Thursday, 31 March 2011
Position : Winger
Played : 2002-03
Appearances : 7
Goals : 0
Lee was Paul Simpson's other summer signing on a free from Scunthorpe. He began his career at West Ham but only made 3 substitute appearances interspersed with many loan spells (which helped get him confused with the Barnet player who got 4 against us in one of Docherty's last games as both played for Plymouth) . His other temporary clubs were Exeter, Leyton Orient , Ipswich and Southend. Eventually Scunthorpe paid £130,000 for him in July 1999 and he quickly became one of the most feared forwards in our division although tellingly he had only come on as sub the last time we played them.
None of Simpson's signings were particularly successful but Lee was the most disappointing of the lot . I've classed him as a winger because that's where Simpson played him (and press reports when we signed him described him as a winger) but some fans opined that he was really an inside forward who should be played behind the front player(s). We never got a chance to see that because he was dropped after the first two games where he was abysmal. For all his tricky footwork he looked completely incapable of beating his man or of lasting 90 minutes. He was restored for the home game against Scunthorpe in October presumably in the hope he'd rouse himself against his former club and he did show a bit better. Their defender Matt Sparrow was sent off for kicking him after a 50/50 challenge and thereafter they seemed to be taking it in turns to try and boot him into the stand. Lee was taken off for his own safety. Thereafter he only made sporadic substitute appearances falling behind the likes of Duffy and Warner in the pecking order amid rumours that he was "too fond of his pop".
Nevertheless as our form disintegrated Lee became quite popular simply for being out of favour with the discredited management duo. His last real contribution was setting up the winner for Gavin Melaugh at home to Oxford in February having just come on for Simpson. He spent the last two months of the season on loan at Bristol Rovers making 8 appearances for them.
When Simpson walked the plank there was some hope that Lee would come good under his successor but the Board's next action was to arrange his permanent transfer to Rovers weeks before Alan Buckley was appointed. Lee made 13 mainly substitute appearances for them scoring twice in 2003-04 but didn't appear at all the following season and was released in June 2005. He subsequently played for Thurrock, Purfleet, Billericay and Hornchurch and is currently player-coach at Tilbury.
Position : Midfield
Played : 2002-03 to 2003-04
Appearances : 32
Goals : 1
Chris was Paul Simpson's first signing on a free from Huddersfield. His career began in 1993 with his hometown club Blackpool for whom he made 82 appearances scoring 4 goals. He was released in 1996 and joined Hartlepool. They used him in a more attacking role and reaped 23 goals in 94 appearances which earned him a move to Huddersfield for £65,000 in November 1998. He made his name in the 1999/2000 season scoring 9 goals in 35 appearances as Huddersfield just missed out on the First Division play-offs. Over-eagerness to start the next season caused an Achilles injury which was to dog him for the rest of his career and required special boots to play. He only made 19 appearances over the next two seasons causing Lou Macari to cut his losses and release him in the summer of 2002.
This isn't a post I've been looking forward to having had heated arguments over this player with one of my match mates in the dark days of autumn 2003 and I've no desire to re-open old wounds. Let's start by saying that, like Graham Lancashire before him, Chris was a player that would never have signed for us were there not an injury doubt hanging over him and might have had a crack at the Premiership instead. His signing was a gamble which didn't pay off.
Chris looked quite good when he played in his first season looking to get into the box at every opportunity but he collected a succession of fresh injuries and never made more than a handful of consecutive appearances. He was injured when he scored his only goal at home to Exeter in October when he met the ball at the far post with his face. He also managed to break his arm in the final game at Macclesfield.
He actually managed to steer clear of new injuries in his second season but by then his mobility was clearly restricted and Alan Buckley initially preferred trialists and loanees to him. He did manage to get into the side towards the end of Buckley's time and I thought was playing quite well with his quick balls forward down the channels but my mate favoured the pretty patterns of Sean McClare and said Chris was just hitting and hoping. He started the first couple of games when Parkin returned but was taken off early away at Yeovil and although this was tactical (we'd just conceded an early goal and needed another forward on ) he was never seen again even on the bench. As can be discerned from his reports on the official website Chris is a particularly bright and articulate bloke with his own views on football and one suspects that that didn't endear him to Mr Parkin.
Inevitably Chris was released at the end of the season and although he signed for Lancaster City both Doncaster and Carlisle gave him chances to resume his League career the following season and he made two appearances for each but it didn't work out. After a brief spell with Fleetwood Town he hung up his boots and joined Bury as youth coach. Keith Hill and Dave Flitcroft were quick to poach him for us in the same role overcoming any resistance the Board may have felt about putting him back on the payroll and there is a feeling that he may well end up as our next manager.
