Saturday, 31 July 2010

106 Geoff Lomax

Position : Right back (also played centre half and midfield)

Played : 1987-88 to 1988-89

Appearances : 71

Goals : 0

We move into the 1987-88 season now and Eddie Gray needed new full backs after releasing Ian Johnson and Dave Grant. His choice at right back was Geoff on a free transfer from just-relegated Carlisle. Geoff started out at Manchester City where he'd had a brief run in the first team before being loaned out to Wolves. He moved on to Carlisle making 37 appearances over 18 months.

I was now working so started going to the majority of away games. Trouble was my mates weren't as flush so didn't go on the longer trips and I fell in with a dick from my old school (who still goes to games so I'd better not name him) . He had an absolute vendetta against Geoff and never ceased slagging him off from day one. To be fair he didn't look great at first and the City fans I knew didn't speak well of him either. John Bramhall was supposed to have called him one of the worst full backs in the League after the Leyton Orient game. Shortly after this Geoff took matters into his own hands and suggested to Eddie Gray that he would get a better return if he and Jason Smart swapped positions. It's debatable whether the move did Jason any favours but Geoff certainly looked better playing alongside the centre half and became noted for his crucial and clean last ditch tackles. So much so that he won the Supporter's Club Player of the Year. The Dick was having none of it; he only had to make those tackles because he couldn't read the game.

For the following season Geoff was made club captain but didn't play as often and was moved into midfield when Shaun Reid departed for York. He wasn't very impressive in that position and new boss Terry Dolan released him in the summer. He got a job as Bolton's Football in the Community Officer while still playing for the likes of Chorley and Curzon Ashton and is now the PFA's Regional Coach for the North West.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

105 Mark Hunt

Position : Forward

Played : 1986-7 to 1987-88

Played : 2

Goals : 1

Mark was a YTS player in the same batch as Keith Welch who got a substitute appearance in the thankfully meaningless last game of 1986-7, away at Scunthorpe ,while the real drama was going on at Turf Moor and Plainmoor.

He only got one start the following season when we were really depleted at Exeter but scored to earn us a point. He didn’t get another opportunity which didn’t bode well when the competition was Dean Walling and a 38-year old Ernie Moss. Sure enough he wasn’t offered a professional contract.

Unfortunately for Mark if he’s remembered at all it is for the oft-expressed sentiment that it was a pity he wasn’t called Mike as one of the other YTS lads was Dave Mycock ! Let’s quickly move on …

104 Lyndon Simmonds

From the Legends night 2008 - Lyndon is of course second from the left

Position : Forward

Played : 1986-7 (on loan from Leeds United) ; 1987-88 to 1988-89 (didn't appear in latter season)

Appearances : 65

Goals : 22

Lyndon arrived from Leeds on loan in February. He was a former Welsh Youth international who’d made a spectacular full debut for Leeds scoring twice against Portsmouth in 1985. He was unable to win a regular place in the side and earlier in 1986-7 went on loan to Swansea for 8 games his one goal being the winner against Dale in November.

When he first arrived I thought he was too small to make an impression in the Fourth Division but he soon proved me wrong. A fiery little character in the Paul Dickov mould and much better in the air than his height would suggest , he played with passion and aggression and could finish when it mattered too. He was good at winding up the opposition and sometimes his own team-mates – I remember him being very rude towards temporary strike partner Derrick Parker for dithering on one occasion, shouting over “Are you going or what ? “ He was a lifesaver in our bid for survival scoring 10 goals including the winner at home to Stockport that clinched it. He was carried off the pitch on fans’ shoulders at the end of the game. It also meant he overtook John Bramhall to become our top scorer. Probably his best goal was our second at Preston with a 25-yard free kick that I predicted was “going into the sea “ !

Signing him permanently in the summer was a no-brainer and Leeds only wanted a few grand despite his success with us. The following season was a big disappointment. With Newport out for the count and Carlisle nearly as bad we never looked like going out but never looked like we were going to start climbing the table either and Lyndon’s in/out form was one of the reasons. One game he’d be fine , the next lethargic ; perhaps the pelvic trouble that was to end his career was beginning to affect him. Against little competition he finished leading scorer with 12 goals but hadn’t been impressive.

In the summer he went in for treatment to his pelvis and never played again. He stayed on the books the following season and was cheering us on from the stands in our 4-4 draw at Hereford but it soon became obvious he wouldn’t return. Lyndon is now a manager with food company R F Brookes in Wales and inevitably is rather rotund these days.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

103 Keith Welch

Position : Goalkeeper

Played : 1986-7 to 1990-91

Appearances : 205

Goals : 0

Two heroes in succession now. Keith was induced to switch from Bolton’s YTS scheme to ours and got an early chance when Dave Redfern broke a finger in January 1987. Keith made his debut in a Freight Rover tie at home to Chesterfield, kept a clean sheet and didn’t relinquish his place until he was sent off for a professional foul at Hereford four years later.

Keith had nearly everything you want from a keeper; he was agile, brave, consistent and smart being particularly good when faced with a one-on-one situation. If he had a weakness it was that being a quiet lad he didn’t really take charge in the box and could be indecisive on crosses. Particular highlights of his time at Dale included an heroic display in our historic Fifth Round FA Cup tie at Crystal Palace (and only Les Sealey let in fewer goals in the competition that year) which followed another a week or so earlier at Turf Moor in our famous 9-man 1-0 victory there. Keith channelled all his anger at the referee Terry Lunt (rhyming slang) into his play coming out to take crosses and inspiring his beleaguered defence. His best individual save was in a top of the table clash at home to Torquay when faced with their veteran striker Tommy Tynan in a one on one. Tynan seemed to have taken the ball around him but Keith hurled himself backwards to take the ball off his toes, Tynan himself joining in the applause. He was also denied a goal by an inattentive linesman on a blustery day at Maidstone when their keeper Nicky Johns looked to have taken his long kick over the line.

His move to a bigger club was long-predicted but didn’t happen until the summer of 1991 when Eddie Gray’s former assistant Jimmy Lumsden took him to Bristol City for £200,000, money that was used to finance Dave Sutton’s first tilt at the playoffs with the likes of Andy Flounders. Instead of it being a stepping-stone to the Premiership, Keith was there for 8 years making 321 appearances before moving on to Northampton. He was there for 3 seasons making another 117 appearances and getting a great reception from the Dale fans when we played them in September 1999, despite him keeping the score down to 1-0. Later that season he went 467 minutes without conceding a goal. In 2002 he moved on to Tranmere but dislocated his shoulder in his second game. He recovered to have brief spells with Torquay and Mansfield before retiring in 2003.

