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Keith Hill's Pre-Match Interview: Wigan Athletic

13 November 2015

Rochdale are set for two TV games in the space of three weeks after Wednesday’s announcement that Dale’s FA Cup second round tie against Bury will be shown live on BT Sport.

It follows this weekend’s televised Sky Bet League One fixture at home to Wigan Athletic, which is being broadcast on Sky Sports 1. Kick-off 12.30pm.

Speaking ahead of the match, Hill commented: “I’m pleased and I’m excited [that the games have been chosen for TV coverage]. I’m excited for the weekend’s game against Wigan and I’m excited for the occasion in the FA Cup.

“I think it was a stand-out tie of the round when selected during the draw so I’m really pleased that we’re getting a little bit of coverage.

“Last season was a very successful season for us and we were on the TV when we played Stoke City in the FA Cup. I’m surprised that we didn’t get one of the league fixtures but this season we have and we’re playing against a very good Wigan side.”

The Latics, who were relegated from the Championship at the end of last season, make the trip to Spotland on a ten game unbeaten run (five wins and five draws) and Hill expects Saturday’s opponents to claim automatic promotion at the first time of asking.

“They’ll be in the top two. There’s no question in my mind that at the end of the season they’ll be in the top two. 

“Sometimes it takes big football clubs a certain amount of time to settle in and understand the league that they find themselves in, but they’ve found out and understood the league very early. It hasn’t gone the 10 or 15 games where they’ve struggled and are playing a massive catch up.

“When you look at the squad of players that they’ve got, they’ve arguably got two experienced high quality players for every position. They can recruit the best, they can retain the best and if they get injuries and suspensions they can recruit again. It has been well documented that the Chairman has suggested that they can have the best budget by a country mile to outstrip any other team in the league and I probably agree that they can do that. 

“I think they’re being well managed by Gary Caldwell, but again, I just feel as though they’ve got the resources to continue growing stronger and stronger within this league and I definitely think they’ll be in the top two come the end of the season.”

Saturday’s fixture is the third home game in eight days for Dale, with Keith Hill’s side so far recording a 3-1 FA Cup win over Swindon Town and a 1-0 defeat to Morecambe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

“The games are coming thick and fast. We didn’t quite reach the standards or the achievements that we expected on Tuesday night. We wanted to do well so I felt pretty let down and disappointed with the manner of the performance. We were beaten by an honest side and that’s normally what we do. But listen, we’ve been knocked out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before so hopefully it won’t make too much of an impact leading into the Wigan game.”

He continued: “We’re making really good progress as football club with the players that we’ve got. The club is establishing itself and that’s our main aim this season, to establish ourselves as a League One club and fight the good fight throughout the course of the remainder of the season.

“We’ve got 30 league games to play and one thing I will say is that when we’ve not been really great this season, we’ve managed to grind out a point and it’s important that when we’re not being great in the league that we can grind out results.

“We showed great character coming back from 2-0 down against Southend away. It shows that there’s a fighting spirit, the lads want to do particularly well, so we can’t be too harsh.

“Sometimes there is the second season syndrome. I don’t believe in the syndrome but I do believe that we’re not a surprise on the league like we were last season, so that’s where we’ve got to establish ourselves. We’ve got to have that continuity and that belief and we’ve got stick to our principles. That’s what we intend on doing throughout the course of the season, not like the previous time we’re in the division and got relegated the subsequent season after that.

“We’re trying to make steady progress on and off the field.”

The squad has been hit with injuries in recent weeks, with Jamie Allen, Callum Camps, Ian Henderson, Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Joe Rafferty all missing Tuesday night's Johnstone's Paint Trophy match through injury, while Matty Lund was withdrawn at half-time on Tuesday due to a thigh strain.

Hill admits he’s having to cope with a long injury list. 

“It’s difficult and I’m selecting players who probably aren’t in the best of form, but again, I’m prepared to trust and give the players another opportunity or an extended opportunity.

“These opportunities have to be taken and they have to be taken with consistent performances. It’s not good having one great performance, one indifferent and then one bad because that doesn’t give anybody any sort of value to support selection.

“We’re going through it at the minute and it’s tough with the injuries that we’ve got to key players. I’ve got to make sure that I get these key players back on the training pitch for a sustained period of time before they get reintroduced because we need big performances from players, as well as consistent performances in the beliefs that we play the game.

“I don’t want to and I’m reluctant to use the loan market, so we’ll stick with the players that we’ve got and I’m more than happy to do that.”

The full interview is available to view on Dale PlayerHD. 

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