Monday, 28 March 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 2002-03
Appearances : 6
Goals : 0
So now to the 2002-03 season and an unwelcome new era for me. My mum had died unexpectedly in the close season. The full implications of that are outside the scope of this blog but it affected my relationship with the Dale. Before then I used to go round to my old house in Littleborough with a bag of spuds and any other heavy item and still went to games fortified by shepherd's pie and apple crumble as when I first started supporting Dale twenty years earlier. That was now at an end. It also made me take stock a bit; having just completed my second 100% season was it really worth travelling all day to watch a run of the mill fixture ? The answer now was no ; if the game wasn't important and couldn't be slotted into a broader weekend with Julie and/or friends I would let it go by. My two-year run came to an end when I missed Swansea away in October and essentially that's how things stand today.
As it happened I also missed a few games in January and April when I had a couple of hospital operations to remove surplus body parts. Paul Simpson made things easier for me by producing a largely dreadful season in which a record-equalling Cup run (with bigger scalps than the previous one) hardly compensated for atrocious League form which saw us tumble from 5th to 19th , the largest drop between seasons "achieved" by any Dale boss in my time.
I think Simpson got it wrong from the start. It was a no-brainer that the first priority was to sign at least one good centre half to replace the creaky Richard Jobson yet his first two signings were attacking players ( covered in the next two posts) and we went into the Isle of Man tournament with a dodgy German guy, Eddie something-or-other at the back. Fortunately his failings were thoroughly exposed over there and so Steve was hurriedly signed on the eve of the season having been released by Crewe after ten years' service.
Steve had originally been a trainee at Manchester City but ended up at Fleetwood Town from where Crewe signed him for £25,000 in 1992. It was an inspired signing with Steve staying at Gresty Road for the following decade , becoming club captain and enjoying two promotions. Steve came back from serious injury, missing an entire season in 1998-99 before regaining his place. In his last season there he lost his place and had a loan spell at Macclesfield.
Steve started the season in the side but it didn't go well. He looked a decent footballer with time on the ball but his pace had gone completely and he and Griffiths looked a very brittle partnership. After a bad mistake cost us three points at home to Southend he was dropped and went on loan to Macclesfield. Simpson said it wasn't intended to be permanent but he never played for us again and signed for the Silkmen in March 2003.
He was released at the end of the following season having made 36 appearances since leaving us and joined Bamber Bridge FC. He is now a qualified physiotherapist and assistant-manager at Fleetwood Town.
Sunday, 27 March 2011
Position : Winger ( also played in midfield )
Played : 2001-02 to 2002-03
Appearances : 42
Goals : 15
John Hollins's last signing was a big one , bringing in Paul from Blackpool in March 2002. He had already had a big impact on our recent fortunes, masterminding the crucial defeat a year earlier that meant Blackpool pipped us to the play-offs and then humiliating Matt Gilks by repeatedly lobbing him in the FA Cup tie just before Hollins was appointed.
Paul had made his debut for Manchester City almost twenty years earlier but was loaned out to Finn Harps in Ireland before he became a regular in their Second Division side. He was regarded as a top prospect and won England under-21 caps but his star seemed to fall a bit when City were relegated again in 1987. After 121 appearances and 18 goals he moved to Oxford in March 1988 for £200,000. Paul spent four years there scoring 43 goals in 144 appearances before a £500,000 move to Derby in 1992, finally returning to the top flight at the age of 30 in 1996. However he only played 19 games in the Premiership going on loan first to Sheffield United then to Wolves who signed him permanently for £75,000 in 1997.He had scored 48 goals in 186 appearances for County. Paul spent three years at Wolves scoring 6 goals in 52 appearances but featured less as time wore on and had a loan spell at Walsall before moving to Blackpool on a free in summer 2000. They won promotion through the play-offs the following year.
Paul almost did the same for us. He announced his presence with a spectacular long range goal on his debut at home to Plymouth and scored a total of 6 in 9 appearances plus another in the first leg of the tie against Rushden. Not surprisingly he wasn't that fast anymore but the skill was still there and his composure when presented with a chance was awesome - as my mate put it simply - "he doesn't miss".
However talent comes at a price and when we didn't get through the tie against Rushden we had an expensive player for another year in the Third Division. Whether the Board had decided to appoint Paul as player-manager before the notorious fax terminating Hollins's tenure isn't known but it was the start of a couple of years where our fortunes precipitously dipped and the Board didn't cover themselves with glory.
We'll cover Paul's managerial fortunes in subsequent posts but they did have an effect on his game as a player. He started well enough with a dead-ball hat trick (two pens and a free kick helped on its way by Andy Dibble) at Wrexham in August 2002, a game at which I received some stick for wearing pink shorts (one of my turns, I guess). However he decided to start playing himself in the middle which he didn't have the legs for anymore and our form suffered as a result. The pressure even made him forget the rules of the game on one occasion when he put away the rebound after his penalty had hit the post. Being boss also made him greedy; in the game at Boston in October he kept trying to score from inside his own half to the frustration of team-mates and supporters alike.