Was Keith the best keeper for Dale ? That's a toughie pitting him against Neil Edwards. Edwards in his first couple of seasons with us was a more complete player and if he'd kept that standard up he would be undisputed number 1. But he didn't (injuries didn't help) and I'd argue that Keith was more consistent over a longer period so i'd say the answer is just about yes.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

102 John Hudson

Position : Winger (supposedly)

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 19

Goals : 1

John seemed like a typical Vic Halom signing but he was actually signed by Eddie Gray. John was fresh from a stint in Swedish football with Kramfors having finally been released by Oldham after two seasons without making a league appearance. His 20 games for them earlier had mainly been at left back following John Ryan’s departure to Newcastle.

I nominate John as the worst player I’ve seen for Dale. He looked older than his years (26) and played the game in slow motion trundling along on the left until he met the insurmountable obstacle of a full back and we were very lucky if we managed to get a throw-in from the situation. When we played Peterborough at home in March their fullback Alan Paris was openly laughing at him. One moment sums him up; away at Crewe Brian Stanton got the ball just outside our area , looked up and hit the best pass I’ve ever seen from a Dale player diagonally crossfield to Hudson’s feet on the left touchline deep in their half. All he had to do was control the ball but instead it bounced off his shin into touch, wild applause from the Dale fans turning into fury at his incompetence. His only League goal at home to Aldershot was a complete fluke. Making it to the byline for possibly the only time in his career he hit an awful lame “cross” which rolled towards the near post where keeper Tony Lange flopped on the ball and somehow managed to divert it into the net.

Thankfully the nightmare ended in May when he was released and moved on to Grantham FC. He now works for the PFA as Director of their Community programme. I wonder how many of his clients realise just how shite he was.

101 Derek Parlane

Position : Forward

Played : 1986-7 to 1987-88

Appearances : 42

Goals : 10

Eddie Gray’s first signing was unsurprisingly an old team-mate from Leeds. Derek had a sackful of medals and 12 Scotland caps from his ten year stint with Rangers but came to England with Leeds United ( for £160,000 ) in 1980 after losing his regular place in the side. Unfortunately Leeds were in serious decline by that point and Derek struggled to make an impression scoring 10 in 50 appearances over three years before being loaned out to Bulova in Hong Kong to save money post-relegation. In 1983 Billy McNeill signed him for newly-relegated Manchester City (again for £160,000) where he and Jim Tolmie hit the ground running and scored a shedload in the first half of the season, Derek finishing top scorer with 16. Unfortunately they faded badly in the new year and City just missed out on promotion. Derek was replaced by Tony Cunningham and moved on to struggling Swansea scoring only 3 in 21 appearances. He spent 1985-6 with Racing Jet of Belgium but made only 2 appearances for them and was a free agent when we signed him.

I spoke to a Leeds fan just after we signed him who said he was a strange player who looked skilful one moment and clumsy the next which turned out to be a fair summary. At 33 and without much recent football Eddie Gray knew there was a fitness issue and largely saved Derek for home games though he did score an absolutely vital winner at Hereford which gave us a pathway to survival. Derek played his part with some more crucial goals plus assists for partner Lyndon Simmonds and scored the opener in the climactic 2-1 defeat of Stockport with a well-placed header.

Derek started the 1987-88 season playing in every game but age was starting to creep up on him and he was increasingly ineffective though he did score a good goal to put us 2-0 up against Bolton in November. I think that goal ended Moggy’s hooligan days as he was escorted out of Spotland for invading the pitch and the Observer in describing the incident referred to him as “a middle-aged man “ . His charity epiphany seems to have happened shortly afterwards. Soon after that game Tommy Cannon’s resignation as Chairman precipitated a financial crisis and the new Board made Derek, who was only on month-to-month terms, redundant. He signed for Airdrie but having settled in Lancashire continued to train with us. Despite a great return of 4 goals in 9 games Derek found the travelling too much and signed for Macclesfield the following season. He also played for Curzon Ashton before retiring. Since then he has worked as a salesman, first for Reebok and more recently as national sales manager for a firm selling jacuzzis.

Monday, 26 July 2010

100 Simon Holden

Position : Midfield (also played as a winger)

Played : 1986-7 to 1987-88

Appearances: 49

Goals: 4

Simon was another product of Rochdale’s Sunday League playing for The Wheatsheaf. His association with Dale actually began in 1984 when he made an appearance in the Manx Cup at Wigan. Simon had soft features and long hair and I remember one fan asking nearby Les Lawrence “What’s she called ? “ during the warm-up. Simon wasn’t taken on then but in November 1986, just before his departure Vic Halom announced that Simon was training with the club and he reappeared as a substitute for Brian Taylor’s first game in the FA Cup at home to Wrexham. He made his League debut a fortnight later under Eddie Gray.

Simon was an aggravating player. You could see why Halom and his successors had taken an interest in him. He could read the game and provide some good link-up play but all too often he’d fail to get the basics right and misplace a simple pass or take his eye off the ball. Nor did he offer anything defensively. His performances in 1986-7 were good enough to get a contract for the following season but he was largely ignored until the financial crisis meant a recall by default. He was often played wide on the right and in that position had one very good game at home to Hereford where he was the key figure in our 3-1 win scoring one and making at least one of the others (you might also remember this game for Phil Stant throwing his shirt off when substituted). His fate was sealed when Stuart Mellish got ahead of him in the pecking order and he was released in the summer.

Keith Hicks signed him up for Mossley (Neil Brown’s Football Transfers website is wrong to say he went directly to Fleetwood) but was sacked 6 games into the season and Simon only made 3 appearances for his successor. By 1991 he was playing for Castleton Gabriels and played against Dale in a pre-season friendly.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

99 Brian Stanton

Brian is the guy with the 'tache

Position : Winger (also played midfield and left back)

Played : 1986-7 t0 1987-8

Appearances : 49

Goals :4

Caretaker-manager Brian Taylor only made one signing but it was a good one. Brian S began with Bury as an amateur while completing an engineeering apprenticeship. In 1979 he moved to Huddersfield just in time to be part of the side that romped to the Fourth Division title. Three years later they went up to Division Two with Brian scoring 4 goals in a 6-1 thrashing of Bradford and completing the hat-trick in 6 minutes, thought to be a record for a non-striker. After a loan spell at Wrexham Brian was released in the summer of 1986 and surprisingly was only picked up by Morecambe.

