Rochdale AFC meeting the opposition.

Tranmere Rovers will face the recently relegated Rochdale on Tuesday afternoon as Ian Dawes’ men continue their preparations for the 2023-24 season.

The game comes a few days on from a 4-1 win at The Campus as The Whites came head to head against Fleetwood. 

Charlie Jolley and Josh Hawkes stood out with fantastic attacking performances, the former forcing an own goal with a powerful cross and the latter netting twice. 

It has been fantastic to watch Jolley so far this Summer after he spent the entirety of the last campaign on the treatment table. It will be great to see what he can do in the upcoming year, the forward line is certainly looking stronger.

Ahead of the friendly tie against Rochdale I spoke to the club’s her game ambassador Charlotte Cromarty who told me all about what is happening at The Dale as they prepare for life in the fifth tier.

How long have you been a Rochdale supporter and how did your first experience of the club come about?

I have been a Rochdale supporter all of my life! My mum and dad are big Dale fans so it was always going to be the case for me, I had baby grows and the kits when I was little then my love for the club and going to football grew as I got older and I went more! Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact game and score line but I remember being a 4 year old girl that was obsessed and in awe of our mascot Desmond the Dragon. When I was this age, Desmond and the pies were the only reason I wanted to go to the football with my dad haha. Then as I started going more and I got older, that’s when it was just for football and enjoying the game! 

My first match as a season ticket holder was the 1998/1999 season and we lost 2-0 at home to Torquay United. Even though we lost, I absolutely loved everything about it. The football, atmosphere, the buzz around the stadium and just being part of something. It honestly felt like home and I was excited to go to football every weekend. When my mum and dad split up, I was really young and it was mine and my dads thing to go home and away matches, that’s when I really did become passionate about the sport. 

You’re the host of HerGameToo Twitter spaces and have featured in the Absolute Football Podcast, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m Rochdale’s #HerGameToo club ambassador, so I work with the football club to help match day’s safe and enjoyable for females. If any reports of sexism do occur whether it be aimed at a home supporter, member of staff or away supporter that’s been linked to a Rochdale game then I help solve the issue and with the help of the campaign and club find a solution to the offence. I also work with the community to help promote the message that ‘Football is for all genders’. The Twitter spaces are a way to help spread messages, educate about the campaign and also highlight topics! We recently did one about diabetes in football which was a real eye opener! 

Podcasting has honestly changed my life for the better, I struggle with my anxiety and depression. I’ve always been open about my struggles and podcasting has helped me massively with my confidence. I work full time and have my two boys but I used to struggle at night when the kids were in bed because I then never really had anything to do. The pair of them and work are my life, but then podcasting really did help me and still does. It’s a social life for me, gives me the chance to talk about football but also gives me opportunities to make friends and speak to people that also have the same passions. It really is an amazing thing to be involved in.

I’m involved in two podcasts, my own which is ‘The Dale Way’ which is all things Rochdale and match analysis but from a female’s point of view. The second one is ‘The Absolute Football Podcast’ which consists of myself, Sam, Josh, Lucas and Keira. Each week the team rotates and we analyse the weekend’s Premier League football, recap the table, speak about the EFL Leagues and briefly the European leagues too but it’s honestly so much fun. We have started doing guest episodes too, I am starting my own ‘Lower League’ spin off show and we are introducing a WSL show so it’s going really well and growing each day. The refreshing thing about it too is that we are getting the same familiar faces that tune in every week and interact in the live chat. These people really do make our days and it makes theirs also, their lonely nights are now tuning in to us talking football and we all keep each other company and have discussions and share our views on football. It’s brilliant! ‘The Absolute Football Podcast’ is live at 8pm on Monday and Thursdays on YouTube and twitch, but all previous episodes are available to watch on YouTube too. We are also on all social media platforms and audio listeners can listen to it on Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music.

Last season’s relegation to the National League will most probably be the worst moment of your time following The Dale. However, what are the other best and worst moments?  

There’s so many amazing memories supporting Rochdale. Most people laugh at me when I tell them who I support, but I’ve been extremely lucky as a Dale fan. I’ve seen two promotions, a play off final, play off semi finals, several games that took us on cup runs against big teams. My first favourite cup memory was in 2003, I was absolutely besotted with a striker called Paul Connor, he was the first football player I really did enjoy watching and took a liking to, we played Coventry in the FA Cup and beat them 2-0. Connor scored and then a club legend Gareth Griffiths, that was a memory I will always remember. There was a newspaper article which Paul Connor featured in and I still have it saved now haha! 

In 2014 we beat Leeds in the FA Cup which was one of my all time favourite games, goals from Scott Hogan and a brilliant chip over the keeper from Ian Henderson secured us a fourth round tie. 

