It’s been an odd week for Keith Hill. On Sunday Hilly was with utterly, inconsolably in the throes of despair after a battering by Bournemouth; “I do not know whether the players and myself have got the answer.” said Keith, before going all philosophical on us, saying, “sometimes the things that you enjoy doing the most hurt you”. As a Rochdale fan I can vouch for that completely. “I was brave as a youngster, I would climb trees, fall out of them and climb up again.” he reminisced, glazed eyes deep in focus on some distant point on horizon, mouth slightly agape, empty wine glass held lopsidedly in his hand; half-forgotten memories flooding into his head of the young Keith grazing shins and running wildly, laughing, through fields of nettles and over wasp’s nests, not giving a monkey’s. Those happy times… they seem so far away… so very far away…
Eventually The Chairman had to step in to stop Keith ringing the Samaritans. “They all need our support now, more than ever”, said an anxious Chris Dunphy, referring to Hillcroft, “and together, as Team Rochdale, as Keith calls it, we can be a real force.” Go Team Rochdale! The Rallying Call, as the O/S called it, seemed to do the trick and by Monday Keith was a much happier man, if still a little brow-beaten. “In some ways managing a football team is very similar to bringing up children or having a relationship with your Mum and Dad.” said Hill, a little bizarrely. I wonder who’s the Mummy and who’s the Daddy? He did offer some insight into possible team selection towards the end of the interview however, “it is more than likely going to be a very young team that will take the field against Port Vale on Saturday.”
By Thursday Keith was his usual ebullient self, that momentary lapse of enduring positivity forgotten; “The fans have been absolutely superb this week with their messages of support and they mean a lot to all of us […] I am desperate to gain real success for each and every one of them.”. That’s more like it! But then it all got a bit oo-er; “I have had a “terrorist” letter this morning.” said Keith. Osama Bin Laden, perhaps? “It is unexplainable and of course did not have a name or address.” And at the very moment he read that, a certain Mr. S. Parkin grinned from ear to ear at the computer screen before him and let out a hearty cackle. You smug bastard Parkin.
Rochdale entertain Port Vale on Saturday at Spotland, a ‘winnable’ match under any normal circumstance, but with this Dale side at the moment the result could anything from a three-nil thumping to a nil-two no-show. Vale have poor recent form, with only one win in five, or two wins in ten depending on how matches back you count form. Whatever method you use the result’s the same, Vale win 20% of the time. Injury news down Burslem way remains a mystery, the only fact a quick check of the major football sites and the few Vale-related ones gives is that goalkeeper Joe Anyon is out with a broken tibia. It could have been worse, mind, “My shin pads took the full impact and definitely saved me. There’s no doubt I’ll always wear shin pads.” said Anyon, who presumably always wore shin pads anyway.
On the home front, Jonah I is still out so Jonah II is expected to fit into midfield. But, baring in mind Hill’s talk of a ‘very young side’, Joe Thompson might make an appearance in the centre of the park as he did against Bury, and M Dot might not play at all. Clark Keltie’s back from his ban, and should play if fit; Toner was turd against Bournemouth so he might not. At the back, Stanton serves the second game of his two-match stupidity suspension so Ramsden and McArdle will probably partner up again at centre-half. If not, Hilly might go for the youth of a recenly recalled Marcus Holness or even the unknown quantity that is Craig Dawson, who made the bench last Saturday. Up front Lee Thorpe might be rested/dropped after a poor game down south; Gary Madine might come in for him alongside Buckley, Alfie or Dagnall. Keeper-wise, James Spencer (remember him?) has joined Chester City on an emergency loan after usual keeper John Danby did his shoulder in, so he will be unavailable for the match. He would be unlikely to feature anyway given Frankie Fielding’s consistently brilliant performances. There is no other injury news to report.
The match on Saturday represents a chance for Dale to resurrect auto-promotion chances that have faded a little in the past fortnight. With Brentford facing Exeter, Bury hosting Shrewsbury and Wycombe playing Gillingham, the match against Port Vale is an opportunity to nick three points off the sides around us. Not only that, it might be the last opportunity; the wrong results could see us six points from third with four games remaining. But, I’m not one for pessimism; if the results go our way we could third on Sunday morning on the same points as Wycombe in second. You never know; it could be a strange end to a strange week.
Written by Matt Boothman on 10th April 2009