Brian Barry-Murphy was finally confirmed as Rochdale’s next manager at a press conference on Wednesday, being given a two year contract after presiding over an unbeaten run in his four games in temporary charge. Rochdale collected eight points during this time which has seen them get themselves back into contention for survival, in what has turned into quite a battle at the bottom.
His first game in permanent charge sees his side take on their biggest challenge thus far in his tenure, with Sunderland visiting Spotland. Rochdale fans will already have a good idea of the kind of team that will be on show from what lineups they have already seen him pick.
This is my speculation of a potential line up;
Goalkeeper: 1. Josh Lillis
Lillie’s return to fitness has seen the departure of Andy Lonergan back to Middlesbrough. His spell will be fondly remembered by fans for his high quality performances, but Josh’s return should see a stability between the sticks that the Spotland faithful haven’t seen this season.
Right Back: 2. Ryan McLaughlin
Ryan has been plagued with fitness and injury problems since his arrival but still represents Rochdale’s best option at right back at this current time, so hopefully he is able to kick on and avoid the treatment table in the future.
Centre Back: 6. Ethan Ebanks-Landell
I have waxed lyrical about him before so I will try and not go over old ground but for me he is Rochdale’s best centre back and is too good for the level he us currently operating it. One of the first names on my team sheet.
Centre Back: 3. Kgosi Ntlhe
Kgosi has been a revelation since his return from injury and has played his way into the starting 11 with a couple of impressive performances, chipping in at both ends with important tackles and goals.
Left Back: 39. Joe Bunney
Sadly, potentially Rochdale’s weakest position with only two real options there if Kgosi plays centrally. I would favour Joe Bunney there over Matty Done but neither are traditional left backs.
Right Midfield: 7. Stephen Dooley
Someone who hasn’t featured frequently under BBM yet but a player I believe should come into the team, as his dribbling and marauding runs down the wing could be vital at unlocking opposition defences.
Centre Midfield: 14. Oliver Rathbone
Another one who has greatly impressed since his return from injury, always giving 100%, and bringing a consistent energy and drive to the team from the middle of the pitch. Another of my easy picks.
Centre Midfield: 27. Ethan Hamilton
I rate Hamilton highly as he is another loan player I think will be operating at a loftier level next season. He complements Rathbone nicely and isn’t short on talent or passion.
Left Midfield: 19. Bradden Inman
Seems to have been in and out of the team a lot this season, never being able to hold down a regular spot, but I see him as one of Rochdale’s better wide options. He plays in a similar mould to Dooley and I think Rochdale will benefit from his creativity and dribbling.
Centre Attacking Midfield: 40. Ian Henderson
I don’t think much needs to be said as to why his inclusion is important with him being Rochdale’s top scorer this season. Without his goal tally of 17, Dale would surely be relegated already. It is impossible to underestimate his influence.
Striker: 18. Aaron Wilbraham
Another player who has played himself into a starting spot under BBM with his recent match winning brace against Scunthorpe. He looks set for a prolonged run in the first team in a season in which he has struggled to find consistency.
Subs: Wade, MJ Williams, Done, Keohane, Camps, Adshead & Andrew
(I am currently unaware of Zach Clough’s injury status but if fit I would expect him to take one of the spaces on the bench).