Despite currently sitting at a rather disappointing 21st in the League One table in late September, any thoughts of sacking manager Keith Hill would be ludicrous.
Keith Hill is enjoying his second spell at The Crown Oil Arena as a manager after replacing John Coleman in January 2013. Hill made 154 appearances for Rochdale between 1996 and 2001. The 48 year old joined Dale’s coaching staff after he retired, he was appointed to the position of Director of Youth. He first managed the club as caretaker manager, after the departure of Steve Parkin in December 2006. Unfortunately for Hill the game ended up a 2-1 loss to MK Dons. The Bolton born manager lifted The Dale out of the bottom three, where they had spent the majority of the season so far, and was rewarded by being given the role permanently in January 2007.
The 2007/2008 season saw Hill lead Rochdale to the League Two Play Off Final, his side suffered a defeat to the now non-league outfit Stockport County. The following season was heartbreak again as the season ended with a Play Off Semi Final defeat to Gillingham. Success soon followed as the very next season Rochdale secured automatic promotion to League One, finishing third in the league behind Notts County and the now Premier League side Bournemouth! This was the first promotion for 41 years.
Hill was then able to lead Dale to a ninth place finish in League One, which saw his side achieve the highest league finish since the late 60s as Hill’s men racked up a rather impressive 68 points.
Hill and assistant manager David Flicroft’s achievements were recognised by Barnsley who lured the pairing to Oakwell in 2011, however, Hill only had a 25% win rate, leading to him losing the job in December 2012.
Since his return in 2013, Keith Hill led Dale to another promotion, making him the club’s most successful manager.
All of Hill’s success has come with a limited budget, where all but a few of his squad came in on free transfers or through the academy. Hill is one of the best in the lower leagues at working to a tight budget, if not the best. This has seen him sign a contract that keeps him at The Crown Oil Arena until the summer of 2022. I have no doubts that Rochdale could not bring in another manager who could produce anywhere near what Hill has given the resources at his disposal, let alone do a better job!
Hill also has a fantastic record with youth players. He has produced players such as Craig Dawson who has gone on to be a Premier League regular with West Ham. Scott Hogan who is now with Championship Aston Villa and Burton Albion’s Jamie Allen who had been at The Dale since he was eight years old. Hill also gave Daniel Adshed his professional debut in a 4-0 demolition of local rivals Bury in the Checkatrade Trophy in September this year, the youngster who was just 16 years old and 17 days set up Dale’s second goal of the night for Bradden Inman. This shows Hill’s ability to promote youth players and turn them into very good players, some worthy of the Premier League! He can also spot great free transfers, he brought Nathaniel Mendez-Laing in, who has recently moved to Championship Cardiff City and has just won player of the month!
Hill is clearly an expert at bringing success to a club with extremely limited funds and there is no doubt in my mind that he should be the Dale manager for the foreseeable future!