And though they parted ways for a second time last year, the former Dale boss’ name will forever be, in some part, linked to the club where he took his first steps into football management.
It is 13 years since he took the wheel at Spotland, and Hill created success that many Dale fans had never seen, and barely dreamed of.
But, now he is set to return as manager of his hometown club, Hill says he is unsure of the reception he will get from the fans who saw two promotions under his watch.
“I’ve no idea what kind of reception I’ll get, and I’m not bothered in the slightest, to be honest,” he said.
“As long as I’m fighting with honest people who are like-minded it doesn’t matter how a set of supporters react to me.
“My supporters will be in that stadium, the Bolton Wanderers supporters will be in that stadium supporting that side, a few thousand of them.
“Do I have a good history with Rochdale supporters, do I have a good relationship with them? I was there 10 years as the manager, I’ve got to have because of the successes, but I was only there because I was successful, not because they liked me. They liked me because I was successful, it’s as simple as that.
“You try to put things like the past to the back of your head but you can’t forget the successes, the continuity and the continuous success in fighting all the odds going against the tradition of always being in League Two, potentially fighting against getting relegated to non-league to be where they are now and there is a massive footballing success at that football club, financially and footballing, developing players, so you can’t forget that.
“But for this day in isolation we’re enemies, there’s no question about that. I’ve had fights with my best friends, proper bloody fights and after a couple of days we’ve become friends again, that’s if you’re real soulmates. So it’s a fight for three points, we want those three points. In the last 16 games they’ve got 15 points, we’ve got 18 from 16 games.”
In the home dugout today will be the man who succeeded Hill, Brian Barry-Murphy.
The Irishman played in Hill’s midfield and after being appointed caretaker-manager in the wake of Hill’s sacking Barry-Murphy was awarded a two-year deal in April.
But now his former charge is looking to make Wanderers’ chances of staying in League One that bit slimmer. So does Hill extend the ‘enemy’ tag to his ex-player?
“I wouldn’t mind smashing Brian on his nose because he’s so good-looking, he’s definitely a better-looking manager than me,” he admits. “But it depends how you want to quantify success, how you want to make the stats figure, but the fact of the matter is they’re five points worse off than they were last season.
“I’m pretty good at maths and I know what my record was over virtually 600 league games at the club. So have things changed for the better?”
Hill remains, however, positive about Dale’s ‘cloth-cutting’ business model.
Where Wanderers flew worryingly close to going out of business, and their nearest rivals Bury were expelled by the EFL, the Spotland purse-strings have always been tightly pulled.
And the Bolton boss feels there is an example at his former club that many could look to in order to avoid financial meltdown.
“I think clubs have got to learn from Rochdale, that’s where we’re at now,” he told The Bolton News.
“I can’t reveal too much but the owners here have been magnificent. This is a big football club and there’s more than a one-game plan.
“There has to be a plan and there’s a big plan on recruitment at this club and a big plan for the future of the football club and it is to cut your cloth accordingly, to have a layering system of success from within and to build your own assets and be self-sufficient.
“The rest of the football world has to do that.”