Rochdale have scored more than most this season but also conceded more: manager Brian Barry-Murphy isn’t too concerned though, as long as he can work with talents like Kwadwo Baah…
Fun is in short supply in the world at the moment, but if you’d like something to lift your spirits and provide some uncomplicated entertainment, we can recommend Rochdale.
Regard, if you will, their last seven games: a 4-0 away win Plymouth was followed by a relatively sedate 2-0 defeat to Lincoln, but then they lost 4-1 to Peterborough, beat Wigan 5-0, lost 4-1 to Gillingham, drew 3-3 with Crewe before what felt like the inevitable conclusion of this bonkers few weeks, this week’s 4-4 draw at Charlton in which they were 3-1 up after 30 minutes and 4-2 to the good at half-time.
It’s emotionally draining just reading the numbers in that sequence, so what must it be like managing that team?
“Probably like the longest rollercoaster ride you’ve ever been on,” Brian Barry-Murphy, Rochdale’s manager, told The Totally Football League Show: Extra-Time.
Not everyone enjoys rollercoasters though, and you can understand if any Rochdale fans might be frustrated: only five teams in League One have scored more goals than them this season, but the reason they’re currently 19th in the table is that only the bottom three have conceded more.
The Charlton game perhaps summed that up: throwing away a two-goal lead once in a game might be regarded as a misfortune, but twice looks like carelessness. Does that frustrate Barry-Murphy?
“Not really. It’s always disappointing, and the natural tendency is to think ‘oh we we had the game and we shouldn’t have lost’, but we’ve focused all season on, without sounding cringey, proving people wrong.
“We lost all of our strikers [from last season] who’d been such a huge influence on our team, and everybody said pre-season “well these guys won’t score any goals”. So we worked incessantly hard, and the lads have driven that themselves to try and prove that we can [score goals].
“We’re not going to have everything perfect for large parts of the season based on how new the group is. So to see the lads willing to take a team like Charlton on from the start until the end of the game and not get disheartened when the scoreline became level was was huge for me.”
One of the stars of that game was Kwadwo Baah, who at just 17 is still establishing himself in the Rochdale team, but had already managed to make himself semi-notorious because of an incident a few years ago when he was a ballboy.
Baah was ballboy-ing for Crystal Palace’s game against West Ham in 2016 when he became irked that goalkeeper Adrian was taking a little longer than was necessary to take goal kicks. So Baah took it upon himself to run onto the pitch and plonk the ball on the edge of the six-yard box, technically breaking a few rules but earning himself plenty of kudos at Selhurst Park nonetheless.
“If you look back on that now,” says Barry-Murphy, “you’d get a small insight into what his personality is, how exuberant and expressive he is, and willing to do things that are slightly different.
“His route has been unorthodox in terms of it not being the traditional academy upbringing. He was at Crystal Palace as a very young player and it didn’t work out. And then he went to a foundation in South London, the Kinetic Foundation, which has been a real source of talent, the likes of Joe Aribo, Ademola Lookman – those kind of players have been nurtured in that environment. And he is very much of that ilk – an outstanding individual talent.”
And Barry-Murphy says that working with young talent like that is on a par with achieving wins for the Rochdale first-team.
“People think sometimes I’m not telling the truth when I say the position in the table doesn’t concern me. I get the biggest buzz of my coaching career from seeing the likes of those players, just to be a tiny part of their journey.
“But from the very first minute, we’ve had almost two distinct elements of our club: development of players, which has been really rich in the last couple of years, which isn’t always easy to maintain. But also with that we combine that with the spectacular success of our own players [who’ve moved on].”
You can listen to the full interview on The Totally Football League Show – ad-free on The Athletic – subscribe here.
Did you know The Totally Football League Show is now TWICE a week? You can listen to the latest edition here, or even better subscribe here. If you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article or from the podcast you are very welcome to, but please credit The Totally Football Show and include this link.