past two defenders and they were ahead after eleven minutes when Aaron Morley struck a stunner past Adam Collin. Morley was prominent for the home side and was involved in a move five minutes later which saw him pick out Callum Camps, who nodded down to Done, but he could only drag his shot wide from outside the area. Rochdale doubled their advantage just after the half hour mark. A ball forward wasn’t cleared by the United defence, with the wayward clearance falling to Done who did well to break into the Carlisle box, finishing calmly into the bottom corner in a one-on-one situation with ‘keeper Collin. Into the second half and ‘Dale had the better chances with Morley and Dooley having efforts to further extend the lead. Carlisle made a double-substitution on fifty-three minutes which sparked the visitors into life. One of those, Harry McKirdy got Carlisle back in the game when he won a penalty with nineteen minutes remaining, which was converted by Bridge. This gave United the impetus going into the final period of the game and Sanchez in the Rochdale goal had to be at his best on a couple of occasions to keep the visitors at bay. However, ‘Dale hung on and earned a lucrative Third Round tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United, where they weren’t disgraced, going out 5-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-1.


Tuesday 27 August 2019

Carabao Cup – Second Round

Rochdale 2 (Morley 11’, Done 31’) Carlisle United 1 (Bridge 71’ pen)

Venue: Spotland

Attendance: 1,974

Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Magloire, Keohane, Ryan (Pyke 63’), Morley, Dooley (Rathbone 68’), Camps, Done (McLaughlin 86’), Andrew

Unused Substitutes: Norrington-Davies, Delaney, Lynch, Henderson

Carlisle United: Collin, Elliott, Webster, Knight-Percival, Iredale, Bridge, Jones (Carroll 53’), Scougall, Thomas, Olomola (Sorenson 64’), Hope (McKirdy 53’)

Unused Substitutes: Mellish, Gray, Branthwaite, Loft


Steve Blighton

2015/16: Capital One Cup Second Round – Hull City v Rochdale

Following a first visit to Brunton Park in the Capital Cup First Round, the Second Round also afforded the chance to tick another venue off the list of grounds attended, with a trip to the KC Stadium, the home of Hull City.

Both City and their opponents tonight, Rochdale, only made it into the Second Round after winning through on penalties. Hull emerged victors 4-3 away at Accrington Stanley, whilst Rochdale beat fellow League One side Coventry City 5-3 at Spotland.

Hull City manager Steve Bruce made nine changes to his starting line-up from the weekend loss at Charlton Athletic with only David Meyler and Andrew Robertson retained. The most significant change saw the return from a long-term injury of Mohamed Diame.

Dale manager Keith Hill made only two changes from the squad that drew 0-0 at Chesterfield with Andy Cannon and Reuben Noble-Lazarus coming in.

Despite the number of changes the home team settled quickest and had the first real opportunity of the game when Ryan Taylor fired a free-kick over the bar. However, it wasn’t long before the City faithful had a goal to cheer. On nine minutes Abel Hernandez played in Greg Luer who expertly slotted home past Rochdale keeper Lillis.

Hull though didn’t capitalise on their bright start and despite the energy of Diame in midfield, weren’t able to punish the visitors. Indeed it was Rochdale who looked more composed as the first-half continued with neat possession football that saw chances created for Ian Henderson, Cannon and Noble-Lazarus.

The lethargy from the home-side seemed to affect the majority of the 10,430 crowd who were muted in their response as the players left the pitch at half-time with the Tigers holding onto their 1-0 advantage.

Hull started the better at the beginning of the second-half and Hernandez had an early chance, but put it over the bar. However, as with the opening forty five minutes, it was the visitors who came stronger into the game dominating possession.

Despite seeing plenty of the balls, Rochdale didn’t create any clear-cut opportunities, although there were half-chances for Calvin Andrew, Lewis Alessandra and Cannon. Hull though had a glorious chance to kill off the game late-on, but Hernandez managed to fire wide after a tantalising cross from substitute Ahmed Elmohamady.

At the whistle, Hull had managed to maintain their 1-0 lead and progress to the Third Round and a home tie with Swansea City. Rochdale though will have considered themselves unlucky not to have taken the game to extra-time based on their possession.

* * * * * * * *

In terms of my impression of the KC Stadium, it was unspectacular from the outside, as most new-builds are, but it was good to see that had an attempt had been made to break up the plain exterior with a series of fresco’s featuring greats from Hull City and the rugby league legends of Hull FC (who also play at the KC Stadium).

Internally, the layout reminded me of Rotherham United’s New York Stadium, with a larger main stand sweeping down and round to the remaining three stands.

With the ground less than half-full it was difficult to assess the atmosphere and intensity that a packed KC Stadium would generate.