Saturday, 29 May 2010

27 Stewart Thompson

Position : Forward

Played : 1982-3 to 1983-4

Appearances : 31

Goals : 8

Stewart is the first player in our survey not to have played for any other League club. He's also the first one who is still playing !

After Barry Wellings' departure Stewart, from Littleborough, was the third striker at the club so it was inevitable he would get more games in the later part of the season. I'm surprised, looking up the stats, that his record is actually quite decent as I remember him being pants. A big guy with a blonde feathercut and moustache he thought he was better than he was and often cocked things up by trying to be fancy. He also lacked composure in the box and missed decent chances.

Peter Madden loaned him out to Runcorn for a month but he got more first team opportunities under Jimmy Greenhoff and did himself no harm by scoring in each of the new manager's first two games. The following season he scored in the win away at Blackpool which ended our eighteen month wait for an away victory. His best game was in the 3-3 draw at home to Doncaster on Jan 2nd 1984 when Greenhoff played him in midfield. He had a good first half tackling well and finding his men. I remember remarking on this to a friend who hadn't realised it was Thompson ! Then in the second half he spotted the keeper off his line and chipped him from 25 yards. A few minutes later he tried the same thing from a much tighter angle and just squeezed it into the top corner - an absolute wonder goal. Unfortunately our new superstar came back to earth in the next game in the FA Cup Third Round against Telford when his suicidal back pass let them in for the equaliser and started the rot. His career in midfield ended there and then and up front he had new competition from Malcolm O Connor and Jim McCluskie. He scored one more goal away at Northampton but his time at Spotland was drawing to a close.

He surprised everyone in the close season by somehow wrangling a trial at FC Bruges but sanity prevailed and he went to Chorley instead. He played against us for Bacup Borough in a pre-season friendly in the late 80s. He is now assistant manager at Nelson FC and still plays for them occasionally at 45.

Friday, 28 May 2010

26 Gerry McElhinney

Position : Centre half

Played : 1982-3 (on loan from Bolton Wanderers )

Appearances : 20

Goals : 1

The third Bolton – connected player to arrive in December 1982 was the Northern Irish defender who was still at the club. He made a late start to his League career having made his name in Gaelic football in the 70s. He had signed for Bolton from Distillery and had some first team experience.

The 26-year old started off quite poorly, looking particularly vulnerable in a 2-0 home defeat to Wimbledon but once he found his feet he was terrific, forming a great partnership with Bill Williams at the back and becoming our star player. His loan period kept getting extended until an injury to future Dale player Paul Jones saw him recalled to Burnden Park in March. By this time Brian Taylor had recovered enough to come back in but even at his best he wasn’t half as good as Gerry. Gerry kept his place in the Bolton side thereafter and started getting Northern Ireland caps so there was no chance of us signing him permanently.

In 1985 he moved to Plymouth for £30,000 and captained them to promotion from the Third Division. He later moved to Peterborough for £10,000 playing for another three years until injuries pushed him into a coaching role. He later became player-manager of Corby Town.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

25 Peter Nicholson

Position : Defender

Played : 1982-3

Appearances : 7

Goals : 0

Hot on the heels of Roy Greaves came his former Bolton team-mate. A veteran of 32 he had made over 300 appearances for the Wanderers in a variety of positions but mainly at right back. After receiving a free transfer in 1982 he had been playing in the West Lancashire League with Lytham St Annes but fancied another crack at League football.

We played him at centre half. To be fair he wasn't as abject as Greaves but didn't do anything to earn a full contrct either and soon returned to the seaside although he made another brief comeback for Third Division Carlisle United the following season.

Peter is now a matchday host at Bolton and also takes part in charity events with other ex-pros.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

24 Roy Greaves

Position : Midfield (also played at right back)

Played : 1982-3

Appearances : 21

Goals : 0

December 1982 and Peter Madden was scraping the barrel when he signed the 35 year old ex-Bolton stalwart who had returned to England after two lucrative years at Seattle Sounders.

