We spoke to Ben Stapleton, a Rochdale fan, for this edition of the Opposition View: Rochdale v Plymouth Argyle.
How long have you been supporting Rochdale?
My first Rochdale game was one which will live long in the memory, both for footballing and non footballing reasons. On September 11th 2001, the “Dale” contested a League Cup 2nd round fixture against a Premier League side in Fulham, who boasted players such as Luis Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque; we eventually went down 6-5 on penalties after an agonising Rufus Brevett equaliser in the 120th minute. Coincidentally, this was also my first day of Secondary school and after the events that took place on that fateful day, my Dad decided that it would be a good idea to give me my first taste of live football (one can only assume as a form of escapism). In terms of footballing action, I couldn’t have asked to see much more on my first outing and Kevin Townson will forever be one of my favourite ever Dale players for his brace that night. As it happens, it wasn’t until almost 4 years later that I became a full time Dale convert but after Grant Holt bundled the ball over the line at Gay Meadow back in August 2005, I knew that Rochdale was in my blood for life.
How has your season panned out so far?
After our final day heroics of last season, many of us are simply happy to still be playing League 1 football. With that being said however, this season has been one of frustration and inconsistency (in terms of performances, team selection and tactics). Armed with the biggest playing budget in the club’s history, Keith Hill has put together a decent looking squad on paper but for a number of reasons, it simply hasn’t clicked (yet!) On the other hand, our continued progress in the Checkatrade Trophy has has given our younger players a platform on which to perform and they have done so with aplomb. If nothing else, the future is certainly bright down at the Crown Oil Arena.
What does your recent form look like?
Keith Hill is a popular former Argyle player, what do you make of his near 5 years as manager of your club?
Keith Hill is the best thing to ever happen to Rochdale football club. As a “younger” fan, I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve seen two promotions, an F.A Cup replay against Spurs at Wembley and a play-off final without witnessing anything too psychologically damaging the other way. Keith Hill has brought unparalleled success to this football club and more importantly, has taught us that it’s OK to dream and not be happy with “our lot”. Of course, there have been bumps along the way and Hilly’s idiosyncratic interview style continues to frustrate a few fans but at the end of the day, we owe him a lot (and the departing Chairman Chris Dunphy too, who we wish all the very best).
What tactical style do you perceive Rochdale are playing right now?
Your guess is as good as mine. If Calvin Andrew is on the pitch then we have a tendency to play a little bit too direct at times. However, Hilly still likes to knock it around on the floor and play the sort of attractive football which the club has become synonymous with in recent times. A number of games this year have seen us dominate possession without really doing too much with the ball and this could well be a feature of the upcoming game against the Pilgrims on Saturday
Have any players stood out this season?
Ian Henderson is still our best player without a shadow of a doubt. Despite being one of the best strikers in the league, Hendo has once again found himself operating in central midfield more often than not – the fact that he’s already managed 12 league goals is a credit to his ability and footballing nous. In terms of our ” lesser known” players, Daniel Adshead is an extremely exciting talent who has recently broke into the team and has already secured an England Under-18 call-up. This lad WILL play for England. Mark my words.
Are there any real weak links in the ranks?
We don’t really have any weak players per se but we are absolutely gash at defending set pieces. That’s really the top and bottom of it and I’m quite sure that Danny Devito would bag a few for you on Saturday with the right service into the box.
Who or what comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?
Gin, fantastic scenery and my girlfriend (she supports Argyle and from now until 5pm on Saturday, we are mortal enemies!)
Which Argyle player, if any, would you like to sign?
After an unconvincing start to the season, Freddie Ladapo has really impressed me and is exactly the kind of frontman that we need. I wouldn’t give you a tuppence for Graham Carey though – his antics at the Crown Oil Arena last year suggest that he’s been spending too much time with fellow Plymouthian Tom Daley.
How do you see the rest of the season panning out for you?
I think we will finish the season just below halfway and in truth, I would be fairly happy with that. However, I do think that we have the squad to challenge for the playoffs and hopefully we can be *the* team who makes a late bid for the top 6 (as you did last year).
And how about for Argyle?
I think a lot will depend on whether you can keep Freddie beyond January. If he stays put and carries on firing then you should survive comfortably in my opinion. However, I know from personal experience how tough it can get once you’re down there so it’s important that you keep pace with the teams around you and don’t get cut adrift at any point.
And finally a prediction for the game?
Two teams who can’t defend. Two of the league’s top scorers. Desmond 2-2.