Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.

Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.

Micky Mellon’s Tranmere are back in action on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Nottinghamshire where they will come up against Nigel Clough’s Mansfield.

Both side’s started the season with a defeat, thus they will both be desperate to win at least one of their first two games of the League Two season.

Rovers came up short against Stevenage, a Kane Hemmings second half strike not enough to salvage a point as Steve Evans’ side regained their lead late into the 90. Mansfield lost against Salford, at the Peninsula Stadium.

The big talking point for the travelling Super Whites will be whether they can get some luck with a back three that doesn’t include Tom Davies or new signing Jordan Turnbull. Mansfield Musings gave their thoughts on all things Stags.

Last season, Mansfield were defeated in the League Two Play-Off Final by Darrell Clarke’s Port Vale. How do you reflect on the 2021-22 campaign as a whole? 

A rollercoaster ride, a winless run of twelve games, a record breaking run of straight home wins, more than two points per game for 2/3rds of the season. Clough aimed for the top seven and delivered, despite falling at the final hurdle. We’re aiming for the automatic positions this time around, despite a losing start.

This summer, Nigel Clough has added two players on a free permanent basis in Hiram Boateng and Scott Flinders. Are you happy with the business that the Stags have done so far? Would you say that there are still some more positions to strengthen? If so, what positions would they be? 

Boateng and Christy Pym, our new first choice keeper, are an upgrade on last season. Riley Harbottle, a centre back on loan from Forest has looked good in preseason but is playing his first bit of EFL football. We need reinforcements in attacking areas for me, a bit of trickery or pace wouldn’t go amiss. In an ideal world you would probably like to see an experienced centre back too.

Clough was appointed manager two years ago. Is the future bright with him at the helm? What is his playing style? 

He has pretty much the universal trust of the fans. He has improved on the previous seasons league position in 21 out of 25 seasons he’s been a manager, so you have to trust the process, even if at times his tendency to squeeze players into the team outside of their best position can be frustrating.

Carolyn and John Radford are the club’s owners and Mansfield fans have had many positive things to say about them. What are some of the greatest things that they’ve done at the club and if you could change anything about them or what they’ve done so far, what would that be? 

They’re very generous owners that’s for sure, pumping in millions of their own money for so far very little reward on the pitch. The training ground we have is consistently labelled one of the best outside the top couple of divisions, players always rave about it when joining. They’ve already made the change I wanted to see a couple of years ago, by appointing a CEO in David Sharpe who has a background in football and can run the club on a daily basis whilst they’re out of the country.

Who would you say are your side’s key players and where will the key battles lie come Saturday afternoon at Field Mill? Touching on your side’s key players, which position do you view as a realistic goal for the Stags to finish in come next May? 

Stephen McLaughlin was last season’s player of the season, and I expect to see him in a wing back role on Saturday after he features on the left of a back three at Salford. The quality of his delivery is excellent. Rhys Oates is a constant danger with his explosive pace and power, combined with a willingness to shoot from anywhere. Hiram Boateng will look to pull the strings in midfield. As alluded to earlier, we have to ouch for the top three this season.

How do you see the upcoming game panning out? What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in mid-March, Elliott Nevitt came off the bench to score two goals that included the winner in the 95th minute. 

I believe Tranmere have a fair few injury doubts ahead of Saturday, which can’t be good after a poor start to the season last weekend. I think Mansfield will be favourites for this one and run out 2-1 winners.

If you have been keeping up with Rovers this summer, what are your thoughts on their business and how do you believe the Whites will do as they aim to play a back five with pacey full backs on a consistent basis? 

Not necessarily summer business but Kane Hemmings is as good a striker as you will get at league two level, he has goals in him and he’s a good link player as well. If we stick with our back five it will be interesting to see which team can execute it better.

Nigel Clough, son of recently promoted Nottingham Forest’s club legend Brian, has previously managed Burton Albion, Derby County and Sheffield United before being appointed Town manager in 2020. ‘He has pretty much the universal trust of the fans’. 

Stevenage F.C meeting the opposition.

Stevenage meeting the opposition. 

The League Two season commences this weekend, with Tranmere facing Stevenage at Prenton Park on Saturday July 30th. Last time round, when the two sides met on the Wirral Peninsula, Mellon’s side would take the three points after Kieron Morris netted in the 48th minute.

However, the visitors that day would win the game against Tranmere that followed and there has been a lot that has happened since. I caught up with Boro fan Reece Donnelly who gave me his thoughts on Stevenage’s summer and managerial change towards the end of last campaign.

Last season, Stevenage escaped relegation to the National League as they finished 21st, how do you reflect on that campaign as a whole?

A rollercoaster but ended with a shining light at the end of it. Steve Evans got a real grip on this team and club and made us hard to beat, won us games and after a season of struggle the fans identified with the team again. But let’s not mess about, we were lucky Scunthorpe, Barrow and Oldham were as bad as they were. 

We went into the season with so much hope and whilst there were flashes under Revell it was abundantly clear he wasn’t ready, Tisdale was second choice and was the disaster we expected. But whilst we had good players and some form of a team, with a properly experienced manager at the helm and a lucky escape, it felt time for a proper reset come the season’s end which we’ve now got. 

The squad had some good players last season, it could never just properly click and threaten at the level. Creating a split in-between the club and its Fanbase. It’s all looking up now though!

This pre season, The Boro have had a big player turnover, are you happy with the business that the club has done and what would you say is a realistic ambition for the new season?

Yes, extremely. Bringing in multiple different profiles to create a versatile side prepared for different games. Very impressed. Danny Rose and Jordan Roberts are there to compliment Norris Reid and List. Dean Campbell looks like a really technical midfielder and a smart acquisition. Kane Smith and Taye Ashby Hammond have been picked up as outstanding players in the division below. Those are just a few of them but what impresses me most is the different profiles mean we’re ready for however games may go. 

Steve Evans is Stevenage’s manager, what are the general thoughts from the fanbase of him and what would you say his desired playing style is?