Brian was the opposite to England's Peter Taylor in being a left footer who played on the right. His first couple of games in midfield were undistinguished then against Halifax away Shaun Reid played him a square pass on the halfway line and he exploded into life beating a couple of men on his way to shaving the far post, a run that seemed to surprise his team-mates as much as the fans. After that he played on the right and was still remarkably fast for a thirty-year old. He scored a fantastic goal at home to Aldershot when he beat at least three players before slotting it home. Unfortunately he pulled up at home to Wolves and had to sit out the rest of the season.

The following season was frustrating for Brian. When Eddie Gray signed Mark Gavin he decided against playing two wingers and Brian spent most of the first half of the season on the bench. Apparently when Dale went 4-0 down at Leyton Orient Gray turned to him and said "What do we do now Brian ?". When the financial crisis hit, Brian was forced to fill in at left back for the departed Peter Hampton. He did OK but it wasn't his position.

He didn't have the best of relationships with Gray who referred to him as "that idiot" when the Supporters Club dared to make him man of the match instead of Gray's prodigy Lee Warren. He was released at the end of 1987-88 and went on to play for Colne Dynamoes. Since retirement he has worked as a planning inspector for Bolton Council.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

98 Pat McGeeney

Pat is the player standing next to the keeper.

Position : Midfield (also played at left back)

Played : 1986-7 (on loan from Sheffield United)

Appearances : 3

Goals : 0

20-year old Pat was Vic Halom’s last signing on loan from Sheffield United for whom he had made 16 appearances.

He made his debut in midfield in the 3-3 draw at home to Torquay and was abysmal. His last game was at left back covering Dave Grant’s suspension and he was very good. Nevertheless Eddie Gray didn’t extend his stay.

At the end of the season he was released and joined Chesterfield. He made 49 appearances over two seasons at Saltergate before joining Gainsborough Trinity. He briefly moved to Australia with Blackwood City but after only 2 appearances returned to England with Buxton.

97 Micky Woods

Position : Forward

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 6

Goals : 3

Micky was a non-contract signing from Guiseley at the start of the 1986-7 season, on a sort of stand-by basis while he continued to work as a van driver.

He didn’t make his League debut until November with a late substitute appearance away, at Swansea then he started in the Freight Rover game away at Darlington which proved to be Vic Halom’s last game in charge. He was in the side when Eddie Gray took over and started scoring goals. A big balding bloke he looked a bit clumsy at times but was a big threat in the air and a much better option than Alan Young. Unfortunately Gray couldn’t see past the fact that Micky wasn’t available for training sessions and let him go as soon as Young recovered from a knock to the consternation of the fans.

Micky signed for Colne Dynamos and scored regularly in the early part of their rise through the pyramid.

96 Winston White

Position : Winger (but played upfront)

Played : 1986-7 (on loan from Bury)

Appearances : 4

Goals : 0

The other winger brought in for the Young-Wakenshaw suspension was a familiar face to Fourth Division supporters. Dale were the 7th of the 13 clubs Winston made an appearance for and there were two seasons where he appeared for four different clubs which must be some sort of record.

He started out at Leicester but didn’t establish himself in the first team and moved to Hereford in 1978. After 175 appearances and 21 goals he was released in summer 1983 and his travels began. After a brief dalliance with Hong Kong Rangers he returned to England. Chesterfield and Port Vale gave him one game each in 1983-4, Stockport were a little more generous with 4 before Bury offered him a permanent deal and it was they who loaned him out to us.

The only game I can recall him in was the 3-3 draw at home to Torquay where he played upfront with Peter Conning in possibly the worst strike partnership we’ve ever fielded. No wonder all our goals came from defenders in that game.

Later that season he moved on to a regular first team place with Colchester scoring 8 in 65 appearances which earned him a £17,500 move to Burnley on the eve of his 30th birthday. He did well at Turf Moor scoring 14 in 114 appearances and got an even more surprising £35,000 move to Second Division (but not for long) West Brom in March 1991. He failed to win a regular place there or impress the fans and was released in summer 1992. Thus began his second itinerant season taking in Bury again (2,0), Doncaster (an impressive 4,2), Carlisle (6,0) and Wigan (10,2). After retiring he ran a pub/restaurant in Padiham for a while and is now Regional Sales Manager for Life Fitness (UK) Ltd.

95 Mark Rees

Position : Winger

Played : 1986-7 (on loan from Walsall)

Appearances : 3

Goals : 0

One of two wingers brought in on loan to cover the suspensions of Alan Young and Rob Wakenshaw our two centre forwards. Hmmm, run that past me again Mr Halom .Mark was a stalwart for Walsall described by Halom as a “flying machine”.

It would be unfair of me to rate Mark as I only saw a brief substitute appearance but there was a general feeling of disappointment about him.

He went back to Walsall and resumed his place there for another 3 years which makes the loan move a bit bizarre. He later played for Colchester in the Conference, Shamrock Rovers, Aldershot, Dover and Solihull.

Monday, 19 July 2010

94 Rob Wakenshaw

Position : Forward (also played on wing)

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 29

Goals : 5

Vic Halom’s last permanent signing ,Rob arrived from Carlisle in September 1986 for £5,000. He started out with Everton and after scoring regularly in the reserves made his debut in a televised game against Manchester United in 1983-4. He scored too but all you can see is a massive scramble in the six yard box with Gerald Sinstadt eventually proclaiming that Rob got the last touch. He only had two more games for The Toffees before they let him go to Carlisle in 1985.He played eight games for them scoring twice but didn’t settle and went on loan to Doncaster scoring 3 in 8.

