When Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightening seeds sat down to record their now iconic anthem, I’m sure they had much grander spectacles in mind than a non-competitive, Rochdale versus Leeds United fixture on a wet Tuesday night in mid July…
Whatever they had in mind, their track captured the imagination and propelled the National team to their last decent tournament campaign, and whilst tomorrow night is a far more modest occasion, the lyrics still ring true with one member of The White Army.
Growing up in Rochdale supporting Leeds United is not the easiest route for a child to take, totally surrounded by the red and blue of the regions most accomplished teams, it wasn’t until I was 10 that I saw a Leeds shirt in public away from Elland Road, on a weekend camping trip to Harrogate. Teased at School to the point that I feigned illness after Leeds collapsed at home to Manchester United in the League Cup circa 1991, only to be told by my mother that “It’s only a game…”. When, later that season Leeds beat Manchester United to the First Division title to become Champions of England, my smugness was short lived as I quickly realised that there was still far more of them than me…
Against the back drop of would be Scum fans, already fluent in the garbage that is synonymous with every idiot who “can’t get tickets”, I stood their in the minority, sporting my Leeds kit at every opportunity. It wasn’t long after this that I realised that their was another minority amongst the now Sky Sports fuelled, Old Trafford propaganda machine… Rochdale fans! Despite the many Premiership clubs in the North West (Oldham included at this point) there was still some people loyal to their home town club, a club for whom success was just something that happened to other teams, yet here they where – DALE ‘TIL I DIE.
It was from this that my affinity with Rochdale was born (and the free tickets the school used to hand out). I’d watch ‘The Dale’ from the Sandy Lane End whilst struggling to get overly excited or emotional about proceedings. Looking around I longed for the day that I could be in the away end and show Spotland a real atmosphere. Countless years and cup draws have gone by and a fixture at Spotland has remained elusive. The closest we got was the weekend of the play-off disaster at Wembley against Doncaster, I stayed the night in London to watch Rochdale the day after. Had ‘Dale’ managed a win against Stockport that day, then Rochdale versus Leeds United would have been a league fixture – unthinkable at the point that this story began.
So here we are; Rochdale versus Leeds United, albeit a pre-season friendly. We may not get the atmosphere that I had hoped for all those years ago but United took nearly 800 fans to Falkirk last Tuesday evening and just shy of 2,000 to Motherwell over the weekend so 30 miles or so isn’t that far.
A Leeds defeat, even at this level of competition would be difficult to live down so let’s hope we perform… either way Football is indeed, coming home (For me at least…)
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