Rochdale’s rise to prominence in England’s League Two this season has been largely by passed by the national media, which is strange given the fact the team has been in the country’s basement division since 1976 and could be on course for promotion for the first time in the club’s history.

The team have been on the bottom rung of the English football ladder for so long fans of opposition teams jokingly call League Two the Rochdale League, but that could soon change following The Dale’s flawless campaign, which sees them sitting top of the table on 78 points, 10 clear of second placed Notts County at the time of writing.

The rise of Rochdale can be attributed to several factors, with manager Keith Hill being a major part of the Spotland-based outfit’s current success.

Since taking charge of the club in 2007, Hill has transformed the side from a mid-table dwelling team, often looking over their shoulders at the League Two relegation zone, to a promotion force to be reckoned with.

He guided the club to eighth place in his first full season in charge, and was denied promotion last season through defeat in the playoffs to Gillingham.

Automatic promotion was the way forward and this year as Hill sought to avoid the lottery of the playoffs. Indeed, Rochdale have once again been transformed in terms of players and tactics to achieve that goal.

The Dale, as they are affectionately known, now play a more flowing and attacking style, which breaks from the tradition of many clubs in the lower leagues who favour a route-one, long-ball game. Playing good simple football is often a risk in a division known more for its physical style than precision passing.

Hill’s team boasts some of the best goalscoring statistics in the country with 79 goals in the league so far this season coupled with one of the best defences, resulting in just 34 goals being conceded.

Up front Dale’s success can be attributed to the form of strikers Chris O’Grady and Chris Dagnall who have been lethal in front of goal, netting 40 goals between them.

While at the back, players such as Tom Kennedy and League Two Player of the Year Craig Dawson have come in for high praise from the manager for keeping the league’s sharp shooters at bay.

All Rochdale’s on-pitch success has been ably backed by the club’s board of directors, led by life-long Rochdale fan Chris Dunphy, who has helped bridge the gap between prudence and progression by investing in backroom staff, players and facilities.

This season has seen Rochdale amass one of the largest squads in the club’s history with over 30 players on the books supported by a football backroom staff of 13.

Rochdale will all but secure their place in next season’s League One within the next few weeks and it would take a serious collapse in form for The Dale to miss out on the automatic places now.

If the team achieves the points target set out by their manager it will end one of the longest waits for promotion in English football history, giving Dale fans a bright future to look forward to and the football cynics the job of coming up with a new affectionate nickname for League Two.


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