A Stephen Davies equaliser in injury time to get us a replay against Tottenham at Wembley was absolute limbs. I ended up falling over rows of seats in front of us that day and a lot of cuts and bruises! 

The Play Off Semi Final against Darlington in 2008 was exactly the same too, absolute limbs. We won on penalties and that secured us a play off final spot against Stockport and a trip to Wembley which was just surreal. We unfortunately lost the final but the memory of that semi final was just fantastic! I remember my dad accidentally elbowing me in the nose celebrating and I ended up having a nosebleed ????????.

My all time favourite memory though has to be our first season in league one, it was just so surreal and different to league two! Walking out at St Mary’s and beating them twice in that season. We just missed out on the playoffs too. It really was my favourite season watching us!

My worst memory would have to be relegation seasons, it’s always hard but the covid season we went down. Watching it on tv and not being able to support the lads was awful! Also last season as you said was really tough, we unfortunately finished bottom of League Two and will be playing national league football this next season. I’m really worried as we have never seen us in this position before and listening to other fans that have been in the same position, it’s really difficult to come back up.

Why did it all go so wrong during the 2022-23 campaign? 

I think it’s been a downward special for a few seasons now, relegation from league one under Brian Barry Murphy was the start of a real bad few years for the football club. We then lost him and some big players unfortunately, he went to Manchester City’s academy, we lost big names such as Ollie Rathbone, Matty Lund and many more. Then an attempted hostile took place and unsettled the club, the employment of Robbie Stockdale happened during that specific time. We gave Stockdale one of the biggest budgets the club have given a manager in a long time, but unfortunately some of the signings made just weren’t good enough! Even though we struggled during the 21/22 season, the board put their trust in Stockdale and gave him another transfer window which again unfortunately didn’t really help us, the players we signed didn’t really perform then a few games into the 22/23 season the board made the decision to sack Robbie Stockdale, Jim McNulty was interim for a couple of games and then they appointed Jim Bentley! The fans were unsure about that appointment but backed it, performances and results seemed to improve for a few games but then unfortunately the same cycle happened again. Bentley brought in some decent players, Scott Quigley who performed well until he picked up an injury then he didn’t really perform the same, Danny Lloyd who was a fans favourite was the small glimmer of hope in an awful season, Owen Dodgson a loanee from Burnley helped settle the back line a little bit too and performed well but unfortunately it just wasn’t to be and the bad run continued! It really was diabolical! The board then made the decision again that season to part ways with Bentley and McNulty again finished the season as interim manager before being given the job permanently! He brought some positivity to the end of the season, although we were adrift at the bottom of the league, we did get some good results and picked up points under him!

How have the club attempted to address their issues in the summer and what more needs to be done? 

Something needed to happen, recently there’s been a really big divide between the fans, the club and the fans but also some uncertainty towards the board and chairman, which is understandable as it really has been a downward spiral of negative seasons that have progressively got worse! It really isn’t good enough! The appointment of Jim McNulty happened, he came out and addressed some issues in an interview and explained what he wanted to do and what he expects the players to do and be. That was a positive for us fans! We haven’t got a big budget so we have sold players in the summer, Ethan Brierley to Brentford, Toby Mullarkey going to Grimsby, Richard O’Donnell to Blackpool and Abraham Odoh moving to Harrogate. We have also cut wages by moving on the likes of Liam Kelly and other people who were reported to be high earners at the club. We have also been asking for outside investment to try and help the club as well, we are fan owned so we rely on player sales and cup runs which we haven’t managed the last few seasons, so that and the covid season has really taken its toll financially on not just Rochdale but many football clubs as a whole! 

Player wise I feel like we have strengthened well in areas that we needed to. Jim McNulty plays possession based and likes to play football, so we have got goalkeeper Louie Moulden on loan from Wolves, he has national league experience from his season loan at Solihull Moors last season. Midfield was also a struggle for us last season as has been since selling Ollie Rathbone in my opinion, we signed Adam Clayton from Bradford who I feel is somebody we have been crying out for, a tough CDM that will protect the backline and also put tackles in. The permanent signing of Harvey Gilmour from Halifax and loan of Cody McDonald from Stockport I think will compliment Clayton well, they are more attacking and will be the legs of midfield and hopefully create chances we have struggled to in previous seasons. The attacking addition of Kairo Mitchell I think will help, we really struggled attacking wise last season and didn’t really have many options in that department so he will be another choice as well as Ian Henderson, Devante Rodney and Tyrese Sinclair! 

I think these additions are well established players in the National League, have experience in this division already so hopefully it will help! 

Jimmy McNulty was appointed Rochdale manager on a two-year deal in May, he had been at the club for eight years as a player and a caretaker. What are your thoughts on him getting the role permanently? 