Whatever good memories Bolton fans have of him he was totally shot by the time he came to us and was the first player I ever booed when his name was announced. To make matters worse he was made player-coach presumably passing on his knowledge of the fine art of giving the ball away. Thankfully Jimmy Greenhoff realised there was only room for one past-it old pro at the club and released him.

He returned to Bolton to run a pub and play Sunday League football.

23 Carl Swan

Position : Centre half

Played : 1982-3 (on loan from Doncaster Rovers)

Appearances : 3

Goals : 0

Carl was the next one to fill in for Brian Taylor. He was the son of former England international Peter Swan but had only played 15 games for Doncaster when he signed on loan for us. See the picture above for what their fans thought of him. I didn't see any of his 3 games so can't comment any further on him.

He returned to non-league football with Buxton , Mossley, Matlock and Worksop after his spell with us

22. Willie Garner

Position : Centre half

Played : 1982-3 (on loan from Celtic)

Appearances : 4

Goals : 0

Willie was the next big centre half to come in for the injured Brian Taylor. He had been Aberdeen's regular centre half until he broke his leg in a European Cup Winner's Cup game in Bulgaria and then couldn't win his place back from Alex McLeish. In 1981 he signed for Celtic but two own goals on his debut killed off his career there and he was loaned to us.

I only saw him in that game against Blackpool but he looked pretty good. Unfortunately he chose to go to Alloa as player-manager instead of moving south.

After two years there he returned to Aberdeen as a non-playing assistant manager to Alex Ferguson. In 1986 Ferguson decided he was too easy-going and sacked him without warning or compensation shortly before leaving for Old Trafford. Willie went to work in a bank and played for Highland League sides before making a shock return to League football at the age of 35 with Berwick Rangers, adding 47 more games and another goal to his tally.

21. Paul Comstive

Position : Midfield

Played : 1982-3 (on loan from Blackburn Rovers)

Appearances: 9

Goals : 2

So we come to the first loan player, some of whom will be hard to recall. Paul had played a handful of first team games for Blackburn Rovers. usually in defence, though with us and for most of his subsequent career he played in midfield.

He made a good impression straight away by scoring on his debut. Then came the moment to savour, a tremendous Rivelino –style free kick that swerved round the wall and into the net with the keeper nowhere near it. That sealed a 3-1 win at home to Blackpool the best game of the season and the most important too since Blackpool were fielding an ineligible player and the two points they lost for that enabled us to finish above them and just outside the re-election zone. Paul completed his initial loan spell and went back to Blackburn but in March Peter Madden re-signed him for another month and he played in my first away game, a 0-0 bore at Halifax. That turned out to be the last Dale game for both men as Jimmy Greenhoff just ignored Paul for the remainder of the loan term.

Paul went on to be a good lower league player for the next decade with Wigan, Wrexham, Burnley, Bolton and Chester , his highest transfer value being £37,000 when he moved to Bolton. In 1993 he signed for Southport and also played for Morecambe and Chorley. He now manages Fleetwood Hesketh FC.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

20 Gerry Keenan

Position : Right back

Played : 1982-3, 1983-4

Appearances : 35

Goals : 1

Gerry was a victim of medical ignorance, already struggling with too many cortisone injections to his knee when we signed him in the autumn of 1982 to replace the wayward Steve Warriner. That was the reason why Port Vale had released him despite being a great fan's favourite there.

Possibly the hairiest player ever to play for Dale, genial Gerry had some good games for us but it was obvious his mobility was restricted. He was released at the end of the season and signed for Curzon Ashton but made a comeback the following season when we were shorthanded. Second time round he was less impressive and after 5 games returned to non-league where he has managed a number of north west sides including Accrington and Rossendale

19. Andy Stafford

Position : Winger

Played : 1982-3

Appearances : 1

Goals : 1

Here’s an odd one. In 1978 there was excited talk in Littleborough that local lad Andy was having trials with Manchester City. In the event he had to adjust his expectations down and sign for Halifax though he had the satisfaction of being in the side that famously beat City in the FA Cup in 1980.

