Monsieur Salut writes: we are honoured to have some lovely Who are You? interviews with opposing fans. This is up there with the best in my view. John Beckett*, a former Manchester police emergency dispatcher and now a driving instructor, has been hooked on his local team – not United, not City but good old Rochdale – since early childhood. He’ll be among the away fans on Saturday …
Salut! Sunderland: small club in the shadow of giants but you have a strong community identity and probably feel superior to them on that basis alone! Explain Rochdale AFC for those who remember only that you beat us on penalties in a Checkatrade game.
John Beckett: Rochdale AFC (or The Dale) were formed in 1907. We were accepted into the Football League in 1921 and have remained in the 3rd and 4th tiers ever since.
Thankfully after 36 consecutive seasons in the old Division 4/League 2 we finally won promotion in 2010.
This alone is one of the main reasons we have a great support. No one can ever say we are gloryhunters but we are true die hard fans!
You’re in mid-table. Happy with the start and how do you see your season progressing?
I’m happy with the start. We’ve played Barnsley, P’Boro, Fleetwood, Scunthorpe. A tough start in anyone’s book. We are still unbeaten away so we go into this game with confidence.
Chris Dunphy chairman, Keith Hill (KH) manager. Good pairing? How far can they realistically take a side that has won promotion only three times in its history?
They are the best thing that’s ever happened to this football club. In Chris Dunphy we have the best chairman in the Football League without doubt. He has been involved with the club for as long as I can remember and always put the club first. He will NEVER put the future of the club at risk and as a result we are in a good financial state.
So much so we have recently bought out the local council and rugby league and now own our own stadium. KH holds legendary status. Not only has he gained us two promotions but he was also a player here at the club. He’s quirky but I wouldn’t change him.
A lot of our rivals would have these two at their club in a shot. That in itself tells you how important they are to the club.
Your own highs and lows as a supporter. There’s been a playoff final to make up for you not being old enough – I presume – to remember the run to Wembley [oops – Ed] in the league cup!
Im 42 now. Starting going aged three or four with my dad and I’ve been hooked ever since. You’re right, I wasn’t born when we played Norwich in the League Cup final in 1962! However it wasn’t played at Wembley! It was a two-legged final that we played home and away and unfortunately didn’t win.
Thankfully this meant I was proud to see Rochdale’s first ever appearance at Wembley in the 2007-2008 League 2 play off final against local rivals Stockport County. Although we took the lead we lost 3-2 but it was a proud day.
I want to add that Stockport got promoted paying above the odds for loan players from higher divisions. This in turn made them skint, they plummeted down the leagues and now spend their days looking up at us from National League North!
Hence why I love our chairman. Pays in the long run!!
And the best players you’ve seen or wished you’d been old enough to see in Dale colours?
I’ve seen many players over the years, some of them have gone onto bigger and better things.
Ricky Lambert and Glenn Murray have graced our forward line (We sold Glenn Murray in Jan of our Wembley playoff season; that hurt) along with Craig Dawson who was one of the best CBs I’ve ever seen at Dale, now a regular for West Brom.
One player I never got to see play (in a Dale shirt) who I would have liked to have seen was Stan Milburn. The surname might ring a bell in the North East! He was related – the cousin of Jackie Milburn and also uncle to the Charlton brothers so he had a good pedigree!
I knew him on a personal level as he was my best mate’s grandad. Top bloke who always kicked a ball around with us on the local field. Think he holds the record as the only Rochdale player to play in every position including GK. Sadly he’s passed away but wish I’d have seen him in a Dale shirt.
Who should have been allowed nowhere near Spotland?
I feel harsh saying this as he’s probably a nice chap but Steve Eyre and/or John Coleman. Unfortunately in KH’s first spelled Rochdale manager he did so well that Barnsley came in for him and he couldn’t resist the lure of being a Championship manager.
Our normally reliable chairman and board decided to appoint Steve Eyre. He’d never had a management job before and was a youth coach at Man City. Needless to say it was a complete disaster. He got sacked and then we got John Coleman from Acc Stanley. From that day onwards we turned into a team of thugs and the style of football was awful.
