A final farewell from Chairman Chris Dunphy, penned for Saturday's matchday programme...
Dear friends and fellow supporters
It is fair to say that over the years, I have, on many occasions, been asked to write speeches or messages about the football club but this is truly one of the most difficult, as it will be my last as Chairman and director of Rochdale AFC. There are many changes happening in the world of football, so as you all know I have made the decision to retire.
It has been a great journey for me which spans nearly 30 years as both a board member and for the last 12 years as Chairman. I would like to say that I have enjoyed every minute but that may be stretching the emotion a little too far as there have been some dark days along the way, luckily these have been few in number and pale into insignificance by the memorable good times.
When I first joined the board in 1980, the club was in a precarious situation; owing in excess of £200,000.00 to the Inland Revenue. Having lost full ownership of the ground, it was not unusual to have a whip round on Friday to make sure that the player’s wages were covered! It was difficult days but thanks to everyone pulling together, the club survived. I left the board for a short time to concentrate on my young family but re-joined the board in 1990 and I have been here ever since.
Over the last 12 years, the good times have been plentiful, of course Keith Hill has been a major part of that and I would like to think that we worked well together. I am lucky enough to be able to look back at our first promotion in almost 40 years and our first trip to Wembley as outstanding highlights. Last year’s cup run was only one of a number of cup runs, and it shone an international spotlight on Spotland when the Spurs game was shown on the BBC on Sunday afternoon prime time tv. Our club stood proud for all the world to admire, as against the odds we held them to a draw and booked another trip to Wembley.
But for all the big occasions, the high-profile interviews before and after games, some of the most special memories I have are those spent with supporters. One in particular was outside the Cemetery Hotel with a large band of very vocal supporters who ensured I drank with them all night without paying a penny. Another big memory was doing the conga through the first-class carriage of the London bound train before the last game of the season at Barnet. As I had a speech to write for a civic reception the following day, I thought it would be quiet in first-class, but someone had spotted me getting on in Manchester and 50 happy Daleys had other ideas about being quiet. They found me and we all danced back to the middle of the train and drank champagne all the way to Euston. Money can’t buy days or memories like that!
Sometimes it has been quite a painful experience. After the Northampton game when we first gained promotion, in all the excitement, Flicker gave me a big bear hug, and as he squeezed I heard my ribs crack. He didn’t believe me at the time but to be fair with the adrenaline and the alcohol, it was about three days before I felt any pain, but hey! It was worth it.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the magnificent men I have worked with during my time as Chairman; Jim Marsh, Paul Hazlehurst (deceased) and Bill Goodwin all of whom gave their time and expertise, freely and for the good of the club they loved. I would like to thank all of the staff at the club, in whatever capacity they hold, as each role is as important as the next in making Rochdale AFC the fantastic club it is.
I am of course sad to be leaving as I was in the process of founding a community project at the club, I will miss Hendo becoming our top goal scorer of all time, and I will miss any chance of finally holding any silverware, but you can’t have everything and I feel privileged to have experienced such a lot!
All that remains now is for me to wish you a very Happy New Year and thank you form the bottom of my heart. I have always been a true Rochdale supporter and I always will be.
Thank you and goodbye
Chairman Rochdale AFC