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    Hope you guys don’t mind me posting this, but in the days of billions of pounds in our game, it highlights how much a local club can mean to one man. Hope you enjoy reading it.

    David Clough adored Rochdale – now they will immortalise him in bronze

    The lifelong fan raised £400,000 for the club and left them his entire estate last year – to be spent on the supporters, not a new striker

    According to those who knew David Clough, the idea of a bronze statue immortalising him in his flat cap and thick glasses would have horrified a modest man. He was the last to seek recognition

    Salt of the earth? Clough was the very definition of the phrase as he cycled home from work at the local bakery and, most familiarly, did his rounds selling scratchcards and collecting weekly draw tickets for his beloved Rochdale AFC.

    “David collected money for the club virtually every waking hour, supported by his dearly loved wife, Dorothy, who took care of the paperwork, and counted t’brass,” the club noted of their most devoted supporter. “Many fans will remember seeing him on the streets of Littleborough on his bike, completely wet through, dutifully collecting 50p here and there for his beloved club, with a smile and a profanity.”

    Without the likes of Clough, lower league football clubs would wither. He was a real-life version of Gordon Ottershaw in Ripping Yarns; obsessed by Barnstoneworth United, even after six years without a win; teaching his son (first name Barnstoneworth, middle name United) to recite the great teams off by heart; hurling pot plants through the window in despair at another loss.

    Clough was a lifelong Dale fan who witnessed the club’s only three promotions, from their first in 1969, living on the same street as record scorer Reg Jenkins. He took up helping with the Goldbond cash draw and scratchcards, selling hundreds of them weekly and dutifully amassing the coins from his collection rounds.

    He could not drive so everything had to be done by bike, which he carried out, unfailingly in all weathers, for almost 30 years. By the time Clough died last June, aged 78, it was estimated that he had single-handedly raised more than £400,000 for Rochdale. Pretty astonishing, but there was more.

    Clough and his wife had not been able to have children — “they fostered, which tells you what sort of people they were,” Richard Wild, a close friend, explains — so he left his entire estate to Rochdale. Almost £250,000, it turned out.

    Wild, a Championship assistant referee who befriended Clough when he was also working on the club’s fundraising, is one of the executors of his will. He was by Clough’s side when he passed away in a nursing home.

    “David said that he didn’t want the money going on a centre forward who would disappear after a couple of years,” Wild says. “He wanted it spent on something to benefit the fans, something he would always be able to look down on and see.”

    A new electronic scoreboard at Spotland Stadium, now the Crown Oil Arena, is already in the planning and there are discussions about other ways to upgrade supporters’ facilities that are hard to maintain at a League One club badly hit by the pandemic. Clough’s devotion and generosity will make a lasting difference.

    Then came the idea for a statue. Another fan, Mark Cryer, who never met Clough, heard about the bequeathal and thought it was only appropriate to mark Clough’s loyalty.

    The notion of a statue was taken from Valencia, who commissioned a lifelike bronze of Vicente Navarro Aparicio and erected it in the fan’s seat at the Mestalla. Aparicio had continued to watch matches despite losing his sight, and there are plenty of parallels with Clough.

    One of his last games supporting his beloved Dale was an emotional afternoon in May 2018 when they were saved from relegation by Joe Thompson, who had twice recovered from cancer and then scored the winning goal. Clough was at the match in a wheelchair, blind after a stroke.

    “We were commentating for him, screaming our heads off when Joe Thompson scored that goal to save us,” Wild says. “At the final whistle, knowing we were safe, David burst into tears.” He would enjoy one more game, a home win over Accrington Stanley, before passing away.

    An initial target of £2,500 to build a statue was quickly passed — a decent version will cost several times that — and the total is climbing towards £6,000, helped by donations from fans of other clubs who have been touched by Clough’s story.

    The statue will sit in Clough’s seat in the main stand, where he enjoyed his passion of supporting the Dale through thick and thin. “Hopefully it will be just as he was, with his flat cap and those thick glasses,” Wild says. “He won’t mind me saying he was a quirky looking chap but he was the most wonderful, down-to-earth man you could meet.

    “He would have hated all this attention, not his style at all, but it’s great that fans not just from Rochdale but other clubs think he is worthy of this recognition. The world would be a much better place if there were more David Cloughs. We miss him dearly. He would have been 79 on Thursday.” His voice cracks a little as he says it.

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