He scored 1 goal in 41 appearances for the Shaymen which gives a good clue as to his main weakness. After 3 years he moved to Stockport where he scored once in 25.

He was taken on trial by Peter Madden at the start of 1982-3 and given a game at home to Hartlepool where he scored Dale’s first League goal of the season. And that was it. He was let go despite a 100% scoring record and moved into non-league playing for Chorley, Runcorn and Mossley in quick succession. He finally settled at Daisy Hill in the North West Counties League where he was still playing in 1988.

Monday, 24 May 2010

18. Micky French

Position : Forward

Played : 1982-3

Appearances : 36

Goals : 11

Micky was something of a surprise signing as he had spent most of his career at southern clubs (Brentford, Swindon and Aldershot) apart from one season at Doncaster.

He was a tall target man who played with a grin on his face. At first he struggled to settle in and didn't score until October but thereafter proved himself the best striker at the club by some distance. He is best remembered for being the last Dale player to score a hat trick for 7 years which he usefully did in Jimmy Greenhoff's first game in charge against Hereford (March 12, 1983). Unfortunately Micky had to retire aged 28 at the end of the season due to a knee injury.

He returned to his native Sussex playing for Lewes. He is currently coach at his hometown club, Eastborne Town.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

17. Peter Farrell

Position : Midfield

Played : 1982-3 to 1984-5

Appearances : 73

Goals : 17

Peter was potentially the most exciting of the new signings for 1982-3. As a youngster with Bury in the late 70s he had attracted attention from the big clubs but in the end it was Port Vale who broke their transfer record to sign him for £40,000 in 1979. Although he started well, over time he lost the support of the crowd and got a reputation as a “twenty minute player “ . In his last season there he had to make two “Stephen Vaughan” loan moves to Doncaster and Shrewsbury neither of whom gave him a game. His free transfer was no surprise.

So it was a case of career resurrection when he came to Dale at 25 and he took the chance. He was an attacking midfielder who could play a great ball behind the defence and got his fair share of goals. He did sometimes fade out of games but was clearly one of our better players. He had a good first season taking his time to get off the mark but finishing the season with 9 goals. In 1983-4 he had some injury problems without which he would almost certainly have finished as leading scorer notching 8 in 25 games. At the end of that season he wasn’t happy with the terms he was offered and started the next as a contract rebel. New manager Vic Halom, who didn't seem to rate any of the players he inherited, decided after 5 games that he was dispensable and he signed for Crewe.

He spent a couple of seasons there in and out of the side then went abroad playing for teams in Sweden, Iceland and Cyprus and three games for Hamilton in Scotland. In 1989-90 he signed for his final club Barrow where he was part of the FA Trophy winning side at Wembley in 1990 and is well remembered. Peter went on to work in the prison service but is now a well-regarded youth coach at Bolton where he has worked with Chris Basham and Temitope Odabeyi. His son Tom has had trials at Bury.

16. Jack Trainer

Jack is the one on the left. The guy on the right will also feature very shortly.

Position : Centre half

Played : 1982-3

Appearances : 7

Goals : 0

It would be fair to say that Jack, a Scotsman , was something of a football nomad. He had made 105 appearances for Halifax in the late 70s after signing from Cork Hibernian. On his release he signed for Hong Kong Rangers. After a year with them he returned to play one league game for Bury (in which he scored) before returning to Ireland with Waterford.

Peter Madden brought him in as a stopgap replacement for Brian Taylor after future referee Steve Baines had declined a move to Spotland. He wasn't very good and after 7 games Madden decided that loan players were a better option and sent Jack on his way (to Morecambe ) with the comment "Jack wasn't the greatest".