Paul's days as manager were numbered long before the final game at Macclesfield after which the Board gave him an option of staying on if he accepted an experienced number two in place of Jamie Hoyland. It would be interesting to know who they had in mind but Paul refused and left the club; strangely he has not made Hoyland's a prerequisite of his subsequent appointments.
Despite our lowly finish Paul got appointed player-manager of Carlisle where he didn't endear himself to anyone with his childish baiting of the crowd after scoring against us at their place in September 2003. His first season ended with relegation to the Conference but he then achieved back to back promotions playing his final League game at 39 in May 2006. This got him appointed at Preston but things soon turned sour there and his subsequent appointments at Shrewsbury and Stockport have also ended in dismissal.
Position : Forward
Played : 2001-02 (on loan from Crewe)
Appearances : 9
Goals : 1
Steve was brought in for two months in February 2002 after Paul Connor succumbed to injury again. Steve made his name as a prolific scorer for Leigh Genesis after failing to make the grade at Blackpool. In July 2001 Crewe took him back into League football for £75,000 but he'd only made 4 appearances (all defeats) before his arrival at Spotland.
Steve looked lively but lacking in confidence in front of goal though he managed to get off the mark in the away defeat at Scunthorpe. It looked like he was heading in the same direction as Paul Wheatcroft.
Instead Paul established himself in the Crewe first team the following season scoring 9 goals in 33 appearances and made his international debut for Northern Ireland in the summer. He eventually left Crewe for Burnley in 2006 having scored 39 goals in 158 appearances. Steve scored twice on his debut but thereafter found goals hard to come by finishing the season with just 4. After a long goalless streak he finished the following season back at Crewe on loan. In his last season with Burnley he only made appearances on loan at other clubs having a barren spell with Huddersfield and a slightly more productive one at Bradford. Steve was released in May 2009 and joined Walsall. To date he has scored 9 goals in 45 appearances but is currently on loan at Motherwell.
He has also scored once in 29 appearances for Northern Ireland.
Friday, 25 March 2011
Position : Forward
Played : 2001-02 to 2003-04; 2007-08 (on loan from Accrington) ; 2008-09 ( initially on loan from Cambridge )
Appearances : (first spell) 85 ; (second spell) 7; (third spell) 16
Goals : (first spell) 25 ; (second spell) 3; (third spell) 5
Along with Steve Johnson, Lee is the only other player in this story to have three separate spells at the club. He was originally signed from Burscough United for £15,000 in December 2001 and inevitably David Hamilton took the credit. It's hard to deny him that one as it's unlikely John Hollins knew where Burscough was. Lee was working at McDonalds at the time and allegedly isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.
Lee made his debut as a sub in the Kidderminster game and put himself about a bit as you'd expect from a guy of his size. He got more chances as the season progressed and looked raw but promising. While not being particularly good in the air he was always a threat in the box and could move surprisingly fast when fully fit. With Clive Platt in indifferent form it was speculated that "Evil " would eventually displace him. In April he became our first ever international when he came on for Northern Ireland in a friendly against Spain (still his only cap) . He finished his first season with 4 goals in 18 appearances plus the opening goal in the play-off game at Rushden with a run from the halfway line. After the game he was attacked for this when a scrote got on the team coach.
The following season he was a regular in the side and ended up top scorer with 15 goals although his form was up and down. That was the frustrating thing about Lee ; he could play like a pub player for 85 minutes and then score as in the draw at Bury in December 2002. His most memorable goal was the piledriver free kick at Preston which set us up for victory in the FA Cup Third Round although his most memorable game was away at York in April when he went in the nets for the injured Matt Gilks and did OK, then went upfield to take a penalty , scoring on the rebound.
Lee got off to a good start the following season scoring 4 in the first 4 games but then getting himself sent-off at Lincoln for which he served an extra suspension for continued misbehaviour after leaving the pitch. By the time he returned Steve Parkin was back and seemingly eager to find fault with all the players who'd been signed since his first spell. Lee was attacked for his weight and sent on loan to Accrington while Grant Holt replaced him in the side. He got some more outings when he returned , mainly as substitute and scored once more before Parkin released him.
Lee signed for Accrington and was a prolific scorer in the Conference which a year later got him a move back into League football with Wrexham. Lee had a decent goalscoring record there despite frequent injuries including breaking both feet which put paid to a transfer to Bradford. Eventually he fell out of favour and had his contract cancelled by mutual consent in July 2007.