I think as a guy who has been there and done it, I think it’s exactly what we need. He knows what it takes to win and the character needed to be the underdog success which is what we are. A lot of our success as a club was under Graham Westley and whilst there are clear differences, they feel quite similar which is what we can identify with as fans. 

What I would say the difference is whilst they can more than compete physically Evans does try to play short sharp direct football and looks to stamp authority on games.

Phil Wallace is the chairman of Boro, what would you say are the feelings of the way that the club is being run at this present moment?

I think there was concern over ambition before the Evans appointment but since we’ve had quotes from Evans and the actions since suggest whilst we live within our means, we do everything we can to succeed. After Gillingham I doubt Evans is joining a similar situation ever again. There is no doubt he wants the best for the club which means that this is a defining spell for Phil in his ownership.

Who would you say are Boro’s key players? Who do Tranmere need to look out for on Saturday afternoon?

It’s impossible to know given all our signings but league two winner last season Dan Sweeney will make a huge impact on us with his composure on the ball in the spine. Jake Reeves has been making things tick in midfield since his arrival and Elliot List and Luke Norris can be a threat to any side. Norris, which you found out in our last encounter. 

How do you see the upcoming game panning out? Your score prediction? I’m going with a narrow Tranmere win!

I think Stevenage are going to set up to be difficult to break down and I feel there is a fair amount of pressure and that might play into our hands a little. With a lot of the side able to counter effectively too I feel this game might be able to suit Stevenage but there’s no doubting the threat you offer. I’ll say 2-1 Stevenage but maybe that’s just that pre season optimism.

If you have been keeping up to date with Rovers this pre-season, what are your thoughts on their business? Micky Mellon has brought in players such as Reading full back Ethan Bristow and young centre backs as Rovers look to change their playing style to a back five.

I think there’s actually quite a bit of pressure on Tranmere this year due to the size of the club and I think with a touch of long term feel about what Tranmere want to do I don’t know how that might translate. You’ve lost a fair bit of know-how and whilst I like some of the players bought in, they need time and I’m not sure how they translate to how Mellon has liked to play. Intriguing.

Touching on Stevenage’s pre-season, as we did with question two, would you say there are any other areas that the club will look to strengthen as the transfer

window remains open for a little while?

We’re expecting business to be done. I’ll be quite surprised if a game changing winger/10 or a centre mid doesn’t come through the door. An inquiry from Ryan Broom was turned down but our squad looks to be superbly built. Only one way to see if it pays off now.

Why Tranmere’s Win Over Chelmsford City in 2017 Could Be a Glimpse into the Tactical Future.

Why Tranmere’s Win Over Chelmsford City in 2017 Could Be a Glimpse into the Tactical Future 

With Tranmere’s League Two season set to commence on July 30th with a home game against Stevenage, the club have seemingly decided to change its style of play and use a 5-3-2 formation as seen in the Pre-season friendly against Huddersfield Town. Rovers fan Chris Watson took a look at previous changes in formation.

To a lot of Tranmere fans the thought of Micky Mellon being described as tactically ingenious is somewhat far-fetched. He is usually viewed as, at worst, stubborn, or, at best, pragmatic depending on your point of view. While last season may have offered up a diet of largely tasteless fare, Mellon’s promise of ‘risky’ football for the coming season could be ambrosia to the Prenton Park faithful. Tranmere’s transfers over the summer have looked to fit into a very different system to that of the previous campaign, with young, dynamic players able to hold a high-line, press, and allow a more progressive, modern style of football to be played. It is this way of playing that could see Mellon come full circle tactically at Tranmere, with the return of the five at the back system that has been used exclusively throughout pre-season. 

During Mellon’s first season in charge of Tranmere, in 2016/17, he flitted between a flat 4-4-2 and a midfield diamond in his first few months at the helm. When he lost both of his wingers in quick succession, he opted for something more radical and switched to a 5-3-2. It was this formation that ultimately propelled Tranmere to 95 points and a play-off final at Wembley. And yet, upon reaching the final, Mellon was unable to play this shape due to a lengthy injury list. In actuality, the system was not used at all during the play-offs following Lee Vaughan’s broken leg in the penultimate league fixture of the season. With injuries and necessity seeing the 5 at the back system almost entirely abandoned by Mellon over the following seasons, save for an occasional outing, pragmatism took over. A very traditional 4-4-2 became the norm, which could morph into a 4-2-3-1 as the second striker withdrew into the number 10 role.  

Upon his return, Mellon built his team around a watertight defence. The first 7 games of the 2021/22 season saw no more than 1 goal scored, with Tranmere racking up 8 clean sheets in their first 12 league games. While this was seen as a virtue by outsiders, and indeed some insiders, it became clear that it was adversely impacting the side’s ability to score at the other end. Twelve of Tranmere’s 21 league wins were by a single goal, including all 5 victories picked up on the road. Summer 2022 looked to rectify this by recycling an old idea from Mellon’s playbook. 

If we rewind back to that 2016/17 season, and a seemingly innocuous FA Trophy replay at Chelmsford City’s Melbourne Stadium, we can see the first time that Mellon dallied with a 5 at the back formation. There were several caveats with this game; it was a largely irrelevant cup game, a slightly rotated XI was used, the opposition were from the division below. Even taking these factors into consideration, it was still a bold move, but the comfortable 4-1 victory, backed up with another resounding 5-1 victory in the same competition against Barrow using the aforementioned shape emboldened Mellon to unleash it in the league. 

Last season’s squad lacked the personnel to play in this formation, there being only 3 senior centre backs on the books for one, and players such as Peter Clarke were ill-suited to a high-line. Here, then, is an example of the necessity by which Mellon felt 4-4-2 was the only suitable formation to play, however January saw the beginning of a shift in thinking and transfer policy. 

Having signed Kane Hemmings during the winter transfer window the previous season, it was now about how to provide him with sufficient chances to be the 20 goal striker required of a team with aspirations of promotion. Mellon’s solution was to go back to his radical 5-3-2.  