Thankfully Barnsley sacked KH (although he never got Barnsley relegated in his time there) so we sacked Coleman and got the messiah back. The rest is history.
We are having to get used to some unfamiliar names in our own side but who among your squad do you especially rate – there are a few interesting names on loan from higher leagues?
Without doubt our stand out player is Ian Henderson. Can play anywhere in midfield or upfront. Also one of the fittest players I’ve ever seen. He won’t stop running until the final whistle.
We also have Callum Camps. He’s come right through the youth set-up at Rochdale and is now a first team regular and holds in midfield. Very comfy on the ball.
We’ve been having some defensive problems but have secured the singing of Sam Hart at LB. Looks a good solid player to me.
Were you surprised by our sharp decline and successive relegations?
Very surprised. Not at the relegation from the PL as it happens, but to come straight down again was a shock. It just goes to show that nothing is certain in football. Again I’ll go back to my earlier comments, having that man at the helm of the club who’s a supporter and a guardian is so important.
Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, fans, city and region, Jack Ross?
Obviously I’ve always seen Sunderland as a BIG club so it will be good to pit our wits against you on Saturday. I’ve never been to Sunderland so it will be good to have a look around the place and the stadium. I’ve been to Newcastle. The less said about that the better!
Jack Ross was a surprising choice of manager for me. Having only taken his first permanent management role at Alloa in 2015 he’s at Sunderland three years later.
Obviously his achievement at St Mirren last season was pivotal in him getting the job but I really thought you’d go for someone with more experience. I don’t think you’ll really know if he’s going to cut it until next year when you’re back in the Championship.
Hand on heart, where will our two clubs finish?
Sunderland promoted top 3. Rochdale comfy mid table finish.
What one step should your club or the football authorities take to improve the lot of the ordinary supporter?
Our club do everything they can to accommodate the fans. They have regular meetings with the supporters trust and try to implement changes should we ask.
I want the football authorities to start looking at the ridiculous prices away fans have to pay to get into League 1 games. Thankfully we don’t have to endure Boundary Park anymore, but to pay £20 odd quid to stand in that leaky shed was a joke!
The World Cup: a fading memory already or exciting enough to keep you going for four years?
Really enjoyed it as a whole. The journey those England players took us on was great. Still bloody frustrating when you watch Kane not pass to Sterling for a tap when we were 1-0 up! Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.
The Neymar Question. Will VAR eliminate cheating or is diving, feigning injury and all the rest of it here to stay?
I think you’ll always get an element of diving and cheating. Let’s face it, if your player dives to win a penalty in the 90th min for your team to win the league you’re not bothered, in fact you’re delighted! If it’s against you, you’re livid!
We experienced VAR at its best and worst when we played Tottenham at Wembley in the FA Cup 5th round last year. I think it’s a step in the right direction but it will be a while till we see it in League 1.
Sunderland should be a sought-after trip for those of your fans who travel. Will you get to the game and what will be the score?
We’ll be there in numbers. If you say our average home crowd is 3000 including away fans then I don’t think it’s outrageous to say approx 50 per cent+ of our whole support will enjoy the day out.
I’ll be there and I’m looking forward to my first visit to your stadium. With regards to the result Sunderland are obviously going to be favourites, but as I said earlier we are unbeaten away, will take a good following so my prediction is a lively 2-2 draw.
* John Beckett on himself: I m @johnreddriving on Twitter. Worked for Greater Manchester police for 24 years, the majority of which as an emergency radio dispatcher. Also work part-time as a driving instuctor for RED driving school and do the odd spot on BBC Radio Manchester reviewing papers for the Sat morning breakfast show! Been a Rochdale fan for 37 years and lived in and around the borough all my life. Favourite phrase is ‘Up the Dale, down the ale’.
That clip, and this one are among videos telling the story of a Spanish fan of Rochdale called Jesús. He became popular on Twitter and I arranged a crowd funding to get him over for a game. It ended up being the crucial last game of last season where we needed to win to stay up. It went viral and the BBC One Show did a piece as did the local BBC news and radio. Jesus saved Dale! The first time he’d ever been out of the country!
Interview: Colin Randall