Hunter becomes the hunted: Rochdale hope tables won’t be turned as they embark on League One adventure

While Rochdale’s past campaign was all about promotion, promotion, promotion, the focus of their step up to League One is likely to be staving off relegation, relegation, relegation.

Keith Hill’s side impressed all in League Two last term as they defied a shoestring budget to finish third, guaranteeing automatic elevation to the higher echelons of League One.

Rochdale’s exquisite home turf Spotland, which plays host to their opener on Saturday against Peterborough, invited some brilliant football from the north Manchester club last season though Hill has braced his men for a tough year ahead.

“Peterborough will be a difficult challenge. They’re very offensive and it’ll be a massive test for us,” he told the Dale Player in pre-season.

“But it’s a test we’re looking forward to. We’ll be bright and very enthusiastic.

“This season’s challenges will be very different to last year’s. I guess we’ll be the dark horses of this campaign.”

In an on-line poll on the club’s website, 64% believe Rochdale will finish outside the playoff berths, with 21% hopeful of a top-six success while an optimistic 15% have plumped for the top three.

Straight-talking Hill is not so sure.

“We’ve no intention to embark on a relegation campaign but it’s a real possibility,” he added when speaking to the BBC.

“The club’s only spent probably four seasons out of its 106/7-year history in League One, so it’s relatively new to us.”

He may have a point. In Peterborough, Rochdale are up against it right from the off: Darren Ferguson’s men finished sixth last season and lost out in the playoffs as they sought to go straight back to the Championship after relegation in 2013. 

You can bet your bottom dollar they will settle for nothing less than an opening victory at the weekend.

“We want to try and enjoy this season. We want to play with a smile on our faces and see where it takes us,” former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson’s son told the Peterborough website.

“I think everyone gets a few butterflies ahead of a new season and I am no different.

“I don’t think this year there will be a team that runs away with it like Wolverhampton Wanderers did, a lot of teams will fancy their chances and it will be a competitive division.”

Main image courtesy of Official Rochdale AFC via YouTube, with thanks.

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