Indeed not but unlike Peter he does remain in the game as the head of Coach Education at Bolton Wanderers.

15. Ronnie Blair

Position : Defender

Played : 1969-70 to 1971-2, 1982-3

Appearances : (first spell) 70 (second spell) 3

Goals : (first spell) 3 (second spell) 0

Ronnie came to us at 33 on a free from Blackpool having been made one of the scapegoats for their relegation to the Fourth Division. He had played for us in our Third Division days before returning to first club Oldham where he remained for the rest of the 70s making nearly three hundred League appearances and winning 5 caps for Northern Ireland.

A versatile defender who could also play in midfield, Peter Madden deployed Ronnie in a 5-man defence to counteract the loss of Brian Taylor but after three games and facing the long trip to Colchester, Ronnie decided he no longer wanted to play regular football. He said he would come back if we were desperate. Yeah, thanks for that mate.

A director of a printing firm Ronnie went on to make a few appearances for local side Milton and later managed Castleton Gabriels and Bacup Borough.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

14 Chris Pearce

Position : Goalkeeper

Played : 1980-81 (on loan from Blackburn Rovers) , 1982-3

Appearances : 41

Goals : 0

With Chris's arrival on a free transfer from Blackburn Rovers we're into the 1982-3 season although he had played 5 games on loan for us in 1980-1. Up to us signing him those were his only League appearances.

A six foot Welshman he started well , looking brave and agile. As the season wore on his deficiencies were exposed especially his weakness on crosses. Mind you he is best remembered for an incident in a home game (maybe someone can remind me which one ?) when the ball had come back to him before the referee brought play back for a free kick near the touchline. Chris threw the ball back with interest and it hit the head of an old bloke leaning over the wall where the Willbutts Lane Stand now is. Commendably the referee summoned the physio on to treat him and Chris went over at half time to apologise. When Jimmy Greenhoff took over he didn't fancy Chris at all and recalled the less than wonderful Graham Crawford who was seeing out his contract in the reserves. Both were freed at the end of the season.

He was rescued by Port Vale who signed him as understudy to Barry Siddall. Chris appeared in the last 7 games when Siddall made a sudden loan move to Blackpool. The following season he was first choice keeper making 36 appearances but again eventually lost his place. He signed for Wrexham for the 1986-7 season making 25 appearances before returning to Lancashire and signing for Burnley the following season. That proved his best move as he was their regular keeper and a great crowd favourite for their remaining 5 -let's say that again, 5 - seasons in the bottom division. When they finally did go up in 1992 he wasn't retained and moved on to Bradford making 9 appearances before having to retire from the professional game through injury. He played non-league football for Chorley, Fleetwood and Accrington.

13 Mark Hilditch

Mark Hilditch was the Joe Thompson of his day, a player who polarised opinions. A near-local from Royton he broke into the side in 1977-8 and a year later scored the crucial goal which enabled Dale to escape the re-election zone. Two years later he was Dales top scorer with 14 in the better than expected 1980-1 season. He had good close control in the box. But still he had his detractors. For one thing he was comically useless in the air, usually mistiming his jump to leave the centre-half with a free header. When he did get his head to the ball it usually went off in an unexpected direction. This was said to be the source of his nickname “Spoonhead” although one look at his picture suggests the epithet had even less flattering origins. I also recall the home game against Stockport in 1982-3 when he was caught offside about a dozen times in succession. At the end of that season Jimmy Greenhoff decided to release him.

He was quickly snapped up by Tranmere and played virtually the whole season for them scoring 8 goals though not in the away game where he came out to sit in the dug-out and got a roasting from the Dale fans stood behind it. Then his injury problems began and he made very few appearances for them over the next couple of seasons. Released in 1986 he started training with Altrincham but impressed enough in a trial at Wigan to get a contract there.

Wigan converted him into an attacking midfield player and while he never managed to play 30 games in a season he was there for four years.

