Dear Dale supporter,
We are writing to you to thank you for your continued support throughout what has been a difficult season, both on and off the pitch.
We hope the fans forum, held a fortnight ago, can be a line in the sand moment for us, and that we - the club and fans - can reunite, as one, for the remainder of the season and beyond.
We have already held a meeting with the Dale Supporters Trust and held our first Supporters’ Panel meeting this week to discuss season cards, in our attempts to improve communications.
We understand supporters’ frustration with results and off-field decisions, and we admit that communication could and should have been better throughout the season.
It has now been over a year since we were last able to welcome you through the gates at the Crown Oil Arena and your presence on a matchday is greatly missed. With the Government having recently set out their roadmap out of lockdown, we are very much looking forward to your return for the start of the 2021/22 season.
We have no doubt that results this season have been compounded by injuries and a small playing squad, which Brian Barry-Murphy and his team have done a tremendous job in assembling on what we now know is the lowest budget in League One and our lowest in our seven seasons in this division.
Brian, who is a hugely talented manager, has worked at Rochdale AFC for 11 years, and the Board of Directors are fully behind him and his team. He is under contract until the summer of 2022, having signed an extension before Christmas. Unfortunately, results ultimately dipped as we entered into January and it became difficult to announce the news. We admit and accept that the news should have been communicated at the time when Brian signed the extension, and we can only apologise that it wasn’t.
We now have a break in fixtures, with the team next back in action on Good Friday, when we take on Portsmouth at Fratton Park, in the first of our 10 remaining fixtures this season. It’s a game we are all very much looking forward to.
Due to international call-ups our games against AFC Wimbledon and Swindon Town have been postponed. The call-ups for four of our young players epitomises what we’re about as a club and as a team, and we are delighted to see them recognised on the national stage.
We are extremely proud to see Gavin Bazunu receive his first senior call-up by the Republic of Ireland and Conor Grant being drafted into their U21 squad. Added to that, it’s fantastic to see Kwadwo Baah getting his first taste of international football with England U18s, and Jack Vale again receiving a call-up for Wales U21s. Robert Sánchez, who made 35 appearances for the club last season, has also been called up the full Spain squad for the first time after becoming a Premier League regular following his development with us, which is testament to the work of Brian and his coaching staff.
We were delighted to see Jake Beesley back in the starting eleven at the weekend, following his return from injury, as well as seeing Stephen Dooley back in the squad on Saturday and last weekend away at Lincoln City, following his return from injury. We believe this can only make us stronger and that we are in a very good place heading into the final weeks of the season. As mentioned previously, results have been hampered by injuries and our small squad, so to have these key players back at this time of the season is extremely uplifting for all of us. Here’s hoping we can keep the majority of our players fit between now and the end of the season and also welcome Matty Lund and Jimmy Ryan back into the squad from injury before the season’s end, and Jack Vale following his return from international duty.
It’s not over yet, far from it, and the win over Lincoln City and our performance and result against Peterborough United has given everyone a huge lift at a very important time. Brian, his backroom staff and the players are passionate about this football club and care immensely about its future, as do we, the Board of Directors. There’s a huge belief amongst the squad and around the club that we can retain our League One status. The players, led by Brian and his staff, will fight until the end to try and do that. We hope you’ll remain with us and get behind the manager and players during our all-important run-in.
The 2021/22 campaign marks our 100th anniversary as a member of the Football League and plans are already in place to mark the occasion. More will be revealed in the coming months, starting with our virtual kit launch over the Easter weekend, so keep an eye on our website www.rochdaleafc.co.uk.
Thank you once again for your support this season.
Up the Dale!
Board of Directors