Tranmere fans had seen first-hand how effective this formation could be, not least in the 9-0 evisceration of Solihull, but it was the home defeat to Forest Green Rovers in January 2022 that showed how dominant 5-3-2 could be against a flat 4-4-2. Winning 4-0 was evidence enough, but it was the way in which Forest Green continually cut through or stretched Tranmere’s two banks of four that made the home side look very dated and staid tactically. The memory of this painful defeat would act as a blueprint for the following season. 

In James Vaughan, erstwhile striker at Prenton Park and current Sporting Director focussing on recruitment, there is somebody at the club with a vision of how modern football should look, and the type of person that should be playing it. The profile of players being signed by Mellon is significantly younger than in previous years, with the potential to generate profit from future sales another positive to this approach. While foregoing experience may be another aspect of the risk that Mellon has talked about, it should allow for a contemporary, high energy brand of football to replace the caution of last season. 

By going full circle, and returning to the halcyon days of early Mellon of 2016/17, or ‘Mellonball’ as the current vernacular would term it, Tranmere could see exciting, front-foot football that contrasts sharply to last season’s offerings. A young squad may take time to fully assimilate the tactical demands placed on it, and to adjust to league football more broadly, but the long-term benefits should outweigh any initial growing pains. As the ever prescient Doc Brown said, ‘We need to go back to the future.’ 

Huddersfield Town F.C meeting the opposition.

Huddersfield Town meeting the opposition.

Huddersfield Town surprised many by going all the way to the Championship Play-Off Final last May, where they were beaten by Nottingham Forest. Since then, they have lost their manager and some key players such as defender Harry Toffolo. 

However, there is still reason to be positive as a fan of the Terriers. I spoke to Matt from the ‘Takes that chance’ podcast ahead of their second to last Preseason game before the League campaign gets underway.

Last season, Carlos Corberan guided Huddersfield Town to the Championship Play-Off Final where they would get beat against Nottingham Forest. What were your thoughts on last season, how special was it? 

Last season was a bit of an Icarus season. We flew close to the sun and whilst doing so it was a fantastic, exciting and exhilarating ride, but whenever we have a good season it always feels like it’s going to be boom or bust. Sadly, it’s now a bit bust as players are being sold in droves.

Following the Play-off final defeat, Corberan’s departure was announced and he was replaced by Danny Schofield. What were your thoughts on Corberan’s time at Huddersfield as well as your thoughts on this managerial change?  

Carlos had a bit of a rollercoaster with us, it started well but dipped to an incredible low of 3 wins in 23. Last season it escalated to high levels as did his popularity. It’s a real shame to lose a talented coach through what many perceive as a lack of board ambition (although that isn’t the full story) and there are a few worries that Danny Schofield doesn’t have enough experience, but he does have plenty of good will being a Huddersfield cult hero as a player.

What would you say is Schofield’s playing style? This may have only been seen in the Pre-Season games this summer despite him being at the club since 2020.

He was part of the Corberan coaching staff so I don’t think it will differ hugely from last season. In terms of shape, Schofield has preferred a 4231 in possession with a 442 out of possession to press high. It was a tactic deployed sparingly by Corberan so it’s not a huge departure.

Huddersfield Town is owned by Card Factory founder Dean Hoyle, what is the general feeling of him from the Terriers fanbase? Is the future looking promising with him at the club?

A little mixed. Dean was hugely popular when he sold the club in 2019. Since his return he’s been a little quiet with his intentions moving forward which has set tongues wagging and imaginations wandering towards a belief that he may be here to asset strip to take money back out of the club owed to him in loans. I’m sure he’ll come out and allay some fears soon.

Who would you say are Town’s key players? This summer they have signed attack-minded players in Millwall’s Connor Mahoney, Solihull’s Kyle Hudlin and AFC Wimbledon’s Jack Rudoni.

Sorba Thomas has fantastic set piece delivery, he will be our main focal point again. Duane Holmes makes a nuisance of himself in the final third and Danny Ward is a good hard working forward and if he can stay fit will spearhead our attack. Our key players though are in defence. Lee Nicholls is the current player of the year and the keeper is incredibly solid. Tom Lees was hugely influential at the heart of the defence.

How do you see the upcoming game panning out? What is your score prediction for the game on Saturday afternoon?

It’s a friendly innit. Plenty of running, plenty interchanges and not sure anyone will be bothered by the score. 1-1.

Tranmere Rovers and Huddersfield Town have faced each other on 48 occasions, have you got any memories from these fixtures? What are your favourite and worst memories, the best goals and moments etc? 

Yeah, Tranmere were an absolute pain in the backside for us when i first started watching Huddersfield. Games at Prenton Park tended to be on Friday nights and we used to take a tonking every time or so it felt. Worst memory is probably either 1999 or 2002. We lost both at PP naturally but in 99 we absolutely dominated the game before losing 1-0 somehow. 2002 our old player Kevin Gray scored against us. It was quite early in the season and it was quite obvious we were going to be pretty naff that season. We were worse than naff.

Best goals and moments probably involve Marcus Stewart and a good 3-0 in 98, he scored with a half volley, back to goal which was pretty special. My last visit was in 2010 when Lee Novak scored twice. 

If you have any, have you got any thoughts on Tranmere either as a club or the squad?

I enjoyed growing up with games against Tranmere and when you mention them I immediately remember John Aldridge, Kenny Irons and Joe Murphy and the scoreboard at Prenton Park flashing up as “Joe The Horse Murphy”. Not sure I want that one explaining… 😄.

Overall it’s a good club which is probably unfortunate to be so close to Liverpool and Everton as I imagine they draw a lot of the local support. I still remember the schoolboy army lot and whenever I was in the away end you’d be guaranteed to have about twenty 13 year olds to the left of you vigorously forking you throughout the game 😂. Good times.

