Media Week: Where are they? - Rochdale's presence in the national media
This could have been a very short article. I could have written it myself. It could probably have simply read: “virtually non-existent”. But I don’t want to short-change you like that. Hopefully, you have got used to comprehensive articles written by people who are genuinely passionate about English football’s lower leagues. Like Sarah Lomas, for example. This concludes Media Week on The Seventy Two – huge thanks to all who have contributed, read, shared and commented.
On the day Rochdale achieved promotion, the attendance at Spotland was 5,025. And on the day we went to Wembley for the play-off final, we took approximately 19,000 fans. I say fans, but I mean that in a broad sense. Fully grown men with their faces painted waving around an oversized foam hand aren’t really what I’d consider football fans to be honest.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s as though it was fashionable to be a Rochdale fan both when we went to Wembley and towards the end of our promotion season. Joining in the glory and the excitement without having to go through all the heartbreak and wasted optimism beforehand. And why not? It’s an easy way for someone to say they’re a football supporter.
It was just the same being a journalist too; it was fashionable to write about us, to bleat on using the usual one-liners and to regurgitate the same monotonous facts. Thinking back to the end of our promotion season (and a quick internet search will prove this) all I can remember is pretty much the same article being reproduced by almost every newspaper and website; there was no individuality and all they cared about was making sure they got those same few facts in there – namely how long we’d been in the basement division and when our last promotion was. They didn’t care about how we’d got there slowly but surely or how we had proven our worth as deserved promotion contenders.
Now, a couple of seasons on and where are they? Well, the so-called fans are back in their armchairs come Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, their foam hands and face paints in the back of a cupboard, ready to be brought out again when another of their local sides has some sort of glory.
And rather similarly, the journalists are back covering the so-called more important Premier League games and forgetting about how much they apparently adored Rochdale a few seasons back. Week in, week out, they’re back to the same routine of going on about the same clubs and the same players, forgetting what’s going on at Spotland now. And there’s been a hell of a lot more going on since we were promoted.
They’ve missed our first amazing season in League One, seeing us brush aside the likes of Southampton and match up against champions Brighton. They’ve missed our heartbreak at losing the Hillcroft duo (former manager Keith Hill and assistant David Flitcroft) and our quest to find an equally worthy manager. And they’ve missed our frustrations as we struggle to prove our worth as a League One club second time round.
Last week we gained our first three points in the league with a thumping win over local rivals Bury. Where were they then? Where were they when we comfortably beat QPR at Loftus Road a couple of weeks ago in the cup? And where were they when we well and truly succumbed to defeat at Boundary Park?
I’m sure it’s the same for every other lower league club who have achieved some sort of success; for the media it seems like it’s all about jumping on the bandwagon and despite how well you do following that short-term glory, you’re rather quickly forgotten about by the national media.
Then again, do we, as lower league fans, want them to give us more coverage? It always seems like it’s out of pity when we do get some acknowledgement in the national media. The only reason they bleated on about Rochdale when we were promoted was because we’d not achieved much before and they made that pretty clear.
One big point that annoys me is how the media give so much praise to a goal in the Premier League compared to the lower leagues. For example, did they see Chris Dagnall’s goal against Sheffield United last weekend? He took the ball by himself from the halfway line and scored. If someone in the Premier League had done that they’d have been going on about it for weeks on end, but they probably don’t know about it – or even know he exists.
On the point of Dagnall, Sky Sports reported that he’d been sent off in that game too and that he wouldn’t feature in the following game. It was actually Andy Barcham who had been sent off. That just shows how little effort the national media put into reporting the lower leagues.
Will we ever get noticed in the media again? Probably not unless we get promoted again and I’m sure they’ll bring out the “little old” Rochdale phrase. And do we mind? Not at all.
We’re quite happy achieving those small successes along the way, even if they don’t seem that big a deal in comparison to the Premier League in the eyes of the national media. I’d rather not have the pity of the national media, their so-called support and their predictable one-liners thanks very much.