In the summer of 1990 by which time he was 30 his former team-mate Terry Dolan re-signed him for Dale on a two year contract. He started well, resuming his old position as a striker and scoring in the back-to-back 4-0 wins which opened that season but soon succumbed to injuries one again and only made 14 appearances all season. This might have been a factor in the Board vetoing Dolan’s move for Bill Williams later that season. By the following season it was clear that new manager Dave Sutton had written him off and he only made two substitute appearances before heading into non-league with Buxton.

He later had an ill-fated stint as assistant manager to Steve Taylor at Mossley which was surprising as they’d never played together. He now works at Oldham Athletic’s Centre of Excellence and has also worked in the prison service. He still lives locally and is, allegedly , a miserable git who still moans about his supposed mistreatment at Dale despite delivering a mere 16 games on his 2 year deal.

With Mark we come to the end of players who were already at the club when I started supporting them.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

12 Bill Williams

Position : Centre half (also played right back and midfield)

Played : 1981-2 t0 1984-85

Appearances : 95

Goals : 2

Bill was another player I had a personal connection with as our sisters were friends at school and had just started breaking into the side when I started watching them. He came on for Brian Taylor in my first game.

A Littleborough lad he was spotted playing for Sunday League side Ashe Laboratories and signed as a part time professional in 1981 so that he could continue to work in the family decorating business. Although over 6 ft himself he usually played alongside the big man sweeping up. An undemonstrative player I thought he was under-appreciated especially by Peter Madden's siuccessors. Jimmy Greenhoff replaced him with the veteran Mike Doyle at the start of the 1983-4 season but soon recalled him. In the FA Cup game against Telford he suffered what could politely be described as a groin injury. Trainer Trevor Jones asked him if he could carry on , the reply being "No I f**king well can't !" . In his absence the team fell apart and lost 4-1. He returned later in the season but usually at right back. He again had to fight for his place under Vic Halom who signed Keith Hanvey from Huddersfield. Bill got back in when Hanvey had to retire through injury but lost his place again when Phil Dwyer was signed from Cardiff.

Then Halom made one of the worst managerial decisions in my time watching Dale when he released Bill at the end of the season on the grounds that he didn't like part-time players. Shortly afterwards Dwyer turned his back on football and joined the police force but by that time Bill had already been snapped up by Stockport on the recommendation of former Dale team-mate Les Chapman. To make matters worse the following summer Halom was telling us we would have to get by with part-time players after the financial rug was pulled from under him !

Bill went on to play over 250 games for Stockport although his relationship with manager Danny Bergara was rocky at times (again over his part-time status). He played against us in the crucial fixture at the end of the 1986-87 season which we had to win to secure our league status. There are those who say he stepped out of the way of Lyndon Simmonds' goalbound shot which won the game. In 1987 he got a big move to Manchester City but suffered the indignity of being a subbed sub in his only game though in fairness it was at right back. Stockport quickly bought him back . In 1990 he was set to return to Rochdale under Terry Dolan but the Board balked at paying £30,000 for a 30 year old defender, a big factor in Dolan leaving the club shortly afterwards. Bill got on with helping County win promotion and his last appearance was in the Second Division Play-Off Final at Wembley in 1994. After that game he decided to retire although the following season he was contemplating a comeback for Dave Sutton's Dale, playing for the reserves before Sutton's departure ended the idea.

11. Barry Wellings

Position : Forward

Played : 1980-81 to 1982-3

Appearances : 116

Goals : 30

Barry was another popular player signed in the summer of 1980 by Peter Madden who helped Dale to a mid-table finish. He made his League debut for York after failing to make the grade at Everton and after two seasons there was on his way to Spotland.

Short, blond and barrel-chested, Barry was a penalty-box operator in the Paul Dickov mould though never quite as prolific as one might like. His Dale career came to an abrupt end in December 1982 after a home defeat to Wimbledon, a game in which he failed to convert two golden chances when Dave Beasant dropped crosses at his feet. Madden dropped him from the side and soon he moved on to Tranmere where he scored 3 in 16 appearances.