Touching on Huddersfield’s transfer business this summer, are you happy with the players that have been recruited and would you say that there is any business left to do before the season starts on the 30th? What are the realistic goals for the upcoming campaign?

I think this is a year where we step back to hopefully go forward. We’ve got some talented players in the B team which we’ll look to bring through and have signed some good young players like David Kasumu and Jack Rudoni. We’ve lost some big players though, so I think mid table with an eye on attacking the future is fine.

SEAN ‘MASHER’ DODD – A TRIBUTE.

SEAN ‘MASHER’ DODD – A TRIBUTE. 

Since the late 1990s Birkenhead has been in steady decline, problems of mass unemployment as well as high rates of crime and poverty have ravaged this once great town. In recent years, there has not been a lot to smile about. However, one bright star in these dark years has been the boxing career of Sean ‘MASHER’ Dodd. 

By his own admission, Dodd was a Scallywag brought up on the local estates and much of his youth was spent fighting either on football pitches or in pubs and clubs. This started to change one Friday night at a local Boxing show, aged in his mid-20s the football playing loveable rogue was about to change his life inspired by the events of that night. Dodd walked in through the doors of Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club the very next Monday.

In Boxing terms. Dodd didn’t know his left from his right but he was fit, lean, strong, determined and a good blank canvas to work from. A very short time later, he would compete for the first time. Dodd only tasted defeat twice in his 19 contests as an amateur, winning two National Titles at two different weights along the way: Novice Class-A and Class-B at welterweight and Light-Welterweight respectively.

Whilst lacking natural flair and talent, his awkward style and his unorthodox approach made him a great fit for the professional game. So, in March 2012 Dodd would make his debut at Chester’s Northgate arena against Guiseppe Daprato. Hundreds of Masher’s friends, family and clubmates followed him in droves as he soon started to have a cult following. 

Dodd then won his first eight contests straight, with an eventual Central Area Super Featherweight title shot against Barnsley’s Andy Townend scheduled for May 2014. Hundreds of supporters from both side’s made for a powder-keg atmosphere and during the fight a riot between both sets of fans ensued, bringing the Doncaster Dome venue into chaos. After two re-starts to the fight and his concentration, Dodd lost to a seventh round TKO. 

Dodd then bounced back 10 months later with a points win against Liam Richards, 6 months after that Scott Cardle the reigning British Light-weight Champion withdrew from a title defence against Wales’ Gary Buckland. Dodd stepped in as a late replacement for the champion which was now built as a British title fight eliminator by Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, this would be Dodd’s first appearance live on Sky Sports. After a shock victory against the multi-titled Buckland, Dodd was now going to challenge Cardle for the British Lightweight title. On the 7th November 2015, Dodd boxed Cardle and was way ahead of him on the judge’s scorecards when he was controversially stopped in the very last round; the uproar was massive and referee Terry O’Connor was scrutinised and an immediate re-match was ordered. 

Five months later, the pair met again and Dodd had seemingly cruised to a comfortable win. However, after the result was announced – two judges had it even and one judge had Dodd winning by two rounds. Besides this, the decision was a technical draw allowing Cardle to retain his title. The sense of injustice was massive and the controversy is talked about to this day. 

However, any disappointment was short lived as in his very next fight Dodd boxed for the WBC International Lightweight title winning on points against Italy’s Pasquale Di Silvio on a hot May evening in the open air at Goodison Park. This was on the Tony Bellew world title winning show.

Following up from that victory, came a win against Francesco Patera who two fights later won the European title. More was yet to come, Masher added the Commonwealth Lightweight title to his WBC International as he beat Lee Appleyard widely on points. Dodd then went on to box at his beloved Tranmere Rovers, winning the International Masters Super Lightweight title against Antonio Horvatic. 

Next up was a hate-filled local derby against Liverpool’s Thomas Stalker, a former Great Britain amateur team captain and Olympian, Dodd silencing the Liverpudlian with a wide points win. Dodd then lost his Commonwealth crown to Hull’s Tommy Coyle then took Wales’ Joe Cordina to a 12 round points decision loss. Only last weekend, Cordina confirmed his potential by becoming the IBF Champion of the World. A surprising sixth round defeat to Jordan Ellison on points made it a hat-trick of defeats but two great wins against Ibrar Riyaz and another local derby against Scouser Tom Farrell had him back in the mix. 

A controversial three rounds points loss to Birmingham’s Cori Gibbs in the Sky Sports Boxxer Series was recently followed up by a two round defeat to the upcoming Harlem Eubank.

If we were to take a look back over Masher’s opponents, and achievements it becomes quite impressive: Two amatuer National Title’s at two different weights, a British Title controversially snatched from him, WBC International Champion, Commonwealth Champion, International Masters Champion, having boxed a European Champion and now IBF World Champion, an Olympian and with a record like a who’s who of domestic boxing star’s it would appear our local scallywag has achieved more than most can ever dream of. If you coupled this with the fact that Masher didn’t know the first thing about Boxing until his mid-20’s, I think you would agree that his achievements have been more than outstanding.

It is hoped with this vast experience that he will be able to pass down some of that knowledge on to the next generation at his gym – The Birkenhead Venture Boxing Club. Regardless of what this bright star decides to shine on next, a man of such calibre will never have to buy a pint in Birkenhead ever again.

Sean ‘MASHER’ Dodd – Thank you for the memories. 

Adam Siddorn: Kieran Nye Memorial Cup.

Adam Siddorn: Kieran Nye Memorial Cup.

On Sunday 29th May at 2pm, Wirral Radio will face a team of Tranmere Legends at Ashville FC to raise money for the Martin Gallier Project in the memory of former Wirral Radio player Kieran Nye. 

Organiser and Wirral Radio FC manager Adam Siddorn spoke ahead of the game, which is set to be a great day for everyone attending.

How much planning goes into the charity games that you organise? Who came up with the idea for it and has everything gone as smoothly as you would’ve liked?

