League One Manager Preview: Keith Hill and Rochdaleby Mike Holden / 17 July 2017, 15:43Tweet
Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Keith Hill and Rochdale ahead of the upcoming 2017/18 League One season.
Rochdale have finished 9th, 8th, 10th and 9th in four League One seasons under Keith Hill, equalling a club record 69 points last term. The challenge now is to break through the mental barrier that prevents them sustaining a genuine play-off charge. Matty Lund and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing have been poached by Championship clubs but the Spotland conveyer belt continues to churn out hot prospects and recent transfer windows have taught Hill he can also add quality players with real pedigree late on if he bides his time.
The Lancastrian is extremely analytical and always keeps one eye on the horizon, incessantly weighing-up unfolding events in terms of how they affect the bigger picture. It’s that high level of intuitive behaviour that enables him to put his faith in so many young players and still generate consistency on the pitch in spite of any experience. Potential threats are nearly always anticipated and adjusted for well in advance. Hill might be widely regarded as a purist but there’s a no-nonsense pragmatic streak that lurks beneath.
"Looking at the core of the squad, it’s better than it was this time last year. I’m happy looking at the jigsaw and the permutations I’ve got for a number of different starting elevens. I’ve got multi-positional players and I’ve got good flexibility. I’ve recruited pace. The two wide players and number 10s are quick and they will contribute goals and assists. It was important we looked at that area of the pitch because we need to improve our away results."
Hill is level-headed enough to accept any limitations and keep doing what he’s doing, even though recognition for his remarkable achievements diminishes year on year. He signed a new five-year contract in the summer, which buys him ample time to realise the dream of taking Dale into the Championship. He won’t jeopardise everything he has built up over the past four years by pushing too hard for that outcome too soon, and that should be taken into consideration when assessing their prospects over the next ten months.
Prediction: top half