Manager Keith Hill has told Dale PlayerHD that he believes his players are a formidable force for any team in League 1 when turning out performances like they have been doing recently.
He was speaking ahead a busy Easter weekend, which sees Rochdale host Southend United on Good Friday before making the trip to the DW Stadium to face Wigan Athletic on Easter Monday.
Dale go into Friday’s game top of the League 1 form guide having lost just once in their last 8 games, having accumulated a magnificent 17 points from an available 24 points.
Hill says he's very pleased with the recent return of points and says there will be a massive ambition to continue picking up points between now and the end of the season.
“It’s about managing that success. It’s also about making sure that there’s no complacency and that we continue to try and strive to be as successful. That’s our aim from now until the end of the season.
“We’ve got nine games remaining and we’re in a positive place - we’re very much looking up. I’m really pleased with the current form that we’re in. The players have stood up and are definitely being counted.
“I said it at the weekend, and I’ll say it again, any manager at any football club should be judged over 46 games. There are a lot of mini crisis’ and mini successes along the way but you’re looking for a 46 game success and as many points as you can from those games. That’s when you can really digest the season and really analyse the positives and negatives, improvements and continued success.”
He continued: “We’re going into a difficult run of fixtures, but difficult for the right reasons. They are difficult, but we are in a position where we can’t fail - there’s no pressure. We’re safe from relegation and that is a massive success that shouldn’t be underestimated. When you consider the pounds per player that we spend, it’s massive success. We’ll continue to sing that song because there are so many managers who ignore it and so many football clubs that ignore it. I think we’re in a good place because we’ve got a very, very good business model as well a as a footballing model.”
Hill wants his players to play pressure free and enjoy the remaining nine games of the season, but says it’s important that they remain switched on continue to deliver the same type of performances as recent weeks.
“We’ve still got to have a massive, massive ambition and professionalism to try and win games, but it should be a pressure off situation.
“We want to relax in performance but not switch off in performance. If we do that, then we’re a formidable force for any team in this league.
“We’ve been consistently hitting 7/8 out of 10 over those period of games per man. We’ve also had a few 6s and we’ve had a few 9s on individual performances. That’s what has got us the results and that’s what we’re looking for in the nine remaining games.
“I think we’re a match for anyone on any given matchday when we’re performing like we are doing at this moment in time.”
And Hill says the squad is in a good place going into Friday’s fixture against Southend United.
“We’ve had a good week’s training and it has been enjoyable, there’s no question about it, but there’s no other type of enjoyment than after a week’s training than a winning week.
“Winning at the weekend and winning on Monday, that’s our purpose and that’s our intent every time we put a strip on and turn up on a matchday.
“We’re looking forward to this weekend. We’re confident, we’re not arrogant – we’ve got full respect for Southend and for Wigan. They’re both above us at this moment in time and we want to challenge ourselves to be better than teams above us.”
The Shrimpers have made no secret that they have their sights set on a play-off place, and with Dale just a point behind Phil Brown’s side in the division, it makes for an interesting and exciting Friday.
“Everybody talks about the play-offs but there has got to be realism an realistic expectations,” said Hill.
“If you’re looking at it, I would suggest that they [Southend] have got an outside chance, not an inside chance, probably along with ourselves, but who knows. This weekend will probably turn up a lot of answers.
“With Southend, with ourselves and with Barnsley etc, you’ve got to be ambitious. I think Phil [Brown, Southend Manager] is talking the right language when it comes to supporting his players and the way they’re trying to push for a play-off place, but we [stand] firmly in between them and play-off place and we want to win this game.”
The full 20 minute interview is on Dale PlayerHD.