He returned to Accrington but failed to score in 10 mainly substitute appearances. Then came his surprise return to Spotland on a two-month loan during which he scored on his second debut and against Wrexham helping us to maintain our promotion push. He made one more appearance for Stanley then went on loan to Cambridge and helped them to the Conference play-offs scoring both goals in the semi-final first leg.
He signed a permanent 2 year deal in the summer and was doing well until another sending-off for violent conduct in October. Shortly afterwards he made yet another return to us and after scoring twice in his third game at home to Shrewsbury he was awarded an 18-month contract, one of Keith Hill's more baffling decisions. He soon came to regret it as Lee seemed to lose control of his weight leaving a big dent in the pitchside snow when he scored at Chester. He saw the season out on loan at Barrow scoring once and picking up another red card in 6 appearances.
Lee was placed on the transfer list but agreed to leave the club before last season started and signed for Grays Athletic. After picking up an injury pre-season he left in November 2009 without ever playing for them. He had a short spell with Marine then went back to Barrow scoring the equaliser with his first touch afer coming on in the 2010 FA Trophy Final. That was his last game for them as he moved on to Sligo Rovers then returned to Burscough in November. Last month he signed for Droylsden and at 28 is doubtless good for a few more clubs yet.
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Position : Midfield
Played : 2001-02
Appearances : 18
Goals : 1
Alan was a free agent when John Hollins signed him , training with his old club Swindon after having his contract cancelled at Wigan. Alan started out at Manchester United but didn't make the grade and joined Swindon in 1986. His style didn't fit with Lou Macari's long ball tactics and he had a long loan spell with Torquay before establishing himself at Swindon under Ossie Ardiles. As the forward man in the famous "diamond" formation he was a key player and scored the winning goal in the play-off final in 1990. He also made Ireland's World Cup squad making two substitute appearances in the group games. Swindon were then denied promotion for financial irregularities which caused them to sell Alan to Southampton for £1 million. He struggled to impress there and after 24 appearances and an abortive loan spell at Villa he joined Portsmouth in 1992 for £400,000. Alan found his form again and became club captain. He became a regular for Eire and scored the goal against Northern Ireland that took them to the 1994 World Cup, one of 2 goals in 42 international appearances. In December 1999 he left Portsmouth after 309 appearances and 59 goals and joined Wigan for £260,000. Injuries restricted him to just 22 appearances and one goal and his contract was cancelled in 2001.
Alan made his debut in the rout at Kidderminster . He looked out of shape and took time to find his feet. After a few games he was dropped to the bench but came on in the second half at Halifax and looked a lot sharper. He gave a virtuoso performance in the home game against Plymouth , clearly two yards ahead of everyone else on the pitch in his reading of the game, although he did make a cock-up for their third goal. He became absolutely vital to our cause, the team slumping to a 3-0 defeat at Torquay when he didn't play. He scored his last League goal on his 35th birthday in our final match at home to Bristol Rovers with a twice-taken penalty.
Hollins released him in May and he went to Forest Green as player-coach. He retired from playing after one season. He now works for Radio Solent.
Monday, 21 March 2011
Position : Goalkeeper
Played : 2001-02 (on loan from Bolton Wanderers)
Appearances : 15
Goals : 0
Now we're into John Hollins's short reign. It's fair to say the appointment wasn't universally welcomed ( infamously, there was a "Hollins Out" banner before he was even appointed) despite his winning the Division Three title with Swansea just 18 months earlier. I think there was some resistance to a guy who'd spent most of his career in London - he's surely the only manager who will ever have both Rochdale and Chelsea on his c.v. - coming up here and with his dyed hair and chirpy manner he did have the air of a used car salesman about him. But he did what was expected of him in a very short space of time and deserves to be well-remembered for that.
I'm not sure exactly who signed Steve as he was available for Hollins's first game at home to Southend in December 2001. He started out with West Ham and played in an Anglo-Italian Cup tie for them but made his League debut for Gillingham in 1993. Later that year he dropped a bollock against us prompting a "no relation to Gordon" quip from Clive Tyldesley on the TV footage. However he did well enough to attract a £50,000 bid from Blackpool in August 1995 and he made 153 appearances before moving on to Bolton for £50,000 in March 1999. He went straight into the side and played there for the rest of the season but thereafter most of his games were Cup ties and he only made one appearance in the Premiership. Living in Bolton I had heard he was unsettled so it was no surprise that he came to us.
Steve got off to a ropey start letting four in at Kidderminster in his second game but thereafter he was terrific. He wasn't as flashy as Hahneman but had good command of his box and could pull off brilliant reaction saves. He was also very good at time-wasting, slyly instructing the crowd when to give him the ball back. Playing behind a defence that was giving him more and more to do he was another key man in our reaching the play-offs.
