And so it begins; Lee Thorpe, Scott Wiseman, Sam Russell, James Spencer, Nathan D’Laryea, and Mark Jones have not been offered new deals following Dale’s defeat against the Gills. Clark Keltie, Kallum Higginbotham and Lee McEvilly have been transfer-listed, whilst grim loanee Tom Newey was deemed to be too cursed to hold onto. So, in total, that’s ten players who’ve been shown the door. Presumably the door is a revolving one this summer.
Scott Wiseman is perhaps the biggest surprise amongst the departed; he’d won the regular right-back spot midway through the season, earning a new six month deal in January, but was deemed surplus to requirements; requirements it seems that deem speedy, exciting, attack-minded wing-backs as ‘surplus’. And why is ‘surplus’ always ‘deemed’ anyway? The reason for Wiseman’s exit is probably Simon Ramsden’s excellent playoff performances against Gillingham, plus his ability to fill-in at centre back in times of need. A case of safety first, and a case not alone either.
Of the midfielders we had, Clark Keltie and Mark Jones were obviously the best passers of the ball, and the ones with the best technique (shimmies, Cruijff turns, etc), but both have been released while the solid but uninspired Ciáran Toner and Gary Jones have been offered new terms. “Players either fit into your plans or they don’t – it is that simple.” said Keith Hill on t’fishul site, referring presumably to plans that don’t involve forward passing but do involve a lot of sweating. It’s a similar story on the winger front; fast but terribly inconsistent Higginbotham goes while hard-worker and manager’s pet Thompson stays.
As regards the strikers, the up-front Lees; Messrs. Thorpe and McEvilly were either too old or too fat to keep, the latter having only started a single game for the Dale since making his loan move permanent, and the former being the wrong side of 33. Thorpedo will go with fond(ish) memories; he was obviously not a long term replacement for Glenn Murray, but he filled his role admirably after Jon Shaw’s early season ineptitude meant he started most games; something he was never really meant to do. McEvilly will too go with some regard, if only for his performance against Shrewsbury Town, where he single-handedly overturned a one-goal deficit just by being a bit hefty. It’s not a subtle game is this one.
Another suprise, to me anyway, is the release of Sam Russell; which along with James Spencer’s departure means we have no goalkeeper. Russell was solid for a season and a half, until Hillcroft decided he was at fault for the lack of zeros in the ‘Goals Against’ column. Frankie Fielding, his replacement, was a fine acquisition, but we didn’t concede less goals with him in net, if anything we conceded more. Spencer going is no great shock, but Russell’s will be an awkward hole to fill if you’ll pardon the expression. It might, if you believe the rumours, be filled by a certain Matt Gilks. Time and money will tell.
In other Dale flavoured news, to make up for our failure to reach Wembley, we have been awarded the honour of ‘Best Pie in the League’, but alas not the best pie in English football, beaten by Melksham Town FC’s football pie. Did you know Melksham Town finished 11th in the Toolstation Western Division Premier, just one point behind Brislington FC? No, you didn’t… nobody did. Presumably it’s a lot easier to make good pies if you only have to make three of them.
Oddly, the official British Pie Awards site mentions nothing of Melksham, and instead marks the winner as Clachnacuddin’s ‘Steak & Gravy’, with Reading’s ‘Waitrose Madejski Steak and Kidney’ and Ipswich Town’s ‘Steak and Ale’ in second and third. Rochdale’s ‘Steak & Kidney’ does get a mention further down the awards page, but only appears on a level with Everton’s ‘Chicken Balti’ and Ipswich’s ‘Mushroom and Spinach’. Far from me to suggest that there’s been any kind of lying going on, but are the Rochdale ‘Fishul Site making up false pie-based honours to somehow soften the blow of non-promotion? Kind of like losing an arm but being told you have nice fingernails on your remaining one. Shameful RAFC, just shameful!
Written by Matt Boothman on 16th May 2009