Former Rochdale player Steve Taylor reflects on the night Dale last faced Manchester United at Old Trafford…
The forward played in the match back 1986, having scored a goal in the side’s 2-1 FA Cup replay win over Scunthorpe United at Spotland to book a place in the third round of the competition, earning a memorable tie against United at the Theatre of Dreams.
“Wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago!” said Taylor.
“We were in the bar after the game against Scunthorpe when the draw for the third round was done, so we were all stood together when the draw was announced. It was a great trip back on the team coach knowing that if we could get through the replay at home, then we’d have the fantastic opportunity of playing Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“I scored in the replay and I can remember standing in the back of the net, grabbing it and shaking it, as I celebrated in front of the crowd, because we all knew how important it was. It was such an important goal – we were going to be playing United and the club would be getting the financial rewards that came along with it.”
The tie at Old Trafford was originally scheduled for the Saturday, but a failure of the undersoil heating at the Theatre of Dreams meant it was postponed until the following Tuesday. The heating system still wasn’t working that night, so the game eventually ahead went on the Thursday.
Taylor recalls how disappointed he and the rest of squad were that they had to wait for the fixture to be played.
“We had never envisaged that a club like United would have trouble with their undersoil heating, so despite the weather, we had prepared for the game and I thought it would go ahead as normal on the Saturday. When you build yourself up and get ready for a game, it's disappointing. It would have been nice to play on the original date, but you can’t take anything away from the occasion when they match went ahead on the Thursday.
“It was just an amazing experience to play at such a fantastic place that’s got an amazing tradition. Quite a lot of Rochdale fans went down on the night and there was a fantastic atmosphere, and I’m sure they all enjoyed themselves thoroughly as well.”
Rochdale were beaten 2-0 on by Manchester United and Taylor tells us what he remembers about the game itself.
“They [Manchester United] were just amazing. The likes of Mark Hughes, Gordon Strachan and people of that sort of quality played. They were a fantastic team at the time, full of internationals, but I think we gave a good account of ourselves and I thought we played quite well. We didn’t have a lot of possession – they played a lot of the possession and it was a lot of hard work having to do the running off the ball and not seeing much of the ball. It’s difficult when you’re chasing around for most the 90 minutes.
“I remember one the goals they scored. Dave Redfern took a goal-kick that went straight to Frank Stapleton and he flicked the ball up before volleying it straight over his head into the back of the net. That didn't happen to you in the fourth division. It was an amazing goal and it showed you the quality and the class that they had, that they were able to do that. You’re stood there in awe with your mouth open! It wasn’t the greatest of mistakes, it was an average type of goal-kick, so when you get punished in that way, all you can do is hold your hand up and say that was a magic finish.”
Taylor had a prolific two-year spell at the club, scoring over 40 goals, before leaving for Preston North End. He later returned to Rochdale before retiring.
He has fond memories of his time at Dale.
“It was amazing. It was one of the happiest times of my career, especially playing under Vic Halom. We had played together at Oldham and he knew my style of play and what sort of service I required for me to benefit from. He knew if I got that sort of service, then I would score goals.
“Ronnie Moore was also there at that time and he was a fantastic front man to play along side and we formed a great partnership. He either flicked the ball on or held it up for me to do the running in behind and get in the box to get on the end of things.
“Even though I had a tremendous time, we were fortunate that the team clicked as a whole. We had some quality players who were underrated at the time but we just clicked and we played well together.”
After retiring from football, Taylor went on to forge a career with the Prison Service.
“I did my full coaching badges and did a bit of coaching with the junior teams at Oldham, but I couldn’t really get back into football full-time. I went out to America and coached in a few communities in Minnesota for three summers which was really enjoyable, and then it was a matter of trying to find another career to go into.
“Eventually I ended up going working in HMP Buckley Hall in Rochdale, running the PE Department there. At the time, it was a brand-new prison on my doorstep. I delivered sporting courses to young people who were enthusiastic and who wanted to get involved in an educational course and get a qualification while in prison.
“Personally, it was satisfying in so many ways as we worked to get people back onto the straight and narrow in the hope that they wouldn’t reoffend again by doing something positive and working towards obtaining certificates that they could use on the outside.”
And the 63-year-old has wished BBM and the team all the best for Wednesday night.
“I wish Brian Barry-Murphy and the players the very best of luck for Wednesday. With being a local from Royton I have always had a soft spot for the local clubs – Oldham and Rochdale - so that’s why it was so great and I enjoyed my time at these clubs.
“When I had a spell down at Luton, it just wasn’t the same as the hot bed of the North West area. Bolton, Oldham, Burnley and Rochdale – we had some fantastic derbies and it just feels totally different playing for your local teams.
“I just hope that they can perform well and get a good result, which I’m sure they will.”