It takes a hell of a lot of planning, we started planning this match just before Christmas. You’ve got to get your players signed up and organise other little bits such as the raffle prizes but this is our tenth year doing it. This year I’ve made sure we’ve got a very big squad, everything has gone how we would’ve planned, there are things around the pitch to keep people entertained across the course of the day and we’re now ready for the kick off.

The game has been named the Kieran Nye memorial cup, would you be able to tell me and others reading about Kieran?

Kieran was a Wirral Radio player and the last time we played a charity match was 2019 at Heswall, it was the last match we organised before the lockdown. The charity match came, it was a great game and great night but the next day I received a call that said he had committed suicide so that was a hell of a shock to the football team and many others. It was a very emotional time and we’d always wanted to do something that remembers him. 

We’re raising money for the Martin Gallier project in New Ferry, they’re a suicide prevention and mental healthy chatity. They offered us support and help when Kieran died, for that I’ll always be eternally grateful. The work they do is wonderful so it’s a no-brainer that everything we do on the day of the game is donated to them.

The interview, relating to mental health, that you did with Kane Hemmings on Tranmere’s official Youtube Channel was quite good and insightful I thought.

Kane’s a great talker and he’s been through difficulties in the past which he spoke about in the interview, the fact he can be so open will hopefully encourage others to do the same. I thought it was really important that he spoke to us.

Just touching on some of the ex-pro’s that will play in the game, who will they be and have some played in previous charity games that you’ve organised?

Yeah, we have some seasoned pros. Gareth Roberts has played in all of the games, Danny Holmes, Clint Hill played last time, Danny Harrison, Ged Brannan, Alex Hay, Alan Navarro. However, there will be some debut’s too: Steve McNulty, Anthony Kay, Abdoulaye Bell-Baggie and James Norwood. It’ll be superb to see Norwood back in a Rovers shirt and raising money for a great charity.

Would you be able to tell us what activities/things are there to do and see before and after the game for people to make a day of the occasion?

There’s all sorts on across the course of the day, the doors open from 1pm and there will be bars and stalls including a paintballing stall. The game kicks off at 2pm, there will be a crossbar challenge at half time and some signed balls will be able to be won in the raffle. Jordan Edwards has kindly donated his services and will be performing, the bar is open till late. It’s a full day, evening and night and everyone is welcome to come down.

Focusing on Wirral Radio, as the game is Wirral Radio v Tranmere Legends, how are they doing recently?

We’ve finished mid-table in Division One so we’re doing okay but you can’t compare us to the legends! I’m fully expecting the legends to put at least five or six past us! Some of the team are Tranmere fans though so it’ll be a great experience for them to come up against the players. It’s a huge huge occasion and they feel very proud to be able to represent Kieran.

Has Wirral Radio ever beat the Legends?

Never, never never won. However, we’ve scored four against them in all of the meetings so if we score a goal it’s game on!

How can people buy tickets for the game?

You can pay on the day, £5 adults £2 for Under-18s. There are links on the social’s, on Twitter and Facebook under Wirral Radio v TRFC Legends, too for people to buy tickets.

Oldham Athletic, meeting the opposition.

Oldham Athletic, meeting the opposition.

With two games left of their League Two season and a frustrated Micky Mellon giving his verdict on his team in press conferences, Rovers’ campaign has fizzled out with their away performances and results both being a great reason for their lack of success.

In terms of the away form rankings, in comparison to other teams that Tranmere share the fourth division with, Mellon’s team come 17th. However, their home form sees them placed second – Exeter City sit first – and up next is a game against Oldham Athletic as John Sheridan’s Oldham Athletic travel to Merseyside.

Given that Oldham’s fate has been sealed, they will be playing National League football come August, it’s hard to predict how the ninety minutes will pan out. Paddy Harwood gave me his thoughts on all things Latics ahead of the upcoming encounter. 

With only a couple of games to go until the season ends, Oldham Athletic’s fate has been confirmed as they will play in the National League next season. How would you assess the way this season has gone for the Latics and what would you say are the reasons behind the struggle? How low is the relegation to the National League in comparison to other low experiences you’ve felt following the club? 

The season has been an absolute disaster from start to finish. We began the season with a fella from Geordie Shore playing on his own up front and it has got worse from that point! The main reason behind the season of struggle is the owners. They took out an EFL loan last summer, which meant the club were under an embargo and could only sign players on one year deals and for 800 quid a week. The owners’ brother is our Sporting Director and is heavily involved in the recruitment of players and the recruitment of players, to put it mildly, has been dreadful. We have also gone through three managers this season, two of whom were absolutely rubbish (Curle and Benachour). The recent run of 10 defeats in 12 games hasn’t helped matters either, especially when Barrow and Stevenage started to pick up points. Being relegated to the National League is an all time low for the football club. All season, I have thought we would pull a couple of wins out and get clear of the drop zone. I think the penny finally dropped for me when Piergianni was sent off against Northampton. We lost the game, Barrow and Stevenage won and we were going to be without our captain for three games against the likes of Jamile Matt and Matt Smith. Come August, I’ll have had the “pleasure” of watching Oldham in the Premier League all the way down to the Conference.

John Sheridan was appointed manager in late January for his sixth stint in charge. How would you describe his time at the club so far this year and what is his relationship with the fanbase currently like? 

His time at the club hasn’t gone so well this time. We did have a mini run of 3 wins and 4 draws when he first came in but we have recently lost 10 games in 12 and he has not been able to turn it around like I thought he could. His relationship with the fanbase is still as good as ever – for anyone under the age of 30, he is probably the greatest legend they have seen at the club. He is just about to sign a deal to stay on as manager for next season too. I’m not convinced that he is the man to build a side to try and get out of the National League, but the board reckon it will appease fans and boost Season Ticket sales… I think they’re in for a shock!

It has been reported that Oldham owner Abdallah Lemsagam is willing to sell. Have there been any further developments on this in terms of preferred bidders and if Lemsagam is to stay, do you think he could ever repair his relationship with the club’s fanbase? 