I am going to be honest here, at first I wasn’t happy with the appointment of Jim. No disrespect to him whatsoever but I personally thought we needed somebody well established in the National League and has the experience that could help us stabilise and then get us back into the football league. When I heard Jim’s interview and what he wanted to do at the club, how honest and open he was but also how passionate he was about Rochdale, it changed my opinion on the appointment! Keith Hill didn’t have the experience when he took on the job at Rochdale but he had ties to the club and genuinely cared, McNulty is exactly the same, he cares about the club at a personal level as he’s been here for so long and that’s something I feel we haven’t had properly. So that to me brings me hope that his decisions will be at the club and fans best interests! He knows Rochdale inside out and will have the best intentions! I also can’t fault his efforts previously as interim manager, it was the clubs worst performing squads and he managed to get results and performances from that group of players both Stockdale and Bentley couldn’t! So now I sit back, think logically and take it all in, I’m actually very happy with the appointment! 

Rochdale’s Chairman is Simon Gauge. What are your thoughts on him and how the club is being run away from the pitch? 

I will forever be thankful for Simon Gauge and the rest of the board of directors because those particular people and The Dale Trust, all worked extremely hard and took the club on while we were going through the difficulties off the pitch with the attempted hostile takeover! They are part of the reason we still are fan owned and have a football club today because it could’ve gone a completely different way! Fortunately it didn’t! I think the frustrations of the fans are completely valid because of the troubled seasons on the pitch we have been having and some of the decisions previously to do with keeping Stockdale and Bentley a bit too long when they were underperforming! Fans think if they acted sooner, it could’ve possibly changed the outcome of last season or we would’ve at least had more of a fighting chance! 

I think fans just want transparency and honesty of what’s happening at the club, regular updates too! He came out and told the fans that we need outside investment to be able to compete with the club competitively now, we can’t just run on being fan owned because we can’t financially compete! It’s really quiet on that note so the fans are again getting frustrated! I think we just need transparency and communication so we know what’s happening!

Devante Rodney bagged eleven goals last season as he finished as the club’s top scorer. How important is he to the team and how would you describe his playing style? 

Devante Rodney is vital to our team and was last season, we unfortunately lost him for a few weeks due to injury towards the end of the season and it really did show how much we missed him! Not only is he experienced and somebody we need in the dressing room, but he’s somebody that communicates with the younger lads on the pitch and helps them. He has shown that in the previous two friendlies! He links up very well with Ian Henderson too! He’s been used more in a front three and I personally think that will continue, whether it be with Sinclair and Mitchell or Henderson (he doesn’t play every game due to his age), I think he will be extremely vital again to the team! 

Who would you say are Rochdale’s other one’s to watch? 

Ian Henderson, Rochdale’s highest ever goal scorer! It says it all really, he’s somebody that you can never write off in a game! Creative but also a goalscorer, he struggles pace wise with him being older now but he’s a proven goalscorer! 

Tyrese Sinclair had a very tough last season, he was scoring and creating chances but when Jim Bentley came in, he was sent on loan to Altrincham! He got assists and scored chances there too, so I think he will also be one to watch this season!

Harvey Gilmour was at Halifax last season and bossed their midfield. They won the FA Trophy too. I think he will be a steady midfielder who will play most games alongside Clayton and McDonald.

The last time Rochdale and Tranmere came head to head was in mid-April in a game that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons by Tranmere fans. What are your thoughts on The Whites?

I’ve always liked playing Tranmere and they are a club I’ve always checked for the results. I have a lot of Twitter followers that are Tranmere fans and they have always been very complimentary of Rochdale and spoke highly of us, apart from Keith Hill haha!

I was very surprised you struggled last season as you were one of my favourites to get to the playoffs! But I’m really hoping you guys have a good season and someday soon regain a higher league status! 

Next season Rochdale will play in the National League, you probably don’t need a reminder of that. Are you looking forward to any aspect of it? 

I’m actually really looking forward to it! I personally think it’s going to be a massive challenge for us and I don’t think it’s going to be easy by any means! I would take a top/middle half finish now! I think we need to stabilise and find our feet in the National League, I’ve been warned it’s extremely difficult to get out of! There’s some really good teams that are challenging, but I’m looking forward to it! So many new grounds to visit, old friends like Halifax that we haven’t played competitively for a good few years and the return of the local derby games with Oldham! 

It’s going to be a very new experience but I’m looking forward to it! (I don’t know if I will in a few months time though, I may take that back)

Rochdale will play in The National League last season after finishing rock bottom of League Two in May. 

The last game between The Dale and Tranmere resulted in a 2-2 draw, which will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, as Richard O’Donnell scored a spectacular own goal in the first half before a 2-0 Rovers lead was surrendered in the 93rd minute. 

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