That was not impressive enough to earn him a new contract and he went to Northwich. However Tranmere gave him another chance the following season but he failed to score in 9 and he moved on to Oswestry. Here he attracted the attention of struggling Swansea in 1984-5 and scored 3 goals in 5 games. However the travelling was too much and he returned to the North West playing for Southport, Runcorn and Droylsden.

Monday, 17 May 2010

10 Eugene Martinez

Position : Winger

Played : 1980-1 to 1982-3

Appearances : 116

Goals : 16

Despite his name and Latin good looks “Eui” was actually born in Chelmsford and started his career with Bradford City. Peter Madden signed him in the summer of 1980 and he was the star of the team (and still fondly remembered) that finished 13th after three grim re-election battles. Over the next two seasons his form dipped; he was both fast and skilful on his day but very inconsistent. Although he scored a brilliant goal in the last game of the season against Hull, Jimmy Greenhoff gave him a free transfer in his big clearout.

Like Eric Snookes he actually moved up a division and signed for Newport County but after 20 games and one goal he was loaned out to Northampton where he scored twice in twelve games. At the end of the 1983-4 season he retired at the age of 27 but I am not sure whether this was due to injury or to work in his family’s successful electronics company.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

9 Dave Goodwin

Position : Forward

Played : 1981-2

Appearances : 39

Goals : 6

Dave was the other player in that first team who was playing his last game for Dale and , like Nigel O Loughlin, he scored. He arrived from Bury having originally played in the First Division with Stoke City before moving on to Mansfield. He was a regular in the side but only started scoring in the last few games - that well known phenomenon of playing for a new contract perhaps ? He didn't get one. He played 7 goallless games for Crewe the following season and then his Football League career was over as he signed for Macclesfield.

Friday, 14 May 2010

8. Dave Thompson

Position : Winger

Played : 1981-2 to 1985-6, 1994-5 to 1996-7

Appearances : (first spell ) 155 (second spell) 111

Goals : (first spell) 13 (second spell) 11

Dave is the first homegrown player we've come to and was of special interest to me bacause he was the star player at Bishop Henshaws School when I was there. He had just broken into the first team when I started supporting Dale though he would be a part time player for some time while studying Human Movement at college in Leeds.

In that first game I saw he went on a brilliant run beating three men before laying it off for Warriner to score. Obviously he couldn't do that every game (though he did against York in December 1982, Peter Farrell being the beneficiary) but he continued to develop in a struggling side. He wasn't overly skilful but had a great change of pace that could take him past players so he was always a threat if he was on his game. In 1984-5 he won the Sunday Mirror's Fourth Division Player of the Year ahead of Joe Cooke in third place an absolute travesty of justice if you'd seen Dale regularly. At the beginning of the next season Ron Atkinson took him on loan at Manchester United but he didn't make a first team appearance and returned disappointed to Spotland. Having said that they marked him very tightly when we played them in the FA Cup later that season. His heart didn't seem to be in it that season (apart from the game at home to Torquay when he scored two in a monsoon-affected second half) and it was no surprise when he moved on in the summer.

He went to Notts County for £15,000 plus Alan Young (more about him later). He made 55 appearances for them before returning to the North West to play for Wigan, Preston and Chester. He returned to Rochdale at the age of 32 in a £15, 000 deal after they'd signed the younger and more prolific Andy Milner on a free transfer from us. A brilliant piece of business by Dave Sutton and the main reason why I turned against him.

To be fair Dave was still pretty fit and immediately endeared himself to the fans by scoring the winner at Gigg Lane in his first game back. However the faults in his game particularly his abysmal crossing were still there and he got a bit of stick as the team slipped back under Mick Docherty. In his last season he was mainly used as a substitute by Graham Barrow occasionally to some effect. He moved on to Southport where he had two good seasons before retiring including an appearance at Wembley in the FA Trophy Final (hence the picture above).

