Hill taking Rochdale to new heights
The word "Hillcroft" evokes images of a thatched cottage overlooking a quaint patchwork quilt of radiant English countryside.
In Rochdale, it is an affectionate term used by supporters of the town's football team to describe manager Keith Hill and assistant David Flitcroft - Spotland's very own Brangelina, though Dale fans will no doubt hope rumours that the Hollywood couple are about to split are not a portent for a parting of the ways in their own backyard.
A cursory glance of the League Two table reveals why Hill and Flitcroft and viewed as the darlings of The Dale.
Currently nine points clear at the top and a healthy 13 points above Rotherham in fourth place, the club, who have spent the last 35 years in the basement division, are on the verge of claiming only the second promotion in their 102-year history.
"Promotion would lift the monkey off the back of our supporters," said Hill. "They have been ridiculed for a long time as fans of the least successful team in English professional football."
However, the former Rochdale defender, who made more than 150 appearances for the club, is not taking anything for granted. "There are no givens at this moment in time," he insisted.
Flitcroft (left) and Hill are known as Hillcroft by the Rochdale fans
The story of Rochdale 's resurgence can be traced back to the day Hill took over as caretaker manager shortly before Christmas in 2006.
The team were 22nd in the table at the time and in danger of relegation. By the end of the season, they had risen to eighth.
Since then, they have reached the play-offs twice, losing to Stockport in their first Wembley appearance in 2008 and at the semi-final stage last season.
Now they are closing in on automatic promotion. Rochdale are clearly no one-season wonder.
Speaking to Hill, you quickly realise that what is happening at Spotland is part of a plan that has been in force since the day he arrived - and one which has hauled the unfashionable club into the modern era of professional football.
The renaissance is also a wonderful example of how a limited budget and modest surroundings should not impact upon a club's ambition.
Hill maintains that he has always planned for the long-term - for the season beyond and the division above - but he respects the fact that a manager must be continually successful in the short-term if he is to last long enough to see the job through.
The 40-year-old, in his first management role, has introduced a new way of thinking at Spotland. Diet is closely monitored, the players wear heart monitors during training while video analysis is used to prepare for every match. In short, sports science is embraced not shunned.
"Financial requirements do limit us somewhat but these types of things can be used at this level," he said. "You won't find us running around tracks or on roads - everything we do is football specific."
When Hill looks around the changing room at Rochdale, he sees a young group of players keen to learn and improve. But he insists he is not afraid to jettison anyone who is not "flying in the same direction". Just ask Clark Keltie, who was released by mutual consent before Christmas.
The environment Hill has created is designed to allow players to think for themselves and flourish - provided they remain within set boundaries of behaviour and styles of play.
"Within those, the players have the flexibility to make decisions. If they are wrong, then we - the coaching staff - offer guidance. If they are right, then we encourage," said Bolton-born Hill.
The relationship between coaching staff and squad is something that matters to Hill - he talks about the intimacy he has with his players and the importance of trust - and claims he has lost count of the amount of personal problems he has sorted out for his players over the last three years.
Hill and Flitcroft have learned a lot from their own experiences as players - often negative ones that they wish to avoid repeating. Hill recalls managers who showed no interest in him as a person or a player and the effect such snubs had on his performance.
As a result, the door is always open to his office, although he is insistent that everybody respects the very definite line that exists between players and management. There is a "switch-on time" for players, and Hill, who is hoping to complete his Pro Licence in the summer, says training sessions are no place for laughing and joking.
Developing young talent is crucial to Hill, but he is realistic enough to acknowledge that the longevity of a manager's career is often determined by the quality of his recruitment. He recently pulled off a coup by signing striker Chris O'Grady on a permanent deal from Oldham after a successful loan spell at the club.
Rochdale were second in the table at the end of last Feburary but ran out of steam. This season there is no evidence to suggest that there will be a repeat performance.
Boss Hill has a huge amount of respect for Ian Brown
However, the spate of recent postponements mean that Dale's remaining 20 games will be compacted into a relatively short three-month period, regularly featuring games on both Tuesday and Saturday.
It other words, 'Juicy' by the late Notorious B.I.G is likely to get a lot of airings. It is the current signature tune that the squad listen to before they take to the field.
It isn't really Hill's kind of music. He much prefers former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown and has great respect both for his songwriting and the way he reinvented himself as a solo artist.
"He is an exception to the rule and in my eyes similar to the way in which David Bowie has repeatedly reinvented himself," said the Dale boss, who did a little bit of DJing in the early days of his management career.
But if Manchester United fan Brown is a solo operator, Hill is currently all about team building. His big fear is that the financial restrictions will eventually halt the undoubted progress the team have made since he took over. Players such as Glenn Murray, David Perkins and Adam Le Fondre have been sold to clubs that can afford higher wages.
"There are constant battles, fire-fighting every day and when we have sold players it is sometimes hard to digest," said Hill.
Rochdale's solitary promotion was clinched after a 3-0 win over Southend on 10 May 1969, seven days before Hill was born. Relegation followed in 1974.
And right now I imagine that Dale fans are happy to cast to one side any long-term fears and focus on savouring the prospect of a team heading for promotion for the first time since John, Paul, George and Ringo were still together.