When he arrived Halom made the very ominous statement that he was here “to take the pressure off Steve Taylor” and he initially played on the right but within a fortnight Taylor had been sold and Rob had to replace him upfront. A short guy with bottle-blonde hair , Rob was popular with the ladies but other fans were less sure about him particularly after his sending off at Peterborough. He had some skill but just seemed the wrong sort of player for a survival battle. Eddie Gray took the same view and brought in Lyndon Simmonds on loan to replace him. Nevertheless Rob’s best moments came towards the end of the season. He came on as sub against Preston away and scored two well-taken goals that proved to be the margin of victory. Then in one of the last home games against Halifax he scored one of the best goals seen at Spotland with a scissor kick volley from the edge of the box in a 5-1 victory.

This late flowering won him the offer of a new contract but he chose to join Crewe instead for a small fee. Rob spent just over a year at Gresty Road scoring only once in 22 appearances before dropping into non-league with Fleetwood and Southport. He later re-located to the Isle of Man where he now runs his own cleaning firm.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

93 Carl Hudson

Position : Centre half

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 15

Goals : 1

Carl was "snapped up" from Bradford having failed to graduate from their YTS scheme.

He was thrown into the first team when Simon Gibson got injured early on and was just about adequate in a five man defence. His one goal was a scrambled effort away at Lincoln but it earned us a point. When Eddie Gray came in and scrapped (temporarily at least) the five at the back formation Carl was the one to make way and I think he only got a brief substitute appearance after that.

He went back to Yorkshire with Thackley and was still playing for them when we went there for a pre-sesaon friendly 2-3 years later.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

92 Peter Shearer

Position : Forward (for us)

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 1

Goals : 0

Peter was a 19-year old six-footer signed from Birmingham for whom he'd made 4 appearances.

He was brought in as a squad player but soon got drafted into the first team as a striker when Alan Young got winded/injured. He made his debut in the League Cup away leg at Burnley and scored twice. The second was a bizarre goal ; Burnley's centre halves had gone AWOL when a long ball was played up to Shearer on the edge of the box with a distant fullback playing him onside. Burnley's keeper Joe Neenan had a rush of blood to the head and came charging out without a hope of getting to the ball ; he was still 10 yards away when the ball skimmed off Peter's head and looped over him into the net. Peter retained his place for the next League game at home to Northampton but was embarrassingly bad and never played for us again.

He moved on to Nuneaton a few months later but it was at Cheltenham that he found his feet as a midfielder and made the England semi-pro team. Harry Redknapp paid £18,000 to bring him back into League football with Bournemouth in 1989 and he spent five injury-wracked seasons there before a £50,000 move back to Birmingham in 1994. He won a Second Division Championship medal with them in 1995 but an Achilles tendon injury prevented him from playing for them again. He joined Peterborough as player-coach but never made a first team appearance.

Friday, 16 July 2010

91 Neil Mills

Position : Winger

Played: 1986-7

Appearances : 10

Goals : 0

Vic Halom's search for cheap players also threw up this guy, a local lad from Sunday League side Tim Bobbin and allegedly a bit of a rogue.

He actually got off to a good start ,scoring a well-taken goal at abject Burnley in the League Cup but was quickly found out at League level. I think Eddie Gray only gave him half an hour before consigning him to the reserves.

He got a trial at Stockport the following season but after 7 goalless games he moved on to Mossley. He did score 4 for them in 26 appearances before moving on to Horwich RMI and I can't track him after that.

90 Alan Young

Position : Centre forward

Played : 1986-7 to 1987-88 (no League appearances in latter season)

Appearances : 28

Goals : 2

As we’re already feeling rather ill-disposed towards Notts County it’s worth remembering this nasty bit of business from nearly 25 years ago. They wanted Dave Thompson on the cheap so they threw in this former Oldham centre forward to reduce the cost to £15,000. And Vic Halom went for it, pretty much signing his own death warrant.

Scotch Alan started out at Oldham where he effectively replaced Halom as the big target man. After scoring a hat-trick against Leicester in February 1979 he was signed by them for £165,000 and won a Second Division Championship medal in 1979-80 when he was ever-present. He scored 7 goals in 38 First Division appearances as Leicester went straight back down. After one more season at Filbert Street he was shunted out by new manager Gordon Milne and went to Third Division Sheffield United for £160,000. After one disappointing season at Bramall Lane he moved to Brighton where he scored an impressive 12 in 26 appearances but moved on to County in Sept 1984. He scored 8 in 24 appearances as County were relegated. The following season he scored 4 early on but was dropped after 19 appearances and they clearly wanted rid.

Although he got off to a decent start with a goal on his debut it soon became clear that, while still only 30, he was not remotely fit; a challenge at Stockport left him lying on the floor and gasping for breath with Dale fans screaming abuse at him. At Lincoln he was taken off after an abysmal performance and stormed off to the dressing room only to find it locked so he had to sit on a chair by the pitch being taunted by the Dale fans ,“Youngie Youngie give us a wave “etc. Then he got himself sent off at Peterborough. Those with behind-the-scenes access at the time have suggested that Young could still play but wouldn’t because Halom offered a number of inducements to sign such as a club job for his wife which he couldn’t deliver. Against that view is his last season at County and the fact that when Eddie Gray came in he motivated Alan to lose a lot of weight but he still wasn’t any good. Gray, to his lasting credit, realised that the key to our survival lay in winning the bank of postponed home games in March and April so he kept Derek Parlane fresh for them by playing Alan in the away games. He couldn’t do much on the pitch but at least stayed fit and out of trouble to allow the strategy to work. I should also add to Alan’s credit that he once took out a small boy in the Sandy Lane with a wayward shot during the warm-up and came into the stand to comfort him and get him back on his feet.

Alan was contracted for the next season but after a competent first half in the first Manx Cup game at Preston he wasn’t seen again apart from loitering around the tunnel in his civvies on match days. Halfway through the season he took up an offer to become player-manager of Shepshed Charterhouse. He later worked for Chesterfield.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

89 Ray McHale

Position : Midfield

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 7

Goals : 0

Even on non-contract terms, at 36 Ray was a ridiculous signing on a free from just-relegated Swansea. He had been a good player in the 70s starting out with Chesterfield then moving on to Halifax and Swindon bagging an impressive number of goals from midfield at each club. He got his chance in the First Division with Brighton in 1980 but couldn’t hack it and was shipped out to Barnsley after only 11 games. From this point his scoring touch seems to have deserted him getting only 1 in 53 appearances. He dropped a division to play for Sheffield United in 1982 scoring 2 in 67 and none in a six game loan spell at Bury. In 1985 he joined John Bond’s dinosaur squad at cash-strapped Swansea.

