Rochdale fan Lee Diggle gives us the lowdown on Saturday’s opponents, who have overcome a slow start to the season to move into the play off positions in League One.
Rochdale suffered a slow start and were without a win until mid September before going on a seven game winning run. What do you put the slow start down to and how has Keith Hill managed to turn things around?
The slow start was very frustrating really because although we weren’t getting three points the performances were not bad. We were losing games but only by one goal. I think credit must go to Keith Hill and his staff for sticking with players and believing in them and not making a lot of changes. In doing so we then got the results we deserved. I think some teams panic when they hit a sticky spell and keep changing the team or manager, which can then lead to more bad results- just look at are poor neighbours Bury (ha ha!)
You are currently sat in the play off places. Is the aim now to stay in them, or do you think you can push for an automatic spot?
We are sat in the play offs and I think if you ask any genuine honest Rochdale fan their aim would be a top half finish. That would be a good season. With the crowds we attract and the wage budget at the club Keith Hill punches above his weight year on year to get Rochdale into the positions he does. When you look at the teams we compete with and the crowds and wage bills they have you start asking yourself how Keith Hill does it. I would love us to sneak in the play offs and get a day out at Wembley.
What sort of game can we expect from Rochdale. Does Hill have a preferred formation or system?
I think with any Rochdale team you can expect a tough game. We have a good mixture of youth and experience at the minute and we like to get the ball down and play. Keith likes to go with a solid back four, then we have one holding midfielder with 4 in front of him and a striker. I suppose the formation is a 4-1-4-1.
Keith also likes to swap the wingers so don’t be surprised to see them operate on both flanks in a game. A lot of our play comes from out wide and our full backs like to bomb on and overlap. I think you can expect a fast tempo game and Rochdale to come out and have a good go, especially being at home.
There have been rumours linking Hill with a move away from Spotland in recent weeks, with a particular link to the Rotherham job. He revealed he turned down clubs in the summer to stay with Rochdale. Are you worried he may leave and if not, is there a feeling that he may seek a new challenge if he doesn’t manage to get Rochdale in the play off shake up this year?
The job Keith Hill does at Rochdale is incredible and he is a credit to himself and his staff. Obviously when your doing the job in the right way you will attract intrest from other clubs. Keith attracted Barnsley in his last stint at the club and did go on to leave us. I just think Rotherham are a team who are more than likely going to be in this league next season and would Keith risk leaving us for them?
I personally think when the right club does come for Keith he will leave and have another crack at the Championship, because unless we get a cash injection he can’t really take Rochdale a lot further and when your over achieving each year surely you will eventually seek a fresh challenge.
Ex Iron Niall Canavan is now with you after a successful loan spell last year. How is he getting on?
Niall Canavan came in and did really well last season when we signed him on loan. I think he has all the attributes to be a great centre back and on his day he shows this. He can however switch off in a game which can lead to a mistake or a rash decision.
Niall has been sent off twice for us this season and the most recent one at Bradford was a very silly decision which then led to a 4-0 defeat. Overall I would say Niall has been a good addition and if he can work on cutting the odd mistake out of his game he could go on to a higher level.
Which other players should we look out for on Saturday?
A player I admire watching week in week out is Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. I believe he was with yourself on trial before we signed him last season. He likes to get at his man and his pace is a big part of his game. He also knows how to beat his man and deliver a good ball in the box and is a handful for any defence on his day.
Callum Camps has got a great eye for a pass and likes to spray the ball about from midfield. He is another to keep a close eye on and I believe he will go on to play the game at a higher level.
Have you got a score prediction?
My score prediction for the game is a Rochdale 2-1 win, but I am really looking forward to the game. It should be a cracker. Let’s hope my mate MR DAWSON lets the referee ref the game and not him.