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Into uncharted territory for Spurs!
My sincere thanks go to Declan Mulcahy, who prepared the bulk of the material in this preview.
At the end of last season there were ten league clubs that Spurs had never met in a competitive match. Of these Spurs played AFC Wimbledon in the third round of this year’s FA Cup and now play Rochdale in the fifth round. There is also a new team in the Football League this season, Forest Green Rovers, so there are now nine teams that Spurs have never played as follows:
Forest Green Rovers
Promotion and relegation from the Football League started at the end of the 1986-87 season. Eight of the above teams have only entered the Football League since this system was in place. The only team Spurs haven’t met who predate this system is Shrewsbury Town who became a league club in 1950.
Rochdale were first elected to the Football League in 1921-22 being founder members of Division 3 (North) and spent the first 30 seasons of their existence in this division. The Division 3/ Division 4 system was introduced in 1958-59 and since then Rochdale have spent all but seven seasons in the lowest division. Of the seven seasons spent in the higher division four have been the last four seasons starting with 2014-15.
The current manager Keith Hill has been responsible for their two promotions to League 1 in 2009-10 and 2013-14. He has had two spells in charge from 2007 to 2011 and from in January 2013 onwards. In between he was elevated to manage Barnsley for a short period but then returned to Rochdale. He is thus their most successful manager ever.
As Rochdale have spent their entire existence in the lower two tiers competitive games against the top six teams have been few and far between.
Their first game against a top six side was away to Arsenal in the first round of the 1919-20 FA Cup when Rochdale were a non league side. They lost 4-2 at Highbury. Twenty five seasons elapsed before their next meeting with a big team. In the third round of the 1950-51 season they played Chelsea at home and lost by a very creditable 3-2.
In 1972-73 they lost 4-0 away to Manchester City in the second record of the League Cup. This was the season that Spurs won the League Cup for the second time.
In 1985-86 they faced the then FA Cup holders Manchester United at Old Trafford in the third round and achieved a creditable result losing only 2-0. Their last confrontation with one of the big six was the third round of the FA Cup in 1995-96 at Anfield where Liverpool simply overwhelmed them 7-0.
This will be their sixth meeting with a top six club, one with each, in 98 years that represents 92 seasons when the Second World War is excluded.
This is the third time Rochdale have reached the fifth round of the FA Cup.
In 1989-90 they overcame Marine (in an away tie at Anfield) before beating Lincoln City, Whitley Bay and Northampton Town all at home. In the fifth round they lost 1-0 away at Crystal Palace. The latter finished in 15th position in the top tier that season so the result was certainly to Rochdale’s credit.
Their run in the 2002-03 FA Cup was even better. Fourth tier Rochdale beat third tier Peterborough in the first round and Bristol Rovers in the second round. The third and fourth round games were both giant killings beating second tier Preston away and second tier Coventry at home. They finally succumbed 3-1 away to Wolves at Molineux The latter achieved promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season via the play offs so this was a very good cup run.
This season their progress to the fifth round has been as follows. They beat non-league Bromley 4-0 at home in the first round. The second round saw them overcome another non-league side Slough Town by the same score this time away from home. In the third round they beat Doncaster Rovers 1-0 away. The fourth round pitted them against Championship team Millwall. The first game was at the Den and Rochdale led 2-1 from the 53rd minute but unluckily conceded a goal in the last minute. They prevailed 1-0 in the replay on a very sandy pitch that led to complaints from Millwall about the state of the pitch.
This is Rochdale’s 90th consecutive season in the Football League. By and large these seasons have been relatively undistinguished. However they did experience a dream season in 1961-62. This was the second season of the new competition called the League Cup. At this stage admittedly most of the big clubs such as Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield Wednesday didn’t bother entering the completion.
In the first round fourth tier Rochdale overcame second tier Southampton after a replay. The second round saw them beating Doncaster Rovers. In the third round they beat Charlton Athletic also of the second division. They were given a bye in the fourth round to the semi finals where they were pitted against first division Blackburn Rovers. In the first leg they achieved an amazing 3-1 win at Spotland in what may be their only win against a top tier team. They lost 2-1 at Ewood Park but still progressed to the final.
Their opponents were second division Norwich City in a two legged final which is the only occasion when a second division team met a fourth division side in the final. Rochdale lost 3-0 at home and 1-0 away losing 4-0 on aggregate. However it was still an incredible achievement to reach the final. They are probably the smallest team to reach a major English trophy final in the 20th century.
The official THFC site has posted a detailed article regarding former Spurs players with Rochdale connections, the most famous of whom are George Hunt (currently 6 goals above Harry Kane in our top goalscorers' list) and Don McAllister. Harry Kane made his football league debut at Spotland on 15th January 2011 when on loan with Leyton Orient. Harry was a 73rd minute substitute for the "O"s. Dele Alli played there in his penultimate game for Milton Keynes in April 2015. Less than 6 months later Dele was making his senior England debut after only 10 club appearances for Spurs!
Spotland was renamed "The Crown Oil Arena" in 2016. Rochdale currently sit rock bottom of League One, eleven points away from safety, but they do have five games in hand over the team that is fifth from the bottom. That will become six after this weekend's programme. Part of the reason is Rochdale's cup run, but they have also had games postponed.
There has been much publicity about the state of the Rochdale pitch, and they have this week had a new pitch laid. This should remove the fears that Mauricio Pochettino had over the former state of the pitch regarding potential injuries to his players. With over a week until our next game at Crystal Palace (provided we win on Sunday), Pochettino can field as strong a team as he likes, but I am sure that most of the team will be made up of players who did not start in Turin on Tuesday.
Rochdale have only managed one league win in their last 9 such games. That was away to that fifth from bottom side, which is Northampton. The "Dale"'s previous league win was in November. League position and form will be forgotten by the home side who will no doubt play as if their lives depend upon the outcome. With a ground capacity of 10,000, Rochdale have generously provided the whole of the Willbutts Lane Stand to Spurs and I understand that some 3,500 tickets have been allocated to away fans, so a great atmosphere should be ensured for a game being played out in front of the BBC cameras with a 4pm kick-off.
There do not seem to be many goals in the Rochdale side, but 33 year old Ian Henderson is their top league scorer (8) and has scored 4 goals in the last four games, which include one of the away goals at The New Den, and the winner in the home replay.
The atmosphere will be considerably different from that we enjoyed in Turin on Tuesday, and I expect a different Spurs team. Perhaps Vorm/Gazzaniga; Trippier, Alderweireld, Foyth, Walker-Peters/Rose; Wanyama, Winks; Lucas Moura, Sissoko, Son; Llorente/Kane. Whoever finally plays (and I dare say Harry Kane would like to start in a possible quest to score in each round), it is a team that should comfortably win, and I will go for a convincing 4-0 win!
The match referee will be Bobby Madley who we've seen three times this season. His last game in charge of Spurs was the 2-0 win at Swansea.
· "It was Twenty Years ago today!" - Reviewing the 1997/98 season match by match. We did not reach the Fifth Round of the FA Cup in that season.
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