One thing we have learnt over the last 4 years is to never believe a word that Abdallah Lemsagam says. They put out a statement on Monday to say that they are still talking to bidders, but all bidders have signed a non-disclosure agreement. The relationship between Abdallah/Mohamed and the fanbase is irreparable. He doesn’t like us and we certainly do not like him. If he is still at the club next season, you can expect gates of less than 1000 against the likes of Bromley and Solihull Moors!

Who would you say your side’s key players are? 

Davis Keillor-Dunn has scored a few goals this season, but he is largely rubbish. Dylan Bahamboula might fancy it if the sun is out, but he has been missing since August. The captain, Carl Piergianni, is out through suspension so if your lot have anything about them, they’ll be lumping it up to a front man to win everything in the air against our makeshift backline of (probably) Harrison McGahey, who is at least a stone overweight and Kyle Jameson, who we signed after being released from Fylde and is usually good value for either an own goal or giving a penalty away.

How do you see the upcoming ninety minutes panning out? What is your score prediction? 

Hopefully with a partisan away crowd letting the Oldham players know exactly what they think about the “performances” they have put in this season. Oldham will probably win now that the games are unimportant, which just about sums that shower up.

What is Sheridan’s preferred playing style and who do you believe will be selected in the starting eleven? 

It has been quite direct this season and been a case of getting balls into the box. The problem is that we get balls into the box but there is no striker there to head it into the net! Our lineup will probably be Danny Rogers, Jordan Clarke, McGahey, Jameson, Hart, Missilou, Whelan, Adams, Keillor-Dunn, Stobbs and Luamba. Although I’m sure most Latics fans would like to see Harry Vaughan in the side, he is a decent young player and has been linked with moves away but Sheridan has kept him out of the side whilst we were in the relegation scrap as he wanted to go with more experienced players.

What are your thoughts on Tranmere this season? At time of writing, they sit just outside the play-offs but they’d be much further up the table if their away form wasn’t as damaging. Who would you say Rovers’ key players are? 

The only player I’m really aware of at Tranmere these days is Peter Clarke, who will always be remembered fondly by Oldham fans. He was also one of the first people to be stitched up by our owner and his brother! Looks like you are probably going to miss out this season. 4 points is a lot to claw back with only two games remaining.

What moments/goals/experiences stand out for you in previous Tranmere v Oldham matches? 

We used to have quite a good rivalry with Tranmere in our League One days. I remember Clint Hill playing and scoring for us against Tranmere in 2002, although the one that stands out for me is a game at Prenton Park in 2007. Oldham won 1-0 with a Craig Davies header in the 96th minute. I used to love our rivalry with Ronnie Moore and he was always a good pantomime villain whenever we played each other, most notably in 2009 when Joe Royle returned as Oldham manager and you beat us 2-0. I think his son scored in that game.

Finally, touching on the January recruitment and the upcoming summer. Would you say any of the three winter signings have been relatively influential and what business would you like the club to look at completing in the upcoming months? 

We only made three winter signings anyway. One of them (Christopher Missilou) has been alright at best, Tope Obadeyi played well on his debut but has either been injured or rubbish since (including one of the worst individual performances I have ever seen against Northampton on Good Friday) and Mike Fondop came in, got concussed, returned in a game at Newport, scored twice and tore his calf. He’s never been seen since. As for the summer, it needs a complete overhaul. I would happily see every single player on our books released, not one of them are worth keeping. A priority for the National League is probably a big donkey to play up front and two bulldozing centre halves, a bit like you had with McNulty a couple of years ago. It is going to be an interesting summer to say the least.

Tranmere’s League Two season, in terms of the games they play at Prenton Park, comes to an end on Saturday afternoon and it’s not a campaign that many will look back on too fondly. However, fans do have a few glimmers of hope in the form of their exciting standout players with Elliott Nevitt and Lee O’Connor being two that have shone across the last year, namely.

Scott Froggatt, my time in Ghana.

Scott Froggatt – My Time In Ghana.

Last summer, travel company African Adventures announced that they had teamed up with Tranmere Rovers in the Community to offer its supporters a unique opportunity to volunteer in Ghana. That trip took place earlier this month and I spoke to Scott Froggatt about his time in West Africa, he came back with many great memories.

When you first heard about the opportunity to go over to Ghana, what were your initial thoughts and was it something that you were always interested in?

I’ve always wanted to go over to Africa, not Ghana specifically, because it’s one of those continents that not many people you are friends with have been to. The link with the club was also a good factor, the opportunity was being presented to me as a Tranmere supporter so it was pretty easy to say ‘yes’ to.

The people you went over with, what were they like and were they all Tranmere supporters?

Most of them were Rovers supporters and from when we signed up to the trip there was a few information evenings and time to get to know the group. Most of them were Tranmere supporters but if they weren’t they would be connected to the club in the form of their friend or family being a supporter so there was always something to talk about. There was an instant gelling when we went over to Ghana as we were all part of the same group.

How great would you say your time was over there? What activities did you do and what places did you see? Also, what was it like to meet the Ghanaian people?

The overall objective was to have a good impact in the area that we were based. The group we travelled over with were split up into three different schools and we met Burton Albion’s community trust who had also travelled over there. The school I went to was called Woe E.P Basic School and the two other groups were sent to schools in nearby villages. 

At the school, we painted and renovated the classrooms which helped the teachers and the Burton Albion group helped the construction team with their buildings. The first big event we did happened as soon as we landed in Accra and Idrissu, who many Tranmere supporters will know from social media, was waiting outside the airport for us in his Rovers shirt and scarf which was a nice touch. It was a little bit surreal to meet him. 

How good was it to see the Ghanian children that you did? There are a few great photos of them with Tranmere shirts on.

