Shine A Light - Rochdale AFC




Well, with them sat in the relegation zone, it would be easy to say that Rochdale have struggled with second season syndrome this year after nearly reaching the League One play-offs last time around. Of course, it is not that simple, and there has been plenty of water under the bridge since then. Probably the club's best ever manager, the financial warlord that is Keith Hill, decided he'd taken the club as far as he could in the summer and abandoned his morals to join financially questionable Barnsley. Following in his footsteps was always going to be nigh on impossible, something which Steve Eyre found out. Becoming the first Football League manager not to have a Wikipedia page, Eyre never looked like translating his successor with Manchester City's youth team into big boy football and he was recently sacked, making way for Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman to take the job.

He has started brightly, too, having managed to plug the gaping holes that existed in Rochdale's particularly leaky defence, in part thanks to the arrival of Burnley defender Kevin Long on loan. Despite losing Hill and key players like Matty Done, Scott Wiseman, Chris O'Grady and Craig Dawson in the summer, Dale still possess plenty of threat going forward. It hasn't really happened for Ashley Grimes, their big summer signing, but seven goals this season indicates that he does still pose some threat. Central midfield duo Jason Kennedy and Gary Jones were amongst the best in the division last season and there is no reason to believe they have declined that much in a matter of months. One of Paul Ince's plethora of pointless loanees, Stephen Darby, is also at the club.


With Steve Eyre having spectacularly failed to fill the huge void left behind by the departure of Keith Hill's ego and terrible selection of coats, John Coleman is the new man in charge at Spotland. He comes with a glowing reputation too, having led Stanley to a higher league position in each of his twelve years at the club, notching three promotions on the way. His success at Stanley was based around building sides jammed full of technically proficient yet angry and ill-disciplined Scousers playing on the Football League's only pitch to be mistaken for an estuary, so there is plenty of interest over whether his methods will translate as well to his new Rochdale side.


The early signs are good - since taking over he has dragged the doomed-looking Dale to the brink of at least making a fist of things. As said previously, this has mainly been down to teaching his side how not to concede three goals every single game, but helping his better players find the form of previous years has been equally important. 


Despite losing four of their finest assets in the summer, Hill had assembled a squad of such quality that Rochdale can still boast a number of good League One players. One of these is Gary Jones, the driving midfielder who has played so many games for Rochdale over the years that whoever was keeping count actually got bored.

Capable of surging runs from the centre of the park and possessing a ferocious work rate, Jones is a well-known face for all fans who have seen Dale play over the years. Having added more goals and attacking threat to his game under the guidance of Hill, the 'Dale captain is a player who will be battling to control the midfield at Spotland on Tuesday night.