Comment: Loyal Rochdale fans show FA Cup magic is alive and kicking

With a reported 19 television cameras on hand to broadcast the Monday night game against Premier League outfit Stoke City, the spotlight is well and truly on Rochdale this weekend.

But none of this would have been possible without the committed Dale faithful who have worked around the clock to tirelessly shovel snow and clear the pitch. 

Despite being watched by an average crowd of just less than 3,500 this season, fans have turned out in force as the club prepare to take on top-flight opposition for the first time in 10 years.

Billed as a standout FA Cup fourth-round clash, Rochdale’s Spotland stadium has been inundated with national media throughout the week as the microscope focuses on a real community club.

But quietly working behind the scenes with the ground staff, it is the loyal supporters that have shown that the romance of the FA Cup is still alive.

Currently sitting fifth and in the playoff places, Keith Hill’s men have performed miracles this season as they were only aiming to avoid relegation on their return to League One. 

But off the field the club have a real affinity with their supporters and it is no surprise that so many answered the call to assist their beloved Dale.

Fans of all ages came to battle the elements and ensure the lucrative game can go ahead.


But for the fans that turned out, it’s not the potentially significant cash bonus the club will earn or even their moment in the sun that matters most.

What the fans want to see more than anything is a cup upset against an established Premier League side that make the trip up North as overwhelming favourites.

Fellow League One play-off chasers Sheffield United have given Football League sides renewed hope that a cup upset is attainable.

Having outplayed Championship outfit Nottingham Forest in the last round, Dale will come into the match without fear and should be backed by a vociferous home support.

The all-ticket game could potentially be a sell-out, with more than 10,000 people packing into Spotland on a cold January night. 

The club have responded in kind by freezing ticket prices for the tie and offering priority to those with stubs from the Stoke clash – as they optimistically prepare for a fifth-round tie.

Now it is over to Keith Hill and his men to make the fans proud.

Coming into the game on the back of three straight wins in all competitions, Rochdale will be hoping to repeat their 2007 victory over the Potters and set up another famous fifth round tie away at Anfield. 

Main image courtesy of Stuart Wildman via Twitter, with thanks.

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