Dave is the link between my first game and the current team because in his last season with us he played in the same team as Keith Hill. He also played alongside Dave Flitcroft at Preston and Chester.

7. Neville Hamilton

Position : Midfield

Played : 1981-2 to 1983-4

Appearances : 74

Goals : 5

One of the sadder stories to tell, Neville came to us from Mansfield in the summer of 1981 having begun his career at Leicester with whom he made his League debut at Old Trafford. It took him a while to get into the first team ahead of Dave Esser and Terry Dolan but he had won his place by the time of my first game.

A diminutive. hard working midfield player who tackled well, Nev’s great weakness was a chronic inability to pass the ball forwards. Not surprisingly he didn’t get many goals either. He was released by caretaker boss Les Chapman after Shaun Reid had emerged on the scene.

He got a great chance to revive his career when Tommy Docherty signed him for Wolves, then newly relegated to the Third Division, but just before the new season started he suffered a heart attack in training. Docherty is rumoured to have ordered the removal of his boots before the ambulance arrived. He had to retire but went on to be a coach with Leicester. He died of heart failure in February 2009 aged 48.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

6 Nigel O Loughlin

Thanks  to   Oxford  Dave   for   the  photo

Position : Midfield

Played : 1976-77 to 1981-2

Appearances : 245

Goals : 17

Although born in Rochdale Nigel made his league debut for Shrewsbury. After 4 seasons as a fringe player there he came to Rochdale for first team football and certainly got it ; I think he is still 6th in our all time appearances list. Like Alan Weir he was released by Bob Stokoe then reprieved by Peter Madden.

Not too much more I can say about Nigel as my first game was his last for Dale ( and his last in the Football League) but at least he signed off with a goal. He moved on to Ashton United.

5. Alan Weir

Position : Centre half

Played : 1979-80 to 1982-3

Appearances : 106

Goals : 3

Alan became our record signing in the summer of 1979 when Doug Collins signed him from Sunderland despite him having played only one league game for them. The fee for the former England Youth international was reported at the time to be £20,000 but was later revealed to be around £8,000.

Alan , like Nat Stanton, was a relatively short guy who played alongside the big centre half and mopped up. He was also hard as nails. His first season, 1979-80 was arguably the worst in Dale’s history and at the end of it Bob Stokoe released him (how strange to give your record signing only a one year deal !). Then Stokoe resigned and Peter Madden countermanded Alan’s release. He was a regular choice for the next two seasons but in his final season with us he lost his place to Bill Williams. Jimmy Greenhoff released him and he went to Hartlepool where he played 10 games in the early part of the 1983-4 season before drifting into non-league football with Whitley Bay.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

4. Brian Taylor

Position : Centre half

Played : 1978-79 to 1982-3

Appearances : 154

Goals : 10

Brian was , I think, the last signing by manager Mike Ferguson. He began his career at Jack Charlton’s Middlesbrough making 18 appearances , one of them in the First Division, before being sold on to Doncaster where he made 118 appearances over 4 seasons (ever-present in 1976-77).

He was soon made Dale’s captain. His playing style can be guessed at from his nickname of “Brains”. My first game saw the effective end of his career when he broke his leg in the second half posing a problem for much of the following season. He made a comeback in the last few games but was released by Jimmy Greenhoff and went into Sunday League football in Bolton.

Three years later Vic Halom found some coaching work for him at Spotland so he was on hand to become caretaker manager for a couple of games in December 1986 making the useful signing of Brian Stanton in that time. He left the club for good shortly after Eddie Gray took over.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

3. Eric Snookes

Position : Left back

Played : 1978-9 to 1982-3

Appearances : 183

Goals : 1

You have to feel sorry for Eric ; virtually all his eleven year career in League football was spent fighting relegation or re-election battles. On the other hand he must have been a useful player to overcome the Jonah tag and keep his place.