Steve was spotted watching us from the terraces after he'd gone back to Bolton and I was hoping he'd return some day but it hasn't happened. He spent the following season on loan first at Bradford then at Stoke who finally signed him in February 2003. However he was released after only playing 4 more games for them, in August 2003. He then signed for MK Dons on a non-contract basis but played 24 games for them before returniing to Gillingham in 2004. He spent just over a year with them before moving north to Hearts in August 2005. Steve was signed as cover but played nearly every game in 2007-08 while also getting involved in the coaching side. Inevitbly this led to conflict with their Russian owner who publicly announced that Steve was not to be trusted. Steve took the hint and joined Dundee United as goalkeeping coach although at 39 he is still registered as a player.
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Position : Midfield
Played : 2001-02 (on loan from Blackburn Rovers)
Appearances : 5
Goals : 0
Darren arrived at the club during the caretaker reign of David Hamilton as a quick replacement for Gary Jones after he followed Parkin to Barnsley. He had one appearance for Rovers and 9 while on loan at Bristol City to his credit.
He first appeared in the draw at Hartlepool in November 2001. He was not the same sort of player as Jones being a short and slippery link man who could also play out wide. He was a neat passer but didn't really stand out in a team taking a little while to adjust to a new style of management. The arrival of Alan McLoughlin in December made him surplus to requirements.
Later that season he went on loan to Blackpool for 5 games. The following season he had longer spells at Torquay and Macclesfield before being released in the summer of 2003. He signed for York City and was a regular in the side that suffered relegation to the Conference that season. He stayed there until 2006 when he left for Harrogate after 122 appearances and 7 goals. In May 2009 he joined his current club, Gainsborough Trinity.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Position : Winger (also played as a forward)
Played : 2001-02 to 2004-05
Appearances : 79
Goals : 8
Dear me , is it really almost 10 years ago since this guy first appeared for us ? Patrick was signed from Irish youth side Foyle Harps and made his debut at 17 coming on as sub in Parkin's last game at home to Torquay in November 2001 having previously appeared in a couple of Auto-Windscreen games. The incoming John Hollins, having played alongside Chelsea's flair players in the early 70s, was quick to secure him on a three and a half year contract.
Part of the reason why it doesn't seem so long ago is that Paddy (no surname necessary) is still a live issue among supporters , likely to raise passions on the Rivals.net Forum as soon as his name is dropped. He was capable of doing anything on the field with his silky ball skills, vision and confidence but the other side of the coin was that he was undisciplined and sometimes turned up completely unfit to play. Steve Parkin's decision to release him in January 2005 is the most controversial managerial action of my time watching Dale.
John Hollins quickly realised his potential and he was soon starting games for us. He scored 4 goals in 2001/02 including two winners and an equaliser. The other came at home to Hull when he came on with us 1-2 down and completely turned the game. With two mazy runs he scored one and then laid one on a plate for Kevin Townson which sealed our place in the play-offs. In April he became the second (by a few minutes) Dale player to win a full international cap when he came on for Nothern Ireland in a friendly against Spain.
Although the following season was the only one in which Paddy started in the majority of his appearances it was more frustrating for him as we now had a surfeit of attacking players and Paul Simpson chopped and changed the side to try and find the right balance. Paddy also didn't help himself by posing for a Rochdale Observer photographer who found him in a nightclub.He scored the winner at home to Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup and had a particularly impressive game away at York (although he was lucky to receive only a yellow for a two-footed lunge). In the second half of the season he was played in the hole behind the front two for a while but didn't play after the Good Friday game at home to Bury where the tension between him and the manager (also playing ) was palpable.
Alan Buckley found him frustrating to work with and twice sent him out on trial to bigger clubs (Crewe and Norwich) to try and open his eyes to what was required of a professional footballer. It didn't work; there was one game where he had to be brought off to jeers of "Pisshead !" after 20 minutes, being obviously unfit to play. His only real contribution for Buckley was setting up Kevin Townson's first goal in the FA Cup at Bury. The returning Steve Parkin only gave him 3 starts but he got a couple of goals , his last one in a Dale shirt coming in the 3-0 defeat of Leyton Orient where he came on to notch the last goal.
Paddy actually started three games in August 2004 but was scapegoated after a 0-3 defeat by Bury and lost his place to new signing Ernie Cooksey. You have to be careful what you say about Ernie now but even his biggest admirers would admit he wasn't a winger. Paddy made his last appearance as a sub at home to Macclesfield in October 2004 after which he was transferlisted and not even selected for the bench. Parkin said he wasn't what we needed but how can you not need someone who can create a goal out of nothing ? How could he be expendable in a squad containing the mighty talents of Ashley Proberts and Leighton McGivern ?
Paddy finally departed for Shamrock Rovers in January 2005 and became a big fish in the small pond of Irish football. In June 2008 Celtic nabbed him ahead of West Brom and he has steadily made a name for himself, though still mainly as an impact sub , with spectacular goals and a recall to the Northern Ireland side. Are you watching Mr Parkin ?