For the opening few games Ray was laughably selected ahead of John Seasman and just looked lost; the ball had gone by the time he trundled onto the scene. I remember him taking corners at Stockport and he seemed barely able to get them in the box. Sanity eventually prevailed and he was dropped after 7 games but he got a recall for the FA Cup tie at Nuneaton. Obligingly, Nuneaton appeared to have no midfield at all and Ray was allowed the time and space to show us the player he had been, spraying the ball all over the field in a virtuoso display. There were no more League outings and he moved on to Scarborough when Eddie Gray took over.

He helped them to win the Conference title and become the first club to be automatically promoted (thankfully not at our expense) and got another season in League football as a result. He scored with a volley in their opening League game at home to Wolves. He scored 3 (his best total since 1980) in 25 appearances before moving on to Northwich and Guiseley who he later managed. Ray had four different spells as manager of Scarborough becoming their Tony Parkes figure and also had a spell as Chief Scout at Oldham. He now works for the FA and runs his own summer school near Scarborough.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

88 Peter Conning

Peter is the guy in the light strip

Position : Midfield (also played as a striker)

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 39

Goals : 1

At the start of the season , pressured by Tommy Cannon , Vic Halom announced that due to the financial pressures we would have to try and get by with cheaper players. One of the "fruits" of that policy was Peter who had been playing for Altrincham while studying at Liverpool University.

It was immediately apparent that Peter was out of his depth in the Fourth Division. He was a one-paced ballwatcher. I remember one fan at Stockport (where we drew 1-1 in what must have been the most inept game of football ever played in the Football League) asking him if he had arthritis. To make matters worse Halom kept talking him up as if we were idiots. His attempts to play upfront after Young and Wakenshaw had managed to get themselves sent off in the same game were laughable. Under Eddie Gray's coaching Peter's performances did improve to an extent but his release at the end of the season was inevitable.

He went back to the Conference with Weymouth and flourished to the extent that Yeovil paid £13,000 for him in 1989. He was a regular there for five years and played for the England semi-professional team. He later moved on to Tiverton and was still playing in 2003 as player-manager of Bridport. Last heard of working as Yeovil Colleges Football Academy manager.

87 Simon Gibson

Position : Centre  half  (also  played  up  front)

Played : 1986-7

Appearances : 5

Goals : 0

I remember bantering with some Preston fans in the summer of 86 and one said to me “When you’ve got a player like Simon Gibson then you can talk”. A week later we had signed the man himself but to this day I don’t know whether my friend was being ironic. Simon cost us £5,000 and like all Vic Halom’s money signings, his was a disaster. Selling him to us was John McGrath’s second bad turn to us in a matter of weeks after poaching Hildersley. Simon began his career at Chelsea but made his League debut with Swindon in 1983. He moved to Preston in 1984. For both clubs his record is quite good so it’s not obvious what went wrong.

I think part of the problem was Halom persisting with five at the back. Simon was a tall stopper like John Bramhall and seemed unsure what his role was in the formation. In any case, he got injured early on. By the time he recovered we were rock bottom and a desperate Halom decided to throw him upfront for a Freight Rover game away at Darlington. Although Halom was sacked after that game. Simon stayed upfront for the next one at home to Wrexham in the FA Cup and was hopeless. Eddie Gray gave him one first team outing away at Cambridge where he played so badly (though back in defence) he had to be subbed. Rumours arose that he was too fond of the sauce.

Although contracted for the next season he was paid off in the summer of 1987 and signed for Danish club Herfolge.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

86 John Bramhall

Position : Centre half

Played : 1986-7 to 1987-8

Appearances : 86

Goals : 13

We're into the dreaded 1986-87 season now, one that brings back painful memories of some of the worst players ever to put on a Dale shirt. But John wasn't one of them ; he was an absolute hero who deserves to be on the same pedestal as the likes of Alan Reeves and Grant Holt and others who are better remembered because they were in more successful teams.

John was 29 when he signed on a free transfer from Bury. He began his League career with Tranmere after signing from Stockton Heath in 1977 making 170 appearances for them before moving to Bury in March 1982. In the next three sesons he missed only 5 games but in 1985-6 the arrival of future Dale man Peter Valentine displaced him and he only made 25 appearances mainly at right back plus 4 on loan to Chester.

John was Vic Halom's last decent signing and he had a daunting task. Halom had been ordered to slash the wage bill in response to some lost TV income and the saleable players had to go. John had to replace one of them , the popular Joe Cooke, both as centre half and captain. To make matters worse injuries meant that for most of the season his defensive partners were two guys who'd only played one league game between them prior to August. A born leader, John battled away at the back but also made a vital contribution upfront at corners and setpieces notching 9 goals including a brace in a home game against Torquay where he led a fightback from 0-3 down to get a draw. What's more, he was playing with a steadily worsening hamstring condition which left him vulnerable - he was absolutely murdered by David Platt away at Crewe - but he struggled on to secure our League safety.

The following season went a bit sour for John after the dressing room inquest following Dale's 8-0 defeat at Leyton Orient. When Eddie Gray criticised him, John retorted that he was " having to cover for the worst two fullbacks in the League" (Geoff Lomax and Peter Hampton, both Gray signings). Gray brought in Andy Duggan on loan from Huddersfield specifically to enable him to drop John but the financial crisis that hit us in December 1987 forced him to reinstate John who celebrated with a goal at Wrexham in his first game back. It was obvious to everyone that he wouldn't be retained at the end of the season and he moved on to Halifax.

After 18 months at The Shay (62 appearances, 5 goals) he moved on to Scunthorpe making another 32 appearances without scoring. He went to Hyde United for a spell but was already working for the P.F.A. where he has risen through the ranks to become Assistant Chief Executive.

85 Jason Smart

Position : Centre half (also played at right back)

Played : 1985-6 to 1988-9

Appearances : 117

Goals : 4

Jason was a YTS player handed a daunting debut at home to Burnley in March 1985. He did OK and we won 1-0 , about the only bright spot in the miserable latter half of the season.

