Those stone giants, Mitchell Hey, Mardyke, Dunkirk Rise, Holland Rise, Tentercroft, Underwood, Town Mill Brow. The seven sisters, not in that order, could fight amongst themselves streets away from the mighty 'Dale F.C's turnstiles. Tower blocks with a view to the town's sporting prowess. Imagine them doing battle. When does the cricket begin? That's what the view was for. I lived in Dunkirk Rise and I supported Man Utd.
These tower blocks had been built upon cleared slums. All the Irish had been moved on to Belfield and Kirkholt on the town's peripheries. The town's population was ever growing because of the influx of requested cheap labour from Bangladesh and Pakistan. It was a major renovation for a once bustling town and a generational shift. A raj apology too late as in the 1960's most of the industrial wealth had gone. What can you do for those that created your empire?
Cheap estates were created on the outskirts to the east and south but these new blocks were given to hopeful working toward middle class families - shining examples dulled in towers of brutalism and hippy mosaics. And contrary to the optimism of town planners, there were no new jobs to go with. They just couldn't keep up, the jobs, where were they? The progress stopped here and so did the people. Nobody left to find fortune elsewhere. This was their home. And it's beautiful, in a tragic way. Wuthering Heights for breakfast. So stay.
The first time I saw Rochdale AFC play, mid '70's, there was so much space on the terraces that me and my brother could run up and down the whole end without tripping over a scarf or getting a clip on the ear. Not a lot changed in the next twenty years.
I guess all the fun was still to be had in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. All the fighting fun.
I moved to near the Sandy Lane end when I had kids, by accident. I made new friends. Rochdale were still there and the Hornets had moved in. More people went to watch the rugby, so there were cars parked on our drive twice a week.
Dave still hated Scunthorpe and Willie hated Palace and everyone hated United except me. But I didn't mind Rochdale F.C. It's just that they were no good. They hardly ever won and the supporters that I knew just wanted a fight. They organised vans to chase after Scunnies desperate to emulate an hooligan idealism, albeit more casual and less wanky than that sentence. They just wanted to punch someone and get punched. They wanted bruises to prove they'd had a weekend. It's no good being in a battle unless you have scars to show.
I tried to watch the game and every now and again I could see a spark of something in some twitch of some young spunk's thigh muscle as it knew exactly what to do to spank that ball's arse, caress it into the tiniest gape of a gap in the net beyond that goalden finger tip, but more often than not, not. My friends were too busy organising violence behind me to appreciate the poetry of a goal.