The Class of ’02: Part 1

In 2002 Rochdale played Rushden & Diamonds for a place in the Division Three playoff final, the first time Dale had ever reached the post-season games and the first time Dale had a realistic chance of promotion since sliced bread. Unfortunately, Rushden won 4-3 on aggregate after the two legs (2-2 at Nene Park and 2-1 at Spotland), and it was they who progressed to play Cheltenham Town for a place in Division Two. There’s Always Next Year looks back at the Dale lineup in those two games, and ponders about their current activities.

Neil Edwards
Goalkeeper Edwards, at a height of 5’8”, was often described as ‘diminuitive’ by the press, which is misleading, because 5’8” isn’t that short… it’s just odd for a goalie to be under six foot. He was, however, a great shot-stopper despite this, and the man from Aberdare spent almost eight years in net at Spotland, the majority of that time as first choice number one. Having arrived from Stockport County in 1997, Edwards became a fan favourite quickly when it became clear he was actually a good keeper (goalkeeping prowess has not exactly been a Dale speciality over the years). Neil played in both legs of the Rushden playoff semi, ahead of the young apprentice Matt Gilks, who grew to usurp Edwards under his tutelage. Edwards is currently coaching Jussi Jaaskelainen and Ali Al-Habsi at Bolton Wanderers, after a short stint playing for Bury after leaving the Dale.

Wayne Evans

Another Welshman in the defence, right-back Evans came to the club in 1999 from Walsall and went on to play 259 times in the bottom tier for the Dale, scoring a massive three times. Another firm fan favourite, Wayne Evans was surprisingly released by Steve Parkin in the summer of 2005 and went on to play for Kidderminster Harriers for a while before ending up at Welsh club Total Network Solutions, as a coach. From there he returned to his first club Welshpool Town for a spell before heading off to Canada, of all places. His own website states that “Wayne is presently Technical Director of Valley District Soccer Association, in Nova Scotia on the East side of Canada. Wayne oversees 16 clubs in the district, and heads up the coach education, development programs and coaching sessions.” The site also tells us that Wayne has played against “David Beckham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer […] and John Hartson”. On inspection, David Beckham’s website sadly neglects to mention Wayne at all.

Gareth Griffiths
Griffiths, yet another player who qualified for Wales, was a centre-back who arrived at Dale from Wigan Athletic in 2001. Confident in the tackle, strong in the air, but sometimes ponderously slow and low on agility, Griffiths was the centre-half Rory McArdle might become; which is definitely a good thing. Griffiths spent five happy years at Dale, making his final appearance at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank to a rousing chant of “There’s only one Gareth Griffiths” at the end of the 2005/06 campaign. Griff was another player to play in both legs of the 01/02 play-off, and another to be a virtual ever-present in that season. From Rochdale, Gareth took up a player/coach role at Northwich, not far from his home-town of Winsford, but returned for a brief spell as assistant manager to Keith Hill in December 2006, before Dave Flitcroft. Griff, by all accounts, carried on at Northwich, and went on to be involved in the PFA’s management committee, although the current PFA site no longer mentions Gareth’s involvement.

Richard Jobson
A key component of the playoff-reaching Dale side, Jobson came to Dale from Tranmere Rovers at the spritely age of 38. Having played at a higher level for almost all his career and having once been transferred for the milestone sum of £1m, Jobson made up for his lack of pace with his clever reading of the game and his general defensive nous. It was with great misfortune then that Jobson was injured after 12 minutes of the second-leg, replaced by Simon Coleman; Dale went on to lose 2-1 and this ensured Rushden & Diamonds went through. After leaving Rochdale just before his 40th birthday a year later, Jobson understandably retired, and went on to join Gareth Griffiths in the PFA’s upper echelons – Jobson is now currently employed full-time by the PFA as a Senior Executive.

Matt Doughty
Doughty was a young left-back who also played left-midfield, who joined from Chester City on a free transfer at the start of the 01/02 season. His beginnings at Chester were auspicious, having been imprisoned for four months at one point and later having his contract annulled at the Deva on a technicality, which allowed Dale to swoop for the teenager without compensation. Doughty played initially at left-mid, but was soon pushed back to full-back when it was clear he could defend reasonably well too. Doughty lasted three years at the Dale, but his last season saw him mostly sat on the bench, and he joined Halifax Town in 2004, staying there for four years before the Shayman eventually folded and Matt was released. Doughty is currently playing for Altrincham in the Conference, having made 42 appearance in the 08/09 season and becoming a firm first-teamer.

Dave Flitcroft
I think it’s fair to say that, after Flicker’s performance against Gillingham last Saturday, we all know what Dave Flitcroft is up to these days. The popular right-midfielder, another arrival from Chester City, had made 160 appearances in Dale colours – up until last week that is, when the Beast from Bolton remarkably appeared from the bench to terrorise the Gills and general put a smile on the Dale faithul’s faces. Flitcroft arrived at Rochdale in 1999, played both legs in the Rushden playoffs, and stayed for one more season before to Macclesfield, Bury and then Hyde before rejoining the Dale in 2007. Dave is of course one half of Hillcroft, the gestallt management entity made up of Keith Hill and David Flitcroft, which has successfully emposed it’s endlessly positive spirit so all-encompassingly on the whole club. Another Rochdale legend.

The rest of the squad will be profiled soon.

Written by Matt Boothman on 4th May 2009.


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