To my surprise, Rochdale made a real fist of League One last season, narrowly missing out on the play-off spots. Keith Hill’s side adapted more than sufficiently to deal with the rise in quality. Hill’s experienced was unquestionably helpful towards their excellent season, but you have to give credit to what is a young squad, that still has a lot to learn.
The championship is in touching distance, and with the team constantly improving, I see no reason why they cannot challenge for the top 6. All the valuable knowledge the youngsters picked up and put into this seasons performance, taking them from strength the strength. The exuberant style of many of the players is key to keeping the team relaxed, although, more weight and expectation will be on their shoulders after the impressive return to the third tier.
Versatile midfielder Peter Vincenti has been one of Hill’s most valuable assets over the years. Spreading his ability all over the field. His defensive ability means he can be deployed as a shielding midfielder, although he has said himself, that he prefers an attacking role, and with all his goalscoring prowess you can hardly blame him. Vincenti bulged the net 13 times last season, but to my surprise only claimed assist, a dry total considering how involved he was throughout campaign. No matter of last years statistics, the Jersey born midfielder will be raring to go to improve this season, with the Championship being elusive thus far in his career.
With so many young talents breaking into the Dale line up last term, it was difficult to pick out an individual. Callum Camps, Andy Cannon and Scott Tanser all blossomed in their debut seasons, but it is Joe Bunney that I am going to pick out. The 21-year-old had to deal with irregular game time, but when he was called on was more than happy to play all across the pitch. Two goals against Crewe Alexandra from the frontline earned him an extended run in the team, before being demoted back to the bench for the away trip to Meadow Lane. He claimed the unfamiliar left back spot ahead of Michael Rose against Peterborough and even spent time on the right side of midfield. Wherever he plays, Bunney, who has one year left on his contract, will hope to impress and earn a new deal to keep him with a club that is undeniably on the up.
In Ian Henderson they have guaranteed goals, something that is hard to come by at any level of football. Peter Vincenti will hope to improve on his assist by providing last seasons 22 goal man. Jimmy McNulty links up with Keith Hill once again after playing under him at Barnsley a couple of years ago. Him and last seasons skipper Oliver Lancashire will keep the floodgates closed in rearguard with Josh Lillis keeping nets just in case. Last campaigns backline was the worst amongst the top 12, something that will need to be improved on if they are to improve their 8th place finish. Assuming that the rearguard is tightened up during the remaining month of the transfer window. Dale fans could be in for a thriller of a season.