He started the 1986-7 sesaon on the bench but came on in the first game when Keith Hicks got injured. From that point on he was a first team regular for the next three years though for most of the 1987-8 season he played at right back. It’s difficult to assess a very young player coming into a very bad side but he was by no means the weak link and played with a mature confidence. At the end of 1988-89 he moved to Crewe for a tribunal–set fee of £40,000.

Jason did well at first , earning good notices when they played Liverpool in an FA Cup tie but gradually faded out of the first team picture. Released in 1992 he had brief spells at Witton and Hyde but was soon back in Rochdale playing Sunday League football for Castleton Top House. In 1994 he played a couple of games for Dale’s reserves and there were suggestions he might make a League comeback (he was still only 27) but it never happened.

84 Ian Measham

Position : Centre half (also played at right back)

Played : 1985-6 (on loan from Huddersfield Town)

Appearances : 12

Goals : 0

Following the Mossman debacle and with the season dead in the water it wasn’t surprising that our only deadline day signing was the loan of a versatile young defender from Huddersfield who’d been loaned out to Lincoln earlier in the season.

In a team that was just going through the motions Ian’s tidiness and professionalism stood out and he would have been a good addition to the squad had finances allowed.

Instead he signed for Cambridge in the summer winning the supporter’s club player of the year in 1986-7 . He moved to Burnley in Nov 88 and gave them excellent service over six seasons. In Sept 1993 he joined Doncaster for £40,000 after a contract dispute and six months later broke his neck in a freak accident at Torquay. He was out of the game for over a year but came back in the last game of the following season. He was released at the end of 1995-6 and decided to retire from football. He moved back to Cambridge and now works in car sales.

Monday, 12 July 2010

83 David Mossman

David is third from the left in the back row (the second is Dave Grant)

Position : Winger

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 8

Goals : 0

No player symbolises the wretched second half of 1985-6 better than this one. Vic Halom immediately used a good chunk of the receipts from the Old Trafford game to buy Dave from Sheffield Wednesday for £20,000. He had been on loan at Stockport earlier in the season and made a great impression scoring 5 goals in 9 games.

He never looked like doing the same for us. He displaced Frank Gamble causing the latter to leave the club but struggled to even control the ball let alone beat anyone. He was quickly re-christened “Tossman”. My only positive memory of him is a run and shot that hit the bar in the 6-0 defeat at Wigan in the Freight Rover. Then Stockport came calling and we let him go again for £8,000 so he had cost us over a grand a game and the services of a good player. Good business that Vic !

The silver lining was that he didn’t do much for Stockport either, scoring once in 30 appearances. He followed manager Colin Murphy to Lincoln but didn’t come back up with them in 1988 moving on to Boston where he was sacked for having clashing work commitments.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

82 Garry Haire

Position : Winger

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 3 (on loan from Darlington )

Goals : 0

Garry had an odd career. He started out at Oxford but didn't make a league appearance and moved on to Whitley Bay. He was then signed by Bradford in 1983 and scored 13 in 43 appearances in 1983-4. Despite this success the next season he dropped down a division and signed for Darlington after only 6 more appearances. He made 25 appearances for them but a year later was available for us to sign on loan.

I remember him having one really good game for us but his loan wasn't extended and he eventually returned to Whitley Bay.

81 Tony Towner

Position : Winger

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 5

Goals : 0

Tony, a 30-year old winger arrived at Spotland in December 1985 from Charlton. He started out with his hometown club Brighton then played for Millwall, Rotherham, Sheffield United (on loan) and Wolves before going to The Valley.

He came on as sub in a home game and made an instantly good impression by beating the full back with his first touch. He went on to play a blinder in the draw at Halifax on Boxing Day. Unfortunately Tony didn’t want to uproot to the North and couldn’t be persuaded to make his stay permanent. When Cambridge came in with an offer he signed for them instead although he only made 8 appearances for them in total.

He moved into non-league football with Gravesend and Northfleet then Saltdean United. He now runs a removals business in Brighton.

80 David Tong

Going left to right David is the penultimate player in the front row

Position : Midfield

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 2

Goals : 0

Another of Halom’s fly-by-nights, Dave actually played for 4 different clubs in 1985-6. A 30-year old midfielder, Dave had played nearly all his football in the Second Division with Blackpool, Shrewsbury and Cardiff.

I can’t remember whether he was on loan or a free agent. I vaguely recall him being an anonymous presence in a home game but I think his second appearance was in a 0-5 defeat at Leyton Orient after which his services were no longer required.

He then signed a short term deal with Bristol City making 19 appearances before a deadline day switch to Gillingham for another 5. He started the next season with Cambridge but was discarded after 6 games and went to Merthyr helping them to win the Welsh Cup in 1987.

Monday, 5 July 2010

79 Ronnie Hildersley

Ronnie is third from the left on the front row

Position : Midfield

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 16

Goals : 0

This is a strange story. Ronnie began his career at Manchester City but only made one appearance before being loaned out to Chester where he was the recipient of Ian McMahon's infamous headbutt. He signed for Chester permanently but only made 9 appearances in 1984-5.

He appeared briefly as a sub away at Burnley in September where he appeared to be at risk of drowning as the pitch got waterlogged. He then disappeared and we assumed he was just another of Halom's fly-by-night signings. Around March though he suddenly reappeared in the side and was tremendous ; the only bright spot as the rest of the team sulked. Although only 5'4 Ron was very combative, passed the ball accurately and could run surprisingly fast for a barrel-shaped man. I remember one guy in the Wilbutts telling him to get a move on and being told "F**k off you fat git" which was amusing coming from him.

The way he left the club stank. Halom had had to take some time off during the season after being stricken with Bells palsy and former Halifax boss John McGrath was brought in to hold the fort for him. McGrath seems to have had a free pass around the club and according to an interview Ronnie gave to the Lancashire Evening Post in 2003 :

He turned up to watch me on the last day of the season for Rochdale against Leyton Orient. I had no idea about Preston or their potential then, but it didn't take me long to find out.

"I'd got man of the match and the chairman collared me, saying he wanted me to sign a new deal at Spotland.

"I was just about to put pen to paper, when John, who had overhead the conversation, was waving his hands at the other side of the room. He edged over and whispered: 'Don't sign little Ronnie, we're going places. I'm taking over at Preston tomorrow and I want you at Deepdale because I'm going to give the great old club the kiss of life.'