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Position : Goalkeeper
Played : 2001-02 (on loan from Fulham)
Appearances : 5
Goals : 0
The last signing of Steve Parkin's first spell was his most exotic. Marcus was an American international with 3 caps and was signed by Fulham from Colorado Rapids for £80,000 in June 1999. He made 2 appearances for them in 2000-01 but the signing of Edwin Van der Sar made him third choice hence his availability for loan moves.
Marcus signed shortly after we'd played Fulham in the League Cup. It was a controversial move because Matt Gilks had been playing well and had kept a clean sheet at Swansea a couple of days earlier but Parkin said he needed a rest. Marcus put any criticism to bed by being very good indeed. In his 5 League games he only conceded 2 goals and we collected 13 points. It seemed like Marcus had an aversion to getting his shirt dirty and his preference for trapping shots with his instep was heart-stopping at first but we soon learned to trust him. He was excellent at taking crossses and really kept our fullbacks on their toes with his quick throw-outs. We probably couldn't afford to keep him for longer than a month but he'd been excellent.
Later that season Marcus had a month on loan at Reading with very similar results , three goals conceded, and four wins,two draws from his 6 games. He signed for them permanently in the summer of 2002 and went on to make 280 appearances for them over the next 7 years including 2 seasons in the Premiership. In the summer of 2009 he went to Wolves on a Bosman and has been featuring regularly in the Premiership since despite being now 38. He has also started appearing on TV as a pundit.
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Position : Forward
Played : 2001-02 (on loan from Bolton Wanderers)
Appearances : 6
Goals : 3
Paul was signed at the end of September as cover for the struggling Paul Connor but with Kevin Townson picking up an injury too he went straight into the side. Paul looked to have the world at his feet when he played for England Schoolboys and signed for Manchester United. They loaned him out to South African side FC Fortune for most of the 1999-00 season then released him. Bolton picked him up but a longterm injury restricted him to a few cup games so he made his League debut with us at home to Mansfield and scored.
Compared to the loan strikers of the previous season Paul did pretty well. He didn't look like a potential Premiership player but worked hard and took the chances that came his way. He got the winner away at Luton. His spell was unfortunately curtailed when he picked up a second yellow in the home game against Cheltenham just before his month expired. Therefore the loan wasn't extended , Parkin departed and Lee McEvilly arrived.
Later in the season Paul played two games on loan at Mansfield then was released. He signed for Scunthorpe but was dropped after 4 games and later loaned out to Southport On his release from Scunthorpe he signed for Stalybridge Celtic and was last heard of at Radcliffe Borough in 2004.
Monday, 14 March 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 2001-02 to 2002-03
Appearances : 51
Goals : 3
Richard was a personal red letter signing , the last Dale player who was older than me. The 38-year old arrived on a free from Tranmere in September 2001. He had a distinguished track record. He was originally signed from Burton Albion by Watford , then flying high under Graham Taylor, for £22,000 in 1982 . Although he appeared in the old First Division and the UEFA Cup he could not command a regular place and in February 1985 moved to Hull for first team football for a giveaway £40,000. He was a great servant to them hardly missing a match and scoring 17 goals in 221 appearances. In August 1990 Joe Royle broke Oldham's transfer record and signed him for £460,000. In his first season he guided them to the Second Division title and won England B caps under his old boss Taylor. Richard was a key man in Oldham's three year sojourn in the top flight and stayed with them the following year. However Oldham failed to mount a promotion challenge and mounting financial pressures forced them to offload their high-earning stars. Richard returned to the Premiership with Leeds paying £1 million for him in October 1995. Now 32, Richard was hit by injuries and he only made 23 appearances in his two and a half year stay at Elland Road plus 8 on loan at Southend. In March 1998 he rejoined Joe Royle at Manchester City , went down to the Second Division with them then enjoyed two successive promotions. Royle knew he was too old for the Premiership and publicly touted him to other clubs, grumbling about age discrimination though Richard's PFA involvement may have been a factor in putting them off. Eventually Tranmere took him on after a loan spell and he played 17 games for them before joining us.
Richard was quite popular with some Dale fans, particularly those who'd been at Boundary Park in the early 90s, but I don't think he was a good signing for us. He came to cover for an injury to Dave Bayliss but Parkin kept him in the side when Bayliss recovered and I'm sure that had a bearing on Dave quitting the club shortly afterwards. As mentioned above he was heavily involved with the PFA and he got Gareth Griffiths involved too so we had both centre halves distracted by off-field politicking. To be fair Richard could still play a bit; he was good in the air and tackle and didn't give the ball away but unsurprisingly he was pretty slow by this point. He made a bad mistake for Lincoln's goal in the penultimate game which probably cost us automatic promotion.
