Rochdale Football Club
There aren’t many clubs that can boast the consistency of Rochdale AFC. Following relegation to the fourth tier of the Football League in 1974, the club has remained there ever since – in turn spending the longest period that any team has ever been in the bottom division. The club’s Spotland Stadium home has witnessed its fair share of ups and downs over the years, but things, at last, seem to be on the up for Rochdale who are currently fighting for promotion.
Early History (1907 – 1939)
Rochdale Association Football Club was founded in 1907, after two previous attempts to launch such a side in the town had failed. After its official inception, the club joined the Manchester League, before gaining admission to the Lancashire Combination League just a season later.
The Dale, as they are affectionately known, were soon making a mark on the league, winning the title in 1911. The club’s success led them to apply for Football league status, although this was not accepted and neither was a further application after World War I, despite the expansion of the League.
Although the club had originally led the call for a Third Division to be created, it took nine years for one to be adopted and Dale became founder members of the Third Division (North). In their first season as a Football League outfit, Rochdale struggled and had to re-apply for membership after a bottom place finish.
Things though were soon to improve as the side came whiskers away from promotion in 1924. However, the on-field successes were disrupted by financial irregularities off-field, regarding payment to a former player.
Such was the seriousness of the allegation that Dale were expelled from the Football League but, thankfully, were soon reinstated when the irregularity was cleared up. As Rochdale flirted with promotion through the twenties, there was a severe downturn of fortunes in the thirties. The club somehow survived, before World War II saw the Football League abandoned.
Post War (1946 – 1959)
When the Football League reformed, the side performed well and Dale established themselves as a capable side. The side even came close to promotion in 1950 but, despite an impressive season, it ended in disappointment, as Dale finished in third position behind Doncaster Rovers and Gateshead.
The Football League scrapped the regional divisions in 1958 and the merger saw Dale in the newly formed Division three. However, the side suffered in their new surroundings, as they ended bottom and were relegated after a poor season that included just eight wins.
The Sixties (1960 – 1969)
Following Rochdale’s relegation, the club remained in the basement division for a further decade as they established themselves as a perennial mid-table side. The 1961/1962 season, however, provided Dale fans with arguably their greatest ever moment, as they reached the final of the League Cup.
Their cup run began with a tough first round draw at Southampton but, after drawing at the Dell, they managed a 2-1 win against the Saints at Spotland. The following round saw Dale thrash Doncaster Rovers, before they edged out Charlton Athletic 1-0.
A bye in round four set-up a fifth round tie with York City, which they duly won 2-1, before meeting Blackburn Rovers in the semi-finals. An impressive 3-1 win over Rovers at Spotland in the first leg sent Dale to the final, despite a 2-1 defeat at Ewood Park.
The side in the fourth tier of English football found themselves facing Norwich City in the League Cup final but, despite a magnificent effort, suffered a 4-0 loss over two legs. The sixties ended in success though, as Rochdale gained their only ever promotion, following a third place finish in 1969.
The Seventies & Eighties (1970 – 1989)
Following their promotion, Rochdale impressed in Division Four, as the Greater Manchester club finished ninth in their first season. The feel good factor around the club continued, as they enjoyed an FA Cup giant-killing of Coventry, the following season.
Dale spent a total of five seasons in Division Three but were eventually relegated in 1974, after an awful return of two wins out of 46 games. The club has not recovered from this relegation. Dale have remained in the fourth tier ever since and have created a record for the longest amount of time in the bottom division.
As finances caused problems off the field and inconsistency created issues on it, the club only further reinforced its position as a Division Four outfit. In the early years following relegation, the club even finished bottom of the Football League pyramid twice but were not relegated.
Nineties (1990 – 1999)
The nineties started well as an FA Cup run saw them reach the fifth round, after seeing off Marine, Lincoln City, Whitley Bay and Northampton Town before going down to a 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.
The club continued to ply its trade in the fourth tier, but Dale did come close to breaking out of the division after finishing one win away from the playoffs, after a successful 1991-1992 season. The decade carried on as the previous one had, as the club went into the millennium as a basement team.
New Millennium (2000 – 2008)
The new millennium saw Rochdale push for promotion and they came close to a playoff spot in 2001. The following year, Dale agonisingly missed out on automatic promotion, finishing a mere victory away.
They were forced to rue missed opportunities, as their promotion dream ended in a 5-4 aggregate loss in the playoffs to Rushden & Diamonds. Despite this disappointment, 2003 saw the club hit the headlines in the FA Cup, as they repeated their efforts of the previous decade by reaching the fifth round once more.
Having seen off Peterborough United, Bristol Rovers and Preston North End, the side then saw off esteemed outfit, Coventry, before a 3-1 loss at Wolves ended their Cup dream. Since those days, things haven’t progressed as fans may have hoped – that is until this season. Rochdale have entered a new era and under manager, Keith Hill, who came in originally as caretaker, the club are pushing for promotion.
Astute signings and a new found belief has seen Rochdale teetering on the edge of the playoff spots, with a realistic possibility of ending their unwanted record amount of time in the basement division – or as some refer to it, the “Rochdale Division”.
- Address: Rochdale FC, Spotland, Sandy Lane, Rochdale OL11 5DR
- Main telephone & Ticket Office: 01706644648
- Club Website: Official Website
- Travel Info: Nearest Railway Station – Rochdale Station (1.2 miles) and Nearest Motorway Junction – M62 Junction 20 (2.3 miles)
- Division 3 (North) – Runners-up (1923-1924 & 1926-1927)
- League Cup – Runners-up (1961-1962)
- Highest Attendance: 24231 v Notts County, 10th December 1949, FA Cup, Round 2
- Highest League Win: 8-1 v Chesterfield, 18th December 1926, Division 3 (North)
- Worst League Loss: 0-8 v Wrexham, Division 3 (North)
- Best Cup Win: 8-2 v Crook Town, 26th November 1927, FA Cup, Round 1
- Most League Appearances: Graham Smith 317 (1966-1974)
- Most League Goals: Reg Jenkins 119 (1964/1973)
- Most Goals in a Season: Albert Whitehurst, 44, Division 3 (North) (1926/1927)
- Highest Transfer Fee Received: £625,000 Steve Bywater to West Ham, July 1999
- Highest Transfer Fee Paid: £150,000 Paul Connor from Stoke, March 2001