Beginnings. They are tricky little devils. Historians spend life times tracking down the beginning of this civilisation or that empire. At best they can usually only get as far as ‘around’ – as in ‘around 800BCE’. Historians are really bright people (apparently) – you really would think they could do better.
Why is that?
Well, the nature of human history does not lend itself easily to beginnings – or ends for that matter. It just kind of ebbs and flows in a disorganised shambles of coincidences, lucky breaks, half-truths and pies.
I probably meant lies – but pies works just as well.
All that said, I can point to a genuine beginning. A single instant in history. A day the world changed, forever. The day I became a Rochdale fan.
I should probably explain…
I had been on a leaving ‘do’ in Manchester. The clubs had turned out. I needed a taxi home.
The bald maths of the matter pointed to the fact that I couldn’t fund it on my own. I needed help – and it duly arrived in the form of two friends from work who also lived in Rochdale. With a taxi found and boarded (after some trial and error) – that really should have been it. But it wasn’t…
‘Let’s go for a curry!’
I won’t dwell on what happened next – but let us just say that there are a number of curry houses between Manchester and Rochdale where our custom is still not welcome. We finally ended up in Kebana on Milkstone Road.
Curries were ordered – curries were consumed. And then it happened…
My associate Mr. Keane leaned across the table and said: ‘I say old bean, I propose that we sally forth to Spotland Stadium after this noon and sample the plethora of delights that is Rochdale Association Football Club under the stewardship of this new Parkin fellow. It should be a topping wheeze!’. Or words broadly to that effect – my memory is a little sketchy.
My other associate Mr. Mortimer, a disciple of Manchester City, alluded to the fact that he would indeed rather die than agree to such a proposal. In my capacity as a devotee of Sir Alex’s boys – I was a little short of convinced.
The thing was I had been to Spotland once before. 1st May 1999. Graham Barrow’s last game in charge – a 3-0 mauling at the hands of Swansea City. Today’s opponents would once again be Swansea City.
Perhaps it was some form of misplaced town pride, perhaps it was the mention of pies – possibly with peas – or – perhaps it was something hallucinogenic in the Lamb Madras…
…but I said yes.
Mr. Keane reminds me to this day that I actually only agreed to go after he had signed up for ten lessons at the karate class I taught in those days. His version has none of the ‘it was destiny’ element of my interpretation. So I deny it.
In any case, I did go to the game. It ended 0-0, but that didn’t matter. I was hooked.
In the intervening decade I have thrilled at the athletic grace of Patrick McCourt, demanded that Neil Edwards ‘do the dance’, covered my eyes at the misadventures of Michael Simpkins, met Tony Ford at a cash machine, marvelled at the indestructibility of Wayne Evans, cheered till I was hoarse for Grant Holt, sulked when Gary Jones left and almost grinned myself to death when he returned, stood open mouthed at the power of a Ricky Lambert free kick – oh, and pondered quite why Tommy Jaszczun seemed like a good signing. Well I mean c’mon!
I was there at Burton Albion when the rain came down and caused the urinals to overflow into the stand; I was there when Dale were minutes from dumping Fulham out of the League cup; I was there when Coventry City were once again left to muse ‘Who are Rochdale?’; I was there when Tony Ellis equalised against Blackburn Rovers; I was there when Shrewsbury ran in seven goals; although I wasn’t there when Rochdale smashed seven past Stockport – I was jumping up and down like a lunatic in Mr. Keane’s front room as the report crackled in over the wireless; I was there at Macclesfield when it rained (this could have been any one of many games) – and I was there at Wembley when McArdle scored and it all seemed possible…
All of this because I didn’t have enough money for a taxi home from Manchester. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
I am sure Mr. Mortimer is kicking himself – still, I expect that he can comfort himself that he supports the wealthiest soap opera in professional football.
Mr. Keane never completed the karate lessons I allegedly made him sign up for.
I am completely over the Manchester United thing. What was I thinking?
To mark ten years of following Rochdale and 101 years of competitive football at Spotland, I am going the extra mile this season. Five thousand six hundred of them to be precise. I am going to every league game – home and away. This is the time. This is our time.
You can keep track of my adventures on the Facebook group ‘Rochdale AFC – The 101 Project’.
Failing that, Mr. Keane and I still pop into Kebana now and then. Quite what he will talk me into next is anyone’s guess – but you are more than welcome to spectate.
Written by Richard Eden-Maughan on 13th Feb 09.