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Autumn 2021Robbie Stockdale - Rochdale AFC Manager

Rochdale Football Club appointed Robbie Stockdale as the first team manager in July.

The 41-year-old former defender enjoyed a successful playing career at clubs including Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham, Rotherham United and Hull City. He was also capped five times by Scotland.

He started his coaching career at Grimsby Town in 2010 before going on to join Sunderland two years later.

Robbie spent six years on the staff at Sunderland and was part of the first team set up under the likes of Sam Allardyce, as well as having three stints as caretaker manager. After leaving Sunderland, he was appointed assistant at Hibernian in 2019, before reuniting with Allardyce in 2020 when he joined the back room staff as first team coach at West Bromwich Albion.

Real Rochdale editor Claire Flett caught up with Robbie at the Crown Oil Arena to find out more about him and his plans for the team.

CF: Why this job now; why this club?

RS: I did my research on the club and Rochdale has always had a good history of producing players, which is something I take great interest in. It is where my background started, where I’m still heavily influenced. Then I spoke to Simon Gauge [the chairman] and the rest of the board about their vision of the club and what it meant to the supporters and it was really exciting.

It was something that I’ve been ready for quite a long time; I’ve done the hard yards, I’ve worked the academy and I’ve worked under some exceptional experienced managers and now I feel it’s my time for me to step up.

CF: What are your targets for the season?

RS: I’ve told the players our aim has got to be promotion, whether that’s through play-offs or automatic promotion. I’m not afraid to say that; I might be setting myself up for a fall, I accept that but I’ve come to win and I want the players to accept that challenge as well.

CF: What would you consider to be the most important quality in a player; what do you look for?

RS: I think with my experience of working with younger players coming through, the ones that have made it have had drive and the right attitude. I think that’s really the most important thing. Of course they have to have ability, but ability gets you in the building, attitude keeps you in there.

The players represent the club, that represents the fans. So you need to see somebody on a match day that is a hundred percent committed. I think then if you see that - win, lose or draw - you go out satisfied that they have given their all. You know, they won’t particularly get praise from me for doing that, because I see it as a given, but it isn’t always, so we need to make sure we instil that in them.

CF: The managers you have worked with in the past, as a player or a coach, which one have you learnt the most from?

RS: You learn from every single one. I know that’s a real cop-out, but you do. If I wasn’t doing that, I don’t think I would have been doing my job properly as a young coach coming through at the time.

I have seen different managers deal with different situations in completely different ways, but still get the right outcome at the end.

I’ve been fortunate to work with two or three who are exceptional at man-management, so that was the biggest learning curve.

CF: Do you have a message for the supporters?

RS: We want them to come to games and enjoy themselves, we want to play entertaining football. We want to be difficult to score against. I want to be accessible to supporters as well, I think that’s really important, and if they feel part of the journey with us – I hate the word journey, sounds like X-Factor – but if they feel part of the process, then we get that buy-in, and that could be a really powerful thing.

Claire also asked new Dale chairman Simon Gauge about the decision to appoint Robbie.

CF: When you met Robbie, did you know straight away he was the right man for the job?

SG: He was impressive straight away; he really stood out.

When Brian [Barry-Murphy] went, the first thing we did was to try and build an identity for the club here. We wanted a young guy who is hungry and ambitious, someone that really wants it, and with Robbie that came across in abundance straight away.

We wanted someone who has a good background in academies, because obviously that is an important part of this club as well, bringing people through the academy and getting them to the first team, and possibly selling them on, is massive, so he ticks all those boxes.

The other impressive thing at the interview was he didn’t just turn up and talk about himself. He had actually done a hell of a lot of research into Rochdale... match reports from our games that he had done for himself last year that he had watched.