It was never going to be easy, and second season syndrome well and truly hit Spotland this season.
Many Rochdale fans went into the season with high hopes after we secured a bloke who was apparently one of the most highly-rated youth coaches in the country. These situations can either go one way or the other, and unfortunately the less said about Steve Eyre’s short spell at Spotland the better.
It’s a strange thing, this relegation lark. I always imagined that if we were to get relegated, I’d be in a filthy mood and an emotional wreck for weeks. However when the inevitable actually happened I felt nothing of the sort, and a weird sense of relief that the wounded animal that was my beloved football club had been put out of its misery. Funny old game, isn’t it?
So, where do we go from here? Do we stand around, pointing the finger and placing blame for the dreadful season we’d just endured? Everyone from players, to management, to the board have been blamed for it. Personally, I think our biggest downfall was not getting an adequate replacement in for super Craig Dawson after he joined West Brom, but I prefer not to dwell on it. What’s done is done. It’s been a very, very unenjoyable season, there’s no denying that, but instead of focusing on that, I try to think of the better times.
The 2010/11 season in particular, Keith Hill’s last in charge, saw us surprise everyone. Doing the double over Southampton, plus wins against Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Huddersfield will live long in the memory of many a Dale fan and whilst these all seem like a distant memory, we will always have them.
Anyway, that was then and this is now. John Coleman has promised that he will put together his own squad and that radical changes are ahead. He’s released three players from last year’s squad, including left back Joe Widdowson who many feel was unlucky to not get a new deal. The rumour is that Accrington Stanley captain Dean Winnard and his veteran team mate Kevin McIntyre are both on the way to Dale to shore things up at the back, which is hardly a surprise.
Winger Nicky Adams has been transfer listed by request and it was clear from day one that him and the management team didn’t see eye to eye. I can’t think of many Dale fans who are too upset by this, and Adams himself has taken to Twitter to voice his displeasure at some of the comments aimed his way. Whilst I don’t like to see players getting abuse from fans, there’s only so many “Gutted about today’s result” tweets you can take when the players on the pitch really didn’t look bothered.
There was also talk of unrest in the camp, as an anonymous message board user took to posting “insider information” on the unofficial website, with some pretty strong claims against John Coleman and his assistant Jimmy Bell. Whilst I don’t like to give credibility to these types of sources, the poster did say the day before the 3-2 win over Exeter that captain and record appearance holder Gary Jones was to be dropped after a midweek training bust-up with Coleman and Bell. Lo and behold, Saturday arrived and Jones was nowhere to be seen, not even at the ground. No smoke without fire, as they say.
Anyway, on to the future now. Coleman has moved quickly to sign the first of what a imagine will be a multitude of scousers this summer. George Donnelly arrived from recently-relegated Macclesfield Town for a nominal fee. I can’t say I know too much about Donnelly, but what I’ve been told by Macclesfield fans is generally positive. It’s extremely encouraging to see plans being put into place so early. The club have also been linked with their midfielder Ross Draper. Having read Silkmen forums it seems they think very highly of him, and he also scored from the halfway line last season. A few of them will do nicely for Dale!
There’s a real sense of intrigue as we head into this season. John Coleman was very much the man that the majority wanted in charge, and many feel he was powerless as we freefell back into League Two. I for one am really looking forward to seeing the squad he puts together, even if his scouting range only goes as far as Merseyside! I don’t care where they come from, as long as they do a job on the pitch that’s all that matters to me!
It’s hard to know what to expect, and I’m not expecting miracles. I’m not expecting us to walk the league, and will be pleasantly surprised if we sneak into the playoffs. If Coleman’s spell at Accy is anything to go by, he will be here for the long run and hopefully we’ll see a similar type of steady improvement that Accrington did under his lead.
So long League One (for now anyway.) It’s been emotional, sort of.
Written by Jack Oldham, We Are Going Up’s Rochdale Blogger
Jack tweets at @jacko_dale