Rochdale fans have hit back after topping the table as the nation’s top long-suffering supporters in a new study.
The English National Football Archive’ Long-Suffering Fan Index found that Dale fans faced the most adversity after spending 78 seasons in the bottom division of the Football League.
The Spotland outfit have also failed to win a trophy since they were establishing in 1907 and have only a mere two promotions to their name – though a third is almost certain to follow this season.
But fans of the Keith Hill’s side have rejected suggestions they are the top sufferers in English football.
“When people ask me who I support, I am always proud to say Rochdale,” said IT worker Adam Fleming, 22.
“We are a well-run club with the same regular fan base and a club going somewhere. I don’t feel I have suffered at all being a Dale fan – apart from losing the League Two play-off final at Wembley (vs Stockport County in 2008).
“We are a club that other football clubs respect – when clubs play Rochdale they say we play football the right way. Yes, it would be nice to win trophies but I would not trade any amount of trophies for what Rochdale have and what we represent.”
Unfortunately for Dale fans, they also represent failure with a distinct lack of silverware in the trophy cabinet.
With a runners-up place in the 1962 League Cup – where they lost 4-0 on aggregate to Norwich City in the final – as the only close shave with glory, the Rochdale faithful have been success-starved to an unparalleled degree.
But Nick Travis, 23, who works in Manchester United’s hospitality section, believes that real suffering comes from other scenarios than the match-day malaise experienced at Rochdale.
“I think it is a rather morbid way of looking at it,” he said.
“Yes, we may have been in the bottom division the most, however, we have still had exciting times, but never lost our league status or done business in the wrong way.
“Therefore, I think the most suffering fans in the country would be someone else, such as Darlo (now-defunct Darlington), Stockport or even Wimbledon who actually lost their club.”
Darlington fans saw their side liquidated and reformed in the lower divisions, Stockport are now part-time and playing in the Skrill North, while Wimbledon are represented by fan-owned AFC Wimbledon after the original club was moved to Milton Keynes – all these supporters could claim to have suffered a fate that Rochdale fans cannot comprehend.
And barman Eden Bearshaw agrees with Nick that the spectre of financial doom hanging over a club can make for more suffering than a lack of progression.
“Financial security is a reason we’ve had it good as Daleys,” Eden said, “Look at Pompey (Portsmouth). Have they really had a better time than us?”
The 23-year-old, who has followed Rochdale for two decades with his family, believes that the any comparisons between the 2008 FA Cup winners and his chosen side ultimately comes down to hope.
“Data can’t sufficiently measure ‘hope’ – and that’s where the real suffering comes from, hence why I find it nonsense Rochdale fans could ever be deemed as the longest suffering,” states Eden.
“Teams that are used to success season-on-season, and then face a minor blip, will have gone through more suffering than myself simply because there has never been a season where I’ve expected anything other than disappointment.”
The study suggests otherwise as the supporters who suffer the least can be found at Manchester United.
Fellow Mancunian giants Manchester City, who often claim to know a thing or two about suffering after their trip to League One in the late 90s, are eight places behind their city neighbours.
Rochdale’s rivals Bury and Oldham were the 25th and 38th respectively, while Bolton Wanderers fans came 66th.
While the report focused on Premier League and Football League sides, non-league Mancunian teams Hyde and Droylsden might have something to say about the results – with just three league wins between the pair all year.
There is a tendency for footballer supporters to always think they have it worse than anyone else and even Arsenal fans have claimed their current nine-year trophy-less streak, which could end in next month’s FA Cup Final against Hull City, is just as bad as the woes at Spotland.
Rochdale fans are lucky. They should try supporting Arsenal: A survey suggests Rochdale supporters are the most long-suffering in foo…
— WILLIAM BROWN (@CommonBro) April 14, 2014
— Bryn Griffiths (@ColUBryn) April 14, 2014
And not all Dale supporters are as content with the Spotland status quo – even as they sit second in League Two with only four games remaining and require six points to tie up promotion to League One.
“We definitely have suffered,” said student Andy Kaminskas.
“It’s down to financial constraints, keeping in the black and running a football club as it should be run – not like certain other sides.
“We have also suffered due to the ambition of previous chair people and their lack of financial input.”
Electrician James Smith, 22, agreed that real suffering can be found on the Sandy Lane terrace and said: “It’s poor except when Hill is in charge.
“When he’s not, it’s boring, there’s no expectation and we’re mid-table in League Two all the time.
“There’s terrible football, horrendous fans and it’s always freezing!
“And it costs me £15-a-game, not including food or drink to stand up for two hours.
“I could go on about selling our best players for fuck all!”