Manager Keith Hill has been reflecting on the season so far ahead of Rochdale’s Boxing Day clash against Crewe Alex at Spotland.
Dale head into Saturday’s fixture, which marks the half way point in the season, on the back of last weekend’s 3-1 win over Colchester United, something Hill is pleased about.
“I’m relatively pleased with the work we’ve done in the first half of the season and we’ve still got one game to go,” Hill told Dale PlayerHD.
“It’s a hard task getting points in League One for any side, so I’m really pleased. I’m also really pleased that we got the three points at the weekend.
“Again, it was a hesitant start and we were on a hiding to nothing. I think everybody expected us to beat Colchester – they had lost the six previous league games and we’ve now made it seven – but there were times in the first half where it got a bit nervy.
“Colchester are definitely a goal scoring side and, for me, they’ve got a good squad of players who probably need a little bit of tweaking. I think they’ll bounce well, especially under the new Manager, so I think it was a credible three points for us.
“The first half of the season has been difficult managing the points that we need and the points that people think we should get.
“But I believe that once you’ve broken that 30 point barrier, it’s healthy psychology. We are in progress, there’s no question about that, and we have to pick up points so that we can maintain the progress that we’ve shown over the last two seasons that I have been at the football club."
The visit of Crewe Alex on Boxing Day is the first of two fixtures in the space of just three days for Dale and Hill wants to make the most of them points wise.
“The games come quickly and the points are there. They’re available but they can also be not gained.
“It’s important that we try and make as much impact on the games that we’ve got. We’re looking forward to the games and we’re confident when going into these games.
“We’re going into these games supposedly against more experience League One teams but we’ve got points to prove all over the place, both individually and collectively, as a unit, as a Management team. We want to do as best we can and we want to get as many points on the board as we possibly can.
“This is a unique phase of the season where we’ve got games coming thick and fast – we play Saturday and Monday. It’s a positive that it’s a northern based league when we have such a fixture congestion, but listen, we have to play everybody twice and we’re really looking forward to it. Let’s hope we need to play one or two teams three times this season.”
Saturday’s opponents currently sit second bottom of the table on goal difference but are well respected for their development of young Academy players over the years and it’s something Hill admires.
“When I was at Barnsley we played them in pre-season. We were introducing a lot of our younger players into the squad, trying to get them game time in pre-season.
“I looked at the Crewe side and the average age of the squad was 21 or 22. When we looked deeper into it because we got beat 3-1, the average number of league games that they’d played was in and around the 150 mark, and I thought wow! That really is giving young players opportunities while establishing themselves as a League One club. They were selling players for really big money and still retaining their League One status and that’s what they're managing to do.
“It seems to be becoming harder and harder for them, as last season proved and as this season seems to be proving already, but they’re in good hands with the management, they’re in good hands with the board and I think everyone has a relative understanding of the way things are being done at Crewe. It’s to be admired.”
And Hill has delivered this Christmas message to supporters.
“Trust in myself and the players. I think you’ve been special and you’ll continue to be special. We’ll have our ups and downs, there is no question about that, but don’t forget I’ve been married 24 years, and if I'm married to these supporters for 24 years then I’m sure we'll be happy or cantankerous, a bit like myself," laughed Hill.
"All the best for Christmas and the New Year. Thank you for your support.“
The full 12 minute interview is available to view on Dale PlayerHD.