Having made brisk progress on the drive down from Caledonia, I arrived in
Rochdale a good couple of hours before kick-off, so decided to treat myself to a poke around the town itself prior to making my way to Spotland. I was keen to see the renowned Town Hall: a building so elegant and imposing that Adolf Hitler (or so the tale goes) had earmarked it for brick-by-brick removal to , once Greater Manchester had taken its rightful place in the Third Reich. The place was closed on a Saturday, however, so I had to content myself with a gawp from the outside. And one has to say, whatever flaws Old Adolf had, he certainly had taste in architecture. Berlin
I noted that the building had cost just £160,000 to build back in 1871, which equates to around £11M at today’s prices. Just imagine, we could have had one of these built to house the Scottish Parliament, and still had £420M in change.
Still in need of a culture-fix, I decided to waddle up the 124 steps, past the Packer Spout fountain, to the dignified little St
’s Church which overlooks the Town Hall. But, disappointingly, these doors were also firmly closed, although I could see lights on inside, and could hear someone toiling away on the church organ attempting to get to grips with some fiendishly complex Bach cantata or somesuch. Meandering around the church grounds, I became I aware I was treading upon gravestones, laid flat as paving slabs. At least I think they were meant to be used as paving slabs. It all just seemed a touch disrespectful to be walking on them, and I found myself wanting to walk on the grass instead. Chad
After failing to gain entry to either of these august buildings, I instead made my way to that stalwart destination of all Groundhoppers – the local Charity Shop, where I was inordinately pleased to pick up a Peter Straub I had not read, for a mere £2. This piece of good fortune made me feel a bit like a football club who, having resigned themselves to a frustrating scoreless draw, had just managed to win a match with a last minute penalty.
|I took a pic of the rear of the Rochdale Town Hall, as I am sure |
most folks are familiar with the front.
|St Chad's Church, Rochdale|
|Gravestones laid as paving.|
|Load and loads of 'em.|
|Welcome to Spotland Stadium, Rochdale.|
|From the Car Park.|
And so to Spotland itself – a rather unprepossessing ground from the outside I have to say. It does not really appear to have any natural main entrance; the facades to all four stands rather featureless. Inside lie three neat stands, plus joy of joys, an area of terracing. And it was to this area I gravitated – the rare opportunity of being able to watch a football match whilst standing not one to be missed.
Within minutes I was swiftly reminded of why there is a growing groundswell of support for the return of terracing to all grades of football. For all around me there were little groups of fans, for whom the whole experience of attending Spotland was very much a social event. Collections of folks of both genders came together, greeted each other, chatted awhile, watched a bit of the match, then moved on to mingle. This sort of communal experience has been destroyed by seating, where one can pretty much only converse with those individuals allocated seats either side of you. And how many of us have found ourselves stuck sitting next to either a crashing bore or a bellowing half-wit, without the escape option of simply wandering off?
I stood next to and eavesdropped on one group, whose intelligent, knowledgeable and articulate discussions of the many salient topics of the day: Tevez, Portsmouth, Rangers, Lee Clark was, at times, more entertaining then the football itself.
Not that there was anything wrong with the fare on offer - in the first half at least. Rochdale enjoyed the bulk of possession, and carved out a number of opportunities, but the
Bournemouth lot looked just that little bit fitter and sharper on the ball. Although to be fair, other than the hard-working Marc Pugh on their left, the visitors created little. The few jitters experienced by the home defence were mostly self-inflicted, as ‘keeper Peter Kurucz made some distribution decisions which at best could be described as questionable, whilst gangly centre-half Kevin Amankwah seemed determined to meander upfield just a touch too often for his teammates’ comfort.
The second-half. I have to say, I found somewhat less entertaining. In part due to the plummeting temperatures, but mainly due to the fact the Rochdale defence started behaving themselves, and hence neutralised any threat from the visitors. Consequently chances at either end were few and far between.
In fact, most of the post break entertainment came from the whistle of Referee Carl Boyeson, a number of whose decisions seem to be lifted straight out of an episode of the Twilight Zone - none more so than when ‘Dale forward Jean-Louise Akpa Akpro clearly trod on the ball and tumbled over. The Ref initially appeared to award a free kick to
Rochdale, before somewhat bafflingly ordering an uncontested drop ball. I am sure I saw Rod Serling in amongst the away support in the Willbutts Lane Stand.
Thankfully, the simplest decision Mr Boyeson was required to make all afternoon he called correctly, when
Rochdale sub Joe Thompson (who had looked a real handful following his introduction 15 minutes from time) was barged over during an injury-time penalty-box rammy. And Gary JONES it was who stepped up to convert the award to give Rochdale a slightly fortuitous boost in their drive to avoid the drop.
Perhaps not the most scintillating encounter I have witnessed on my travels, but it was a sharp reminder to me what we have all lost since the introduction of all seated stadia. I know we are looking at the re-introduction of terracing up this end of the island, and I think the debate will surely be opened up south of the border before too long. After all terracing areas themselves are not intrinsically unsafe, and never have been, rather it was the way in which they were (mis-)managed in past - to whit, cramming inappropriate numbers of folks onto them - which caused the problems.
|Spotland's Main Stand.|
|The Bournemouth support - who had travelled even further than I had.|
|Can we have more terracing at football gounds, please?|
|Rochdale's Brian Blake-Murphy prepares to take a corner-kick.|
|My crappy wee camera occasionally produces blurry shots like this |
- but I think this one sort of captures the
frenetic activity in the Bournemouth penalty-box,
|Bournemouth succesfully defend another corner-kick.|
|Panorama of Spotland Stadium, Rochdale.|