Again, it was surreal. They were crazy in terms of their enthusiasm and happiness, it was great to see. What we’d class as basic was met with so much enthusiasm there. For example, we’d kick a football around and they’d be going mad. There’s a video of me picking up a bean bag and the whole school was running after me. I’m sure the people who are going next year will experience the same thing and that is something that they should massively look forward to. When we left the school, we gave them mini eggs and it almost caused a riot with enthusiasm and that certainly wouldn’t happen in England. 

Is this trip something that you’d like to go on again?

Yeah, it is. They’re in the process of getting the information for next year’s trip together and it seems likely that we’ll be going back to the same villages to continue the great connections that we have with them. It’s important to maintain the partnership and aim to make it that bit stronger. 

When you were talking to Idrissu and others that live over there, did they mention any plans to come and experience life here?

They didn’t actually say, to be honest. We raised all the money for Idrissu to come over here and come to Prenton Park but then COVID hit and I’m not too sure what happened with that money. However, I’m sure he’d love to come to a Tranmere game one day. 

I spoke to the locals about it but it seemed like something that maybe wasn’t possible. 

Touching on the Tranmere painting that you and your group completed, how did that come about?

Yeah, that’s interesting as we wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t ask for us to do it as going over there was not about us but about helping to improve the child’s education. However, we were asked to paint it so that they could remember us in that way and the painting is testament to the work that we’ve done out there. The fact that they wanted us to put our name on their school was quite a big statement, I thought, and it shows the affection that we have for them and that they have for us. 

Stevenage F.C meeting the opposition.

Stevenage F.C meeting the opposition.

The season is now drawing to an end and as Tranmere have three games remaining, their sights and expectations have been set on a final Play-off spot. 

In order to get in the top seven, Micky Mellon’s side will need to have a good return from their final three games. They have two away from home where they have been poor this campaign and the first of the three fixtures sees them come up against Steve Evans’ Stevenage.

Boro sit 22nd in the League Two table and as they currently sit one place above the drop zone, where it seems Oldham Athletic will take 23rd, their fans seem relatively excited about the future with Evans in the dugout. To find more out about Stevenage, I spoke to supporter Reece Donnelly.

Stevenage are placed 22nd with a few games left of their 2021-22 campaign, with four points and a game in hand over Oldham who occupy the final relegation spot following Scunthorpe’s relegation. How would you assess Boro’s season?

A rough one! But it appears there is some light at the end of the tunnel now. It’s not impossible that we go down, but it feels like Evans has stabilised the ship enough and got us going enough to keep us up. We went into this season with such hope so to be in this situation is disappointing but with hard work ahead we just have to hope A. we do enough to stay up and B. Steve Evans can dramatically change the culture at the club.

Steve Evans is gaffer following his appointment in mid-March and has won two of his five games so far. What are your current thoughts on him and were you pleased with his appointment? The 59-year-old has two Football League promotions on his managerial CV.

Over the moon, and it feels a bit of a coup to be quite frank. If we got him when we attempted in November, we would probably be a lot safer than we are now. I think he is experienced, very much what you see is what you get with him and there is zero doubt he gets his teams working for him. So definitely bought certain expectations which drags everyone out of the pit it feels like we have been in the last few years.

Phil Wallace is the owner of Stevenage. What are your thoughts on him and are there any current plans for the club that have you excited for the future? 

Things need to change from how it has on the football side but off the pitch things couldn’t look more positive really. Our stadium is complete, our training ground is off the charts for the level and by all intents and purposes it now looks like we have a competitive budget. Just about getting decisions on the football side right which has never been PW’s strong suit. Rumours this year suggest a sale might be being considered.

Who would you say your side’s key players are?

Luke Norris when fit is horrible for any league two defence. Relentless, a good finisher and his hold up play is a huge asset to the side. Scott Cuthbert has been great under Evans and will be crucial in this battle, he knows the circuit and as captain he has a huge part to play. As everyone also knows if you can play to Elliot List’s strengths, then he is unstoppable.

How do you see the upcoming ninety minutes panning out? What is your score prediction?

I think both sides are desperate for the points, and it’ll be a nervy game, a physical game and not one for the football purists. If Tranmere turn up, it will be hard to cope with, but I feel Evans will let Tranmere have the ball and set up to stifle and then work off that. I’m not sure how comfortable Tranmere will be with that. I fancy a 1-1 which does more for you than us I feel

What is Evans’ preferred playing style and who do you believe will be in his starting eleven on Saturday afternoon?

Pym, Luther, Cuthbert, Vancooten, Coker, Bostwick, Read, Taylor, Reid, Norris, List

As I said above, we will have attacking intent with the ball but I don’t think we go into the game expecting or trying for lots of the ball. We will try to force chances from Norris’s hold up and Lists runs off the defender. Expect organised set pieces. Do not expect a proper footballing game/

What are your thoughts on Tranmere this season? They occupy the final play-off spot, there seems to be a battle with Mansfield going for seventh and come into the weekend on the back of a 2-0 home victory against Exeter City. 

Tranmere is a weird one this year. Feels like there’s no real consistency level there and despite their position feels a bit like they are underachieving. However, Mellon is an excellent manager and there are some great players for the level there. What Tranmere always have at this level is the ability to grind results and that’s a real asset.

What moments/goals/experiences stand out for you in previous Tranmere v Stevenage games?

Very little! Our great victory against you of course was when no fans was in the ground! That was a great moment over you really. It’s usually been hell against you. I remember Adebayo coming on for his debut, getting our third sending off of that match, us calling him a donkey and now he’s smashing it in the championship!

Finally, touching on the January transfer window and this summer’s recruitment, how influential do you believe the club’s winter signings have been and what business would you like to see be completed in the upcoming months?

January business has been below average at best. The Bostwick signing (despite drawbacks) and the Pym signings are the only ones you can walk away saying good enough business. Big change no matter what happens you feel in the summer at the club.

The Lamex stadium hosts this weekend’s encounter between Stevenage and Tranmere. Rovers have drawn on their last three occasions here, dating back to April 2015. 

Exeter City meeting the opposition.

Exeter City meeting the opposition.