John Hollins offered him another year's contract (a very lazy decision in my opinion) which Richard was quick to sign. He played 15 games in the early part of 2002-03 after Steve MacAuley was found wanting. In November 2002 he became PFA chairman and disappeared from view after that until the final game away at Macclesfield where Paul Simpson gave him a League swansong. Unfortunately his thunder was stolen by Macclesfield veteran John Askey scoring a last minute equaliser in his final League appearance.
Richard confirmed his retirement immediately afterwards and is now a senior executive at the PFA.
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Position : Right back ( also played on the wing)
Played : 2001-02 to 2003-04 (didn't feature in final season)
Appearances : 28
Goals : 0
Lee was a youngster who came through the YTS scheme. He had caught the eye in reserve and pre-season games with his pace and skill and made his debut away at Hull in September 2001.
At 5' 5 and under 10 stone Lee was one of the smallest players to turn out for Dale and a shrewd Dale stalwart said to me "At that size he's going to have to be exceptional to make it". He did look promising in his first appearances in 2001-02 , getting stuck in and adding some pace and dash going forward.
He got more opportunities under Paul Simpson starting 19 games in 2002-03 but in a less successful side he was more exposed and found wanting. He was still useful going forward but his defensive deficiencies were obvious. Against Wrexham on Boxing Day 2002 he went off injured and there was speculation that he'd taken a dive because he was being absolutely caned by their winger. Alan Buckley found no use for him and one of his last actions as Dale manager was sending him out on loan to Rossendale in December 2003.
A few months later he signed for Halifax for the rest of the season then moved on to Radcliffe Borough where he played for a number of seasons.
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Position : Winger
Played : 2001-02 to 2002-03 (didn't feature in latter season)
Appearances : 30
Goals : 1
Kieron was the second winger in successive seasons to be signed from Macclesfield. The 28 year old Irishman started out at Wrexham in 1992 making 50 appearances and scoring 3 goals. He also won Irish under-21 caps. In 1996 he went to Stockport for £70,000 and helped them win promotion to the First Division in 1997. He found the step up difficult and moved on to Macclesfield for £15,000 in March 1998 enjoying another promotion. Kieron was a regular for the Silkmen making 102 appearances and scoring 13 goals but chose to join us on a Bosman.
Kieron's debut was delayed by an embarrasing injury when Richard Green spilt boiling water on his wedding tackle. He was clearly earmarked to replace Tony Ford but actually he wasn't much faster and though he clearly had some skill he lacked the acceleration to get past his man. He could put a good cross over and was useful at free kicks but he only ever looked half-interested at best and was the first to go missing in a battle. Ford soon reclaimed his place with Kieron coming back into the side when the former left for Barnsley.
With a glut of wide players in Paul Simpson's squad he didn't get a look in the following season and eventually went to struggling Swansea on a short term deal in January 2003.
The Swans stayed up and despite struggling with an Achilles injury Kieron got a contract for the following season. He was released in May 2004 after 21 appearances and one goal and flitted around the non-league scene for a bit with short spells at Caernarfon Town, Leek Town, New Cefn Druids and Runcorn Halton.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Position : Left back (also played on the wing)
Played : 2001-02 to 2003-04
Appearances : 108
Goals : 1
It's hard to recall now but Matt was the summer signing we were supposed to get excited about, a young prodigy from Chester City who had already had an eventful career. He missed the final game of the 1999-2000 through being in prison after a nightclub incident then he was reported to be on the cusp of joining Southampton before an inopportune injury. Chester hadn't registered him properly so we were able to pinch him on a technicality.
Matt was said to be able to play either at left back or on the wing and he started for us in the latter position away at Oxford. He got off to a flying start with an impressive goal that made him the first scorer at the new Kassam Stadium (the memory of the still half-frozen pie from that strange pub just outside stays with me) though he didn't do much else in the game. Apart from that goal and a good performance away at Luton he was rather underwhelming as a winger.
John Hollins reverted him to left back in preference to Sean McCauley and he stayed there the rest of the season. He is unfortunately remembered for an untimely slip which let in Rushden for the winner in the second leg of the play-off tie. He played in nearly every game the following season, flitting between the two positions but was a very average full back and not much use as a winger. At the end of the season the Board put him in limbo leaving the new manager to decide whether he was worth another contract, a fairly obvious reflection of the disappointment he had been.
Alan Buckley did keep him on , seemingly as a stand by in case Paddy McCourt was ,let's say, not in a condition to play and he played in most games up until March when Parkin dropped him. With a neat symmetry he returned for the final game away at Oxford before being released in May 2004. He didn't score though.