Eric made his debut for Preston when they were fighting relegation to the Third Division in 1972-3 a feat they achieved the following season under the mis-management of professional legend Bobby Charlton. Charlton released him and he went to Crewe for a season before returning to the Lancashire coast for Southport’s last three seasons in the Football League , all of which ended in re-election application, the final one being unsuccessful. Dale salvaged Eric’s League career paying a couple of grand which turned out to be a good investment as he was an automatic first team choice for five seasons making more appearances for Dale than his other clubs put together. In a recent interview with the Lancashire Evening Post he said that Dale turned down a bid of £60,000 from Carlisle for him which seems a bit implausible given the parlous state of the club at the time.

I recall him as a good raiding full back and one of the better players in my first full season watching Dale although some thought he was a bit soft and shirked hard tackles. He was unfortunate to pick up an injury just after Jimmy Greenhoff took over as manager and consequently was released by a United legend for the second time in his career.

Greenhoff’s judgement was questioned by Bolton Wanderers then in the Third Division in 1983-4 and he got in their first team for six games when their regular left back was injured. I remember the M.E.N. giving him good write-ups at the time though I suspect their fans thought otherwise as his name crops up frequently in their “worst ever” teams. Manager John McGovern did not extend his contract and his League career was over. Short spells with Macclesfield and Barrow followed before he had to retire through Achilles problems. He now works on the railways and regularly appears at PNE legends events playing in a charity game as recently as 2007.

Here is a link to a bizarre video of Eric eating a cream cake at work.

2. Steve Warriner

Position : Right back/midfield

Played : 1981-2 to 1982-3

Appearances : 12

Goals : 1

Steve was signed in the summer of 1981 from Newport County where he had featured in their exciting run to the quarter finals of the European Cup-Winners Cup a season earlier. However he didn't break into the Dale side until the tail end of 1981-2 where he made a good impression as an attacking right back. In the game against Northampton he scored the best goal when Dave Thompson beat three men and rolled it for Steve to smack it home from the edge of the box.

He looked set to be an asset but was then sent off in a pre-season game which of course takes some doing. When he was then sent off again in a Milk Cup tie Peter Madden had obviously had enough and quickly replaced him with the stolid Gerry Keenan.

Steve moved on to Tranmere where he played 9 more League games before drifting into obscurity.

1. Graeme Crawford

Position : Goalkeeper

Played : 1980-1 to 1982-3

Appearances : 70

Goals : 0

We start logically enough with the goalkeeper for my first game, Graeme Crawford. Graeme, a Scotsman , was one of many players brought over from Yorkshire clubs - in his case York City - when Peter Madden was manager. He was 33 when he signed for Dale in the summer of 1980 and had made over 250 appearances for the Minstermen including a season in the Second Division. He made 41 appearances in the much-improved Dale side of 1980-81 but the following season lost his place to Mike Poole who had returned from playing in America with Portland Timbers. He got back into the side when Poole had to retire through injury.

He didn’t cover himself in glory in that first game letting a long shot sail over his head in the first minute. My watch showed that the ref had blown early so in my first game Dale had conceded a goal before 3.00 pm. It was hard not to laugh. That summer Dale signed Chris Pearce from Blackburn who had played for Dale on loan a couple of years earlier. He kept Graeme out for most of the season but the old man was reinstated when Jimmy Greenhoff took over as manager. He wasn’t impressive and at 36 no one was surprised by his release in the summer.

He returned to Yorkshire and played for Scarborough for another 3 years retiring a year before they got into the Football League.

N.B. the picture, with Graeme in an all too typical pose, is from his appearance for York at Old Trafford 29.3.75 during that glorious season when United were in the Second Division.


As a tribute to the Dale’s promotion winning team this season this blog will look at all the players who featured for Dale from my first game in May 1982 (Rochdale 5 Northampton 3) to the side of today. Please feel free to add your own recollections in the comments box.