My lukewarm love affair with Spotland – what Town fans can expect from a trip to Rochdale
- Credit: Richard Blaxall
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he gives an insight into Rochdale’s Spotland
Once again, I have one up on Ipswich Town - I have already had the dubious pleasure (actually, it's a delight) to visit Rochdale's Spotland Stadium.
In fact, I have graced the Spotland Press Box, that most humble of abodes, on no fewer than nine occasions over the years, mostly when Colchester United have been in town.
And I can highly recommend it to those diehard Town away fans who will be making the 460-mile round trip to this corner of Greater Manchester on Tuesday evening.
At the start of this season, Town had never before visited Wycombe Wanderers, Fleetwood Town or Rochdale.
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They celebrated a first visit to Fleetwood's Highbury Stadium with a 1-0 win, a month ago, and they will be hoping for a similar result from their first excursion to Spotland on Bonfire Night, next Tuesday evening.
So what can Ipswich supporters expect (hope for) ...... apart from another away victory?
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Well, I have a confession to make - I am very biased, when it comes to writing articles on Spotland. For two reasons.
Firstly, the music emanating from the club Tannoy, in my humble opinion, has always been the best in the Football League, with tracks from Manchester bands like The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, The Smiths and Oasis blaring out before kick-off.
That may have changed now - I believe the original DJ (or Tannoy operator) has left since I paid my last visit to Spotland, but there was also something rather apt about tapping your feet to the sound of The Smiths' 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' before reporting on another Colchester United away defeat.
The second reason, for my lukewarm love affair with The Dale's home venue, is very personal - it's where I chalked up my 1,000th match covering Colchester United, in March, 2015.
Not very relevant to Town fans, I know, but I was presented with a signed football club shirt after the final whistle, in front of the dug-outs, by then U's manager Tony Humes, who of course was a mainstay of Ipswich Town's defence between 1985 and 1992.
So a relevance, of sorts.
- Club: Rochdale
- Founded: 1907 (112 years ago)
- Ground: Spotland (since 1920)
- Capacity: 10,249
- Dubious record: Since joining the Football League, in 1921, when the league was expanded to four divisions, Rochdale are the only League club to have neither been promoted into the top two tiers or to be relegated into the Conference (National League). That equates to 91 seasons (minus the War years) in either the third or fourth divisions.
- Bland consistency: The Dale have only been promoted three times, and relegated three times.
Rochdale AFC prides itself on under-stated facts. You are spoilt for choice.
But here's one - the club were stuck in the fourth tier for 36 seasons on the trot, between 1974 and 2010, before clinching promotion to League One. The previous promotion had been secured the year that man first walked on the moon, in 1969.
So there was a grain of truth when some cynics used to refer to the bottom division as 'The Rochdale Division.' But no more. The club has moved on.
Glossing over the top-notch Indie music, and the opposition handing out signed club shirts, what else can Spotland offer?
Away fans are housed in one side of the Willbutts Lane Stand, although if the travelling supporters number more than 1,500, then they are usually given the whole stand for a capacity of over 3,600.
The names of the other stands reflect the homely, friendly feel of Spotland - there's the Sandy Lane End, and the Pearl Street End - although the Main Stand, where the press box is housed, is currently known as the less inviting Co-Operative Stand.
In days gone by, Spotland used to be known as the delightful 'St Clement's Playing Fields,' after the nearby St Clement's Church, until it took on the current name, taken from the surrounding area.
The atmosphere is usually excellent. Capacity is just over 10,000 (home crowds are averaging 3,571 so far this season, just under 17,000 less than at Portman Road) and the acoustics are spot-on, so the songs, cheers and jeers won't fall on deaf ears.
It's a great place to watch under lights, the local pies are to be recommended, there are pubs dotted around .... what's not to like?