Who Are These Jobbers?
It’s a proud day for the people of Rochdale. In the 112 years of the town’s football team’s existence, never have they been able to welcome such illustrious opponents to Spotland. The bunting has been put up, the ‘away dressing room’ sign has been shined good and proper, manager Brian Barry-Murphy has picked out his best red wine and everyone is ready to take to the streets to welcome Sunderland Association Football Club.
For one man, the visit of Wearside’s finest is a truly magnificent day, and the gentleman in question has managed to pull out all the stops to ensure the travelling hordes are treated like royalty.
Rochdale chief executive officer, and all-round Massive Lads Fan, David Bottomley understands how privileged the Lancashire side are to welcome a team like Sunderland.
Mr Bottomley rightly wrote to Dale supporters to explain how us Mackems command an average attendance of over 31,000 and are a “club with a normal away following greater than our average home attendance”. This is, of course, quite true and it is only right that we are bestowed with 4,000 tickets and have to move season ticket holders in the process.
If that wasn’t enough, Rochdale are also producing commemorative mugs for the occasion, which will really give the family fun day the momento it really deserves.
What’s The Ground Like?
Thanks to Mr Bottomley’s quite generous donation of a stadium to the Sunderland promotion cause, it’s probably wise that players and supporters get to know our new surroundings. Spotland, or the grandiose Crown Oil Arena of which it is now referred to, has been the home of Rochdale since 1920.
It is one of the few grounds in the Football League that Sunderland have not graced with their presence - if you discount a Checkatrade Trophy fixture in 2016. It is a homely little place that underwent significant renovation during the 1990s and early-2000s. The fervent Dale supporters are housed in The Sandy Lane End terrace while the rest has lovely seating.
Since Spotland is now officially the property of Sunderland AFC, you’ll be able to spread out in the Willbutts Lane Stand and tell any Rochdale “season ticket holders” in the Smiths Metals Family Stand to get out of your goddamn seat.
Again, thank you Mr Bottomley, you are one hospitable gent.
How Do I Get There?
Remember these leisurely jaunts to the north west when we used to go to Manchester United and Liverpool? Anyway, buckle up because we’ve got a Rochdale to visit. If you’re driving take the A19 and A1(M) and then M1 heading west past Leeds. Exit at junction 42 for the M62 and head across the Pennines to junction 20 where you exit for the A627(M) towards Rochdale.
Pass the Cemetery Hotel on your left hand and Spotland (or the Crown Oil Arena) is just a mile or so along Sandy Lane. There is street parking available around the ground and should you get lost plop OL11 5DR into your sat nav.
Those arriving by train have a couple of options. Rochdale is served by routes from Leeds and Manchester. Should you change at Leeds you can get a direct service to Rochdale while if you arrive in Manchester you can take either a train or Metrolink from Manchester Victoria station.
Rochdale railway station is around a 35-minute walk from the stadium while you can take the tram in Rochdale town centre and enjoy a stroll from there.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 9am with return fares priced at £25. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
When you first step into Rochdale you wouldn’t immediately think that this is a place with two award-winning pubs, but prepare to be surprised. The Baum on Toad Lane was named the 2012 National CAMRA Pub of the Year and serves up an ever rotating line of ales, ciders, fancy continental lagers and the odd craft beer.
The Flying Horse Hotel on Packer Street, next to Rochdale Town Hall, has also be racking up the accolades by being ranked in the top 16 of the best pubs in the land. If you love that sweet, sweet hit of Sam Smith’s beer then The Roebuck on Yorkshire Street is the place for you.
Alternatively, you can celebrate the pending liberation (date yet to be confirmed) of the UK from the grip of faceless bourgeois European Union by drinking exclusively British beverages in the town’s go-to Wetherspoons, The Regal Moon on The Butts.
Closer to the ground, you can enjoy a pint of Thwaites at The Cemetery Hotel on Bury Road or squeeze into The Ratcliffe attached to the ground.
I’m Stayin’ Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
When planning a weekend break in these fine British Isles, it is unlikely you have ever leaned over and whispered lovingly into your partner’s ear, “let’s go to Rochdale”. However, if you are a fan of the great outdoors then this corner of Lancashire does have the ability to surprise even the most staunchest sceptic.
See some of the fattest ducks in your life by taking a stroll around Hollingworth Lake, or take in dramatic views of the Pennines on Blackstone Edge. Learn about how the county was once the backbone of the country by visiting Healey Dell - a beautiful wildlife sanctuary chock full of industrial archaeology carved in twain by the River Spodden.
For all those closet Pete Waterman’s, you can head to nearby Bury and board one of the steam trains that dart up and down the East Lancashire Railway. Hop off at Ramsbottom for a couple of pints at Irwell Brewery and get yourself a pie from the fine, fine butcher’s in village.
Or, you know, Manchester is only 15 minutes away. There’s probably loads of stuff on there.