Cheers John you c**t ! The club gave out a lame story about an administrative cock up with Ronnie's League registration forms but we knew something murkier had taken place.

Ronnie was at Preston for two seasons falling out of favour and going on loan to Cambridge in the latter. He then moved up a division and signed for Blackburn leaving just before the Walker millions started taking effect. He signed for Wigan but that didn't work out and he only made 4 appearances before moving to American indoor football with Montreal Spirit. McGrath signed him again for Halifax in the early 90s but he left for East Fife when McGrath was sacked. He played there for three years before moving to Montrose then returned to East Fife as manager. He now lives back in Lancashire.

78 Phil Chambers

Phil  is  the  furthest  right  of  the  front  three

Position : Left back

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 10

Goals : 0

Phil was a short-term signing to cover at left back while Dave Grant covered Keith Hick's absence through injury in the centre. Now 31 Phil had given fantastic service to Barnsley over 15 seasons where he was known as Chippy either for his left foot or his somewhat rotund figure- sources vary ! He is also sometimes listed as Phil Martin-Chambers.

Phil turned out to be a very solid and tidy full back who was good value for his 10 games. He moved on to Hartlepool where he played 29 games to the end of the season before joining the coaching staff at Rotherham. He was briefly manager of Scarborough in 1993.

77 Ronnie Moore

Position : Forward (also played at centre half)

Played : 1985-6

Appearances : 43

Goals : 9

Ronnie was a vastly experienced 32 - year old centre forward signed from Charlton Athletic. He had first made his name at Tranmere in the 1970s scoring 72 goals in 249 appearances. In 1979 he transferred to Cardiff where he endured the leanest spell of his career then on to Rotherham (playing alongside Vic Halom) where he enjoyed his best (52 in 125) . He is regularly re-confirmed as the club’s best ever player. He then moved to Charlton for a couple of seasons before arriving at Dale.

Ronnie was a little past his best but still a handful for Fourth Division defences and he created the space for Steve Taylor to thrive while still getting a few goals himself. The most notable was the winner in the replay against Scunthorpe which took us to Old Trafford. Ronnie was prevented from reaching double figures in the League by the man he’d displaced, Barry Diamond. When Joe Cooke was sent off for decking Diamond, Ronnie took his place at the back for the rest of the game and did well. When we went to Old Trafford he played at sweeper and looked comfortable. That then became his position for the rest of the season, Halom playing five at the back even against poor teams at home. The goals dried up and Dale slid down the table amid rumours of dressing room discontent but still Halom persevered with the formation as a promising season went down the plughole.

At the end of the season Ronnie was allowed to rejoin Tranmere as player-coach to cut the wage bill. He played on until 1989 chalking up another 75 appearances. He has of course gone on to be a successful manager with Southport, Oldham, Tranmere and particularly Rotherham where he is currently in charge for the second time.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

76 Keith Hicks

Position : Centre half

Played : 1985-6 to 1986-7

Appearances : 32

Goals : 1

Into the 1985-6 season and Joe Cooke's partner at the back was neither Bill nor Phil but the 31 year old former England Youth international and yet another former team-mate of Halom's. They played together at Oldham for whom Keith made 242 appearances. After losing his place in the side Keith moved on to Hereford in 1980 and chalked up another 201 appearances before arriving at Spotland.

It's doubtful that big-chinned Keith was anybody's favourite player. He was purely a stopper with a laboured style but, as his record suggests, was a consistent performer and unlike others in the side his form didn't dip in the deeply disappointing second half of the season. His best game was at Old Trafford where he kept Mark Hughes quiet throughout the match. His one goal came away at Mansfield in a ludicrous game on 30.11.85 where half the pitch was lost in the fog and Dale nearly pulled it back from a 0-3 deficit, Keith stabbing the ball home from a corner to make it 2-3.

At the end of the season Keith was another of those contracted players we were trying to offload to a good home but he started the first game of 1986-7 at home to Crewe. Here fate intervened as he suffered a groin injury which meant an end to fulltime football. He went to Hyde and then to Mossley as player-manager for just under a year signing one or two ex-Dale players while he was there. Returning to Hyde as a player he became our Football in the Community Officer and has remained in that role ever since. Nevertheless he continued playing non-league football for as long as possible sometimes advertising his services in the M.E.N. and played for Mossley (again) , Radcliffe Borough and possibly others before retiring some time in the 9os.

75 Graham Hurst

Position : Midfield

Played : 1984-5 to 1986-7 (only appearance was in first season)

Appearances : 1

Goals : 0

Graham was the other YTS player thrown into the side for the thrashing at Aldershot. Unlike Neil Ashworth he was offered a professional contract at the end of his YTS term in 1986 but never made another appearance which, given some of the rubbish that did appear for Dale in 1986-7, is rather telling.

He moved to Mossley FC but only made 7 appearances for them before dropping further down the pyramid to Oldham Town.

Graham completes the 1984-5 season.

74 Neil Ashworth

Position : Right back

Played : 1984-5 to 1985-6 (reserves only in latter season)

Appearances : 1

Goals : 0

Neil was one half of Dale's second YTS pair (after Reid and McCluskie) and was elevated to the first team for the final game of the season away at Aldershot. The result was a 5-0 thrashing (after which I'm told Vic Halom withheld the post-match sandwiches saying "After that performance you bastards can starve ! "}

The only time I saw him was against Burnley in the Manx Cup in 1985 when he was withdrawn for his own sanity at 0-4 . At fault for every goal, Halom said "Neil Ashworth is going to be a super player but I think nerves got the better of him on the night". Super or not he didn't get another chance.

He moved to Castleton Gabriels. According to his profile on he also played for Tranmere and Sunderland but it certainly wasn't the first team in either case. He also claims to have played in Australia and New Zealand. He later worked for Guide Dogs For The Blind in Ireland and is now an on line entrepreneur who generates "passive residual income online" whatever that means.

73 Peter Robinson

Position : Right back

Played : 1984-5

Appearances : 12

Goals : 0

The latest attempt to solve the right back problem, Peter was making a League comeback after almost 5 years away. He started out at Burnley in the late 70s but was sold for £35,000 to Sparta Rotterdam in 1980. After two years in Holland he returned to England but with non-league Blyth Spartans and he had been there nearly 3 years when we signed him.

