Saturday, 22 May 2010
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.