Bristol Rovers were interested in taking him on but Matt chose to stay in the North and went to Halifax. He stayed there for 4 years, making 132 appearances until they were expelled from the Conference when he moved to Altrincham (ironically saved from relegation by Halifax's demise). He is still with them at the time of writing.
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 2001-02 to 2005-06
Appearances : 184
So we move into the 2001-02 season and our first involvement in the play-offs. Due to family events this is the last one that seems a long time ago to me. There are still arguments over this season as to where the credit should go for our first flirtation with promotion and ultimately it's a question that can never be resolved. The facts are , we were 2nd in the table when Steve Parkin left for Barnsley but we were 5th (our final position) when John Hollins took over after a month under the stewardship of David Hamilton. The Parkinistas claim we would have gone straight up if he'd stayed but we'd been in good positions the previous two seasons and let it slide ; there was every chance of it happening again especially with a now suspect defence. I think you've got to call it a draw and credit them both (but not DH) for a memorable season.
Gareth was signed on a free transfer from Wigan as one of the replacements for the controversially released Hill and Monington. Gareth's nationality was a cause of confusion. He was actually born in England but began his footballing career with Rhyl. Port Vale paid £1,000 to take him into League football in 1995. He made 94 appearances over 3 1/2 seasons at VAle Park but fell out of favour in the final one going out on loan to Shrewsbury in 1997. He signed for Wigan on a free in 1998 but they used him sparingly when they came up against a big striker and he had made 54 appearances by the time they released him.
Gareth's Dale career followed a U-shaped trajectory. He was very impressive to start with then went through a very wobbly period before finding his form again and becoming a hero. To begin with he looked a more than adequate replacement for Monno. He was even better in the air and tackled well on the ground too, few strikers being able to escape from his telescopic legs. Even with Coleman beside him he looked sound as a pound and a key figure as we shot to the top of the table.
I think things started to go a bit awry when Richard Jobson arrived at the club and got him involved with the PFA. That seemed to take his eye off the ball as far as his performances on the field were concerned. He was never as sound under John Hollins as he had been under Parkin. He was even worse for Paul Simpson , still a force to be reckoned with in the air as Coventry for one found out but very vulnerable on the ground - "Bambi on Ice" as one fan described him.
I was amazed when Gareth, now 33 was given a two-year contract in the summer of 2003. I remember mentioning this to a well known stalwart at the pre-season game at Radcliffe and he replied "Gareth Griffiths scored 8 goals last season (pause) let in 40 at the other end mind ! " It didn't get any better under Alan Buckley and Gareth drove the biggest nail in the former's coffin with a calamitous last minute cock-up at Mansfield which gave them the points in Buckley's penultimate game.
The moment Parkin got back in, Gareth seemed to recover his old form like flicking a light switch. He became one of our most reliable players. I wouldn't credit him with getting us out of the mire that season since he played a large part in putting us there but he certainly played well in the following two seasons and in 2004 had a valedictory game in the LDV against Scarborough (a game I missed ) when he got a hat trick. He decided to retire after an injury-hit final season in May 2006 and that was a big blow to Parkin. If he'd helped him back in he also paved the way for his departure.
He signed for Northwich in July 2006 and played 27 games for them before being injured in the new year upon which he was unusually loaned back to us as an extra aide to the recently-appointed Keith Hill. Apart from remaining a trustee of the PFA Gareth is no longer involved in football but has a succesful career as a financial consultant and businessman.
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Position : Winger
Played : 2000-01 (on loan from Rotherham)
Appearances : 4
Goals : 0
Andy arrived on deadline day as the last attempt to fill the left wing berth. He had a decent pedigree having started out at Tottenham where he was on the fringe of the first team for four years interspersed with loan spells at Wycombe, Doncaster, Huddersfield and Southend. He was also the Premiership's youngest goalscorer for nearly 5 years from September 1992 until Michael Owen beat his record. He has two Irish Under-21 caps. In September 1996 he moved to Portsmouth for £250,000 and made 40 appearances until a dislocated ankle halted his progress. Crystal Palace risked £75,000 on him in October 1998 but he only made one substitute appearance for them and none at all on loan at Wolves. In the summer of 1999 he moved on to Rotherham for whom he managed 36 games scoring one goal. He had been on loan at Boston earlier in the season.
Andy looked to still have some ability but not much appetite for tracking back and you knew what was going to happen. I don't think he played a full 90 minutes for us and soon lost his place, Parkin preferring a square peg in Michael Oliver.
At the end of the season he dropped down to the Conference with Yeovil spending a year there with loan spells at Nuneaton and Kettering . He then had a spell at Tamworth before a brief League comeback with Northampton in 2003 consisting of 3 substitute appearances. He had short spells with Northwich and Moor Green before becoming player-coach of Chasetown FC.
Andy completes the 2000-01 season.