Following their away draw at Bradford City, Tranmere are back in League Two action this Easter Monday as Exeter City travel to Prenton Park for what promises to be a really entertaining encounter between two promotion contenders.

Although Rovers’ form away from home is massively below the standards that they expect from themselves, their home form is the best in the fourth division which is why supporters are left scratching their heads as to why their placed ninth in the table.

Ahead of the game against Exeter, I spoke to City supporter Jamie Dyer who gave his thoughts on how the Grecian’s 2021-22 campaign has panned out. He also gives his relatively strong opinion of Micky Mellon’s side. 

Promotion seems a real possibility for Exeter City with the club sat 2nd in the League Two table. What were your expectations going into the season and how would you reflect back on them now? Have they been exceeded?

They certainly have been exceeded. 

Many fans were thinking mid table at best due to what seemed like an underwhelming summer which wasn’t helped by key departures with Joel Randall Williams and Jake Taylor all leaving along with the constant promises of “marquee signings”.  Having said that they were delivered but were just not who or how we expected it to pan out but we were proved very wrong particularly with Tim Dieng and Jevani Brown who most fans were very sceptical of given their track record  but they’ve been influential and I’ll go into more detail later on about them. 

If you told me that we would have been second with six games to go  in the summer I would laugh in your face but snap your hands off at the same time .

Matt Taylor has been manager of City for coming up to four years now, following his appointment in 2018. What would you say the current supporters’ view of him is?

Matt was seen as the sensible but safe option by many but given his good work  at under 23 level and cult status at the club due to his playing days where he won back to back promotions alongside Tisdale thus it was largely well received. However, the thing that impressed most during the early years he managed to build on the foundations that Tisdale left and the football was entertaining which is even better lately with the players we have at our disposal this year and his honest pre and post match interviews are a breath of fresh air. 

However, questions have been raised over his future on at least two occasions as a section of fans wanted him gone after yet another 9th place finish along with a unnamed league 1 side coming in for his services but one key  thing this year though is he’s  finally cultivated a side in his image which has so far been a success. 

In short, its been a wild ride and with Matt at the helm with the Chorley native seemingly taking the club on the upward trajectory long may it continue. 

Who is the owner of the Grecians and what are your thoughts on them? 

Our trust ownership since 2003 has been well documented  and it’s gone from strength to strength with each passing year. We’re very proud of it. It’s a model that makes the club unique and it’s how football should be giving the fans the key decision. It enabled us to do just that voting on matters like  the new training  ground being built, ground developments and it allowed the club to remain stable but also progress.

Who would you say your side’s key players are?

I touched upon this a bit earlier, Tim and Jev (Jevani Brown) have been instrumental to our success this season as has skipper Matt Jay with all three making us tick. Jevani and Tim create chances at will with very silky footwork composure and most importantly an eye for goal.

The backline has been ridiculous since Sam Stubbs has shown why we gambled on him last January despite him not making an appearance until November last year. His partnership with Pierce Sweeny is a big part of why we’ve been unbeaten in 8 and haven’t lost since early March. The 23 year old is calm on the ball and is commanding in the air. I’ve lost count of how many points we’ve won from our defensive displays.

How do you see the upcoming ninety minutes panning out? What is your score prediction?

Tramere have always enjoyed  playing  us particularly at home  having not won  at Prenton Park for 7 years  and have some good players for  this level. Jay Spearing and  Kane Hemmings to name a couple. Outside looking in, I think you’ve played some good stuff and are deservedly pushing for a playoff  place but just lack confidence and consistency at the moment. 

However, City like I mentioned earlier haven’t lost since January (at the time of writing anyway). We’ve been a joy to watch this season going forward, especially with the link up between Jay Jevani and Tim. Also, we’ve kept 16 clean sheets mostly coming away from home which tells you all you need to know but given our record on the Wirral I’ll take a point and say 1-1.

What is Taylor’s preferred playing style?

We take care of the ball, often creating through the flanks with our wing backs usually causing havoc which allows the top 2 and creative midfielders to exploit the extra space. We generally play 3-5-2 but Taylor is not afraid to tinker with it based on in game situations and opposition. 

What are your thoughts on Tranmere this season? They’re currently ninth in the table following a run of two wins in eleven games when a promotion place once seemed very achievable.

I touched upon this briefly already, the SWA are a big club in the lower echelons of the EFL and have fantastic support and I’m sure many Rovers fans will be disappointed about how this season has petered out.  I’ve been impressed with them for the majority of the season with Clarke, Glatzel and Nevitt all getting good starts  but too inconsistently particularly on the goal scoring front and the amount of late goals you’ve been conceding must be damaging in terms of confidence.  

Mellon is an experienced manager, a club legend if you will, he sets his teams up well and plays decent football. However, having said that I think you need a change whether that be higher or just Mellon but something needs to be done to address this slide  and quite frankly it’s not good enough for a club of your size especially with League Two being as poor as it is this year.

As far as I’m concerned the playoffs are  very much gone for the SWA especially with sides in better form above and below. 

What moments/goals/experiences stand out for you in previous Tranmere v Exeter fixtures?

Only one springs to mind really and that’s the 5-0 thrashing last year.

Finally, touching on the January transfer window, how influential do you believe your incomings and outgoings have been and what do you believe the club will have to do to strengthen themselves in the summer?

January was a nightmare. We brought in Offrande Zanzala on loan who has been hit and miss but has aspects of his game I like but then he was out injured for a while so we  had to get another striker in kerian Philips who we haven’t seen much of him though. 

The summer promises to be busy  especially if we get promoted but it will mainly be  trying to keep hold of talent like Josh Key and keeping a good core squad together but the main aim is to convince Cameron Dawson to stay. He’s been superb.  The shot stopper has won us numerous points alone and is far too good for league 2 but all this rests on Sheffield Wednesday’s season. 

Considering how strong we are financially, I’m looking forward to it .

Prenton Park is the venue for Monday afternoon’s encounter between Tranmere Rovers and Exeter City.