Peter was really a centre half playing out of position so wasn't over-impressive and wasn't kept on for 1985-6. Instead he began a three year stint with Darlington interrupted by a strange loan out to Halifax in his first season. He returned to Blyth Spartans in 1988 then moved on to Whitley Bay where he became a hero after scoring in their defeat of Preston in the FA Cup Second Round ,Dec 1989. That of course meant a return to Spotland for Peter in the next round.

Friday, 2 July 2010

72 Dave Grant

Position : Left back (also played at centre half)

Played : 1984-5 to 1986-7

Appearances : 97

Goals : 2

Dave arrived from Cardiff at the same time as Phil Dwyer but was a permanent signing.He started out as a centre half under Jack Charlton at Sheffield Wednesday and was rated a good prospect but struggled when they were promoted to the Second Division. He moved on to Oxford in 1982 where he switched to left back but in his second season there he was loaned out to Chesterfield. He then had a brief spell at Crystal Palace without making an appearance for them and then moved to Cardiff.

Dave evicted Les Chapman from the left back position and it was great to see someone who could effectively support the attack there. Dave was a big guy with a good left foot who could put over a decent cross. He was also a bit of a bruiser and used to beckon opposing wingers to try and take the ball off him as he brought it forward; few took up the challenge. It has to be said he was a bit short of pace and a decent winger could give him a torrid time.

At the start of the 1985-6 season an injury to Kieth Hicks meant he had to play centre half for a few games which he did very well (snuffing Frank Worthington out of the game at Tranmere) leading me to think that was his best position all along. At the end of the season he was one of those high earners who were placed on the transfer list at nil value but there were no takers and he played throughout the next season.

Despite him being only 26, Eddie Gray released him at the end of 1986-7 a decision that rankled with many especially since his replacements were dire. Dave moved on to Macclesfield and subsequently Boston with a short spell at Mossley in between.

71 Phil Dwyer

Position : Centre half

Played : 1984-5 (on loan from Cardiff)

Played : 15

Goals : 1

Phil arrived from Cardiff on the March deadline day. He was (and still is) their record appearance holder in a variety of positions but mainly centre half. He also had 10 caps and 2 goals for Wales.

He went into the side displacing Bill Williams but I have to admit he was very good and we only lost 3 of the 15 games in which he featured. He was as hard as nails ; at Cardiff he lined up for the next game 7 days after swallowing his tongue in 1975.

Unfortunately at the end of the season 31- year old Phil decided to join the Police force and retire from football. I’ve always wanted to know whether Halom knew that at the time he released Bill. Phil was a police officer for 15 years then started working for solicitors as a duty officer dealing with criminal clients so it no doubt pleased his ex-colleagues when they busted him for drink driving in 2008 while he was actually working in the station.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

70 Tony Towers

Position : Midfield

Played : 1984-5

Appearances : 2

Goals : 0

Also featuring (briefly) in that defeat by Crewe was this 32-year old former England international who had returned to England following the collapse of the North American Soccer League. Tony had begun his career at Manchester City and featured in the 1970 European Cup-Winner's Cup Final and the 1974 League Cup Final. Just after that he went to Sunderland as part of the deal for Dennis Tueart and his form there earned him three England caps in 1976. A year later he moved to Birmingham to stay in the First Division but suffered the same fate there two years later. With his career in England stalled Tony went over to America and became the star player for Montreal Manic for three seasons until they decided to become an all-Canadian team for the 1984 season. Tony stayed in America for that final NASL season with Tampa Bay Rowdies and then Vancouver Whitecaps.

He was sub against Crewe, came on and got injured and decided to retire. At least that's how I remembered it but the record books indicate he made 2 appearances for us. If anyone can recall the other game he featured in please use the comments box.

69 Steve Tapley

Position : Defender

Played : 1984-5 (on loan from Fulham)

Appearances : 1

Goals : 0

Steve was brought in on loan from Fulham for whom he had made 2 appearances scoring once. He played in the home defeat to Crewe on 02.03.85 which I missed due to flu and by all accounts was rubbish.

He didn't play for Fulham again either and moved on to Wealdstone and later Yeovil. He is now a coach for Chelsea's Football In The Community Programme.

68 Dave Redfern

Position : Goalkeeper

Played : 1984-5 to 1987-88 (reserves only in final season )

Appearances : 87

Goals : 0

Dave arrived from Sheffield Wednesday, initially on loan, to replace Paul Malcolm and made his League debut for Dale. He was a notable improvement and he signed for Dale permanently in the summer of 1985. The original fee was £15,000 but partway through the instalments Dale pleaded poverty and Wednesday waived the rest rather than take Dave back.

He was a big bear of a guy but quite agile with the frustrating habit of nearly saving every penalty he faced. Dave’s weakness was a suspect temperament. He made cock-ups in big games against Manchester United in the FA Cup and Watford in the League Cup the following season. His was always the first head to go down in adversity and a 2-0 deficit was always likely to become 5-0 with Dave in the nets. It was during one of those 5-0s away at Northampton that Dave broke a finger which ended his first team career as his understudy Keith Welch started the next game and a run of appearances that lasted until he was sent off in 1991. Apart from a half in a friendly Dave didn’t play for the first team again. He was still contracted for the 1987-88 season and when the financial crisis struck there was speculation that Dave would have to be used in an outfield role but perhaps fortunately that never happened. He played 3 games on loan to Wigan that season.

Dave moved on to Gainsborough Trinity but a year later returned to League football with Stockport and, while never an automatic choice, made 48 appearances over four seasons. He later played for Buxton and Emley.

67 Don McAllister

Position : Right back

Played : 1984-5

Appearances : 3

Goals : 0

Don was another attempt to solve the right back problem signing for us after returning to England from Portugese side Vitoria Setubal. He was 31 and had given good service (mainly at centre half or left back) to Bolton, Tottenham and Charlton (mainly at centre half or left back) before joining the exodus to the USA. However he only played 1 game for Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1984 before moving on to Portugal.

The record books say he made 3 appearances for us but I can only recall the last , a home game where he pulled up after about 10 minutes and had to be replaced. That was the end of his Dale career though he later appeared for Barnet (then a non-league side) before emigrating to Australia where he works as a finance manager.