Stevenage F.C meeting the opposition.

Stevenage meeting the opposition.

Tranmere Rovers come into this weekend, for the first time in a while, on the back of a midweek win at Prenton Park. They’re currently positioned tenth in the table and will look to add to their league standings when they face Stevenage this Saturday.

Ahead of the game I spoke to ‘Boro’ supporter Matt Farley who went into depth about a range of subjects relating to the club who are now managed by an interim coach, his experiences with the club, his thoughts on the hosts and much more!

How long have you been a Stevenage supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I have been supporting Boro for just shy of 20 years. It first started when my dad wanted me to watch a better standard of football when I was a kid, so we started going to Stevenage. Ever since that point myself and my dad have become die hard supporters travelling home and away every single week of every season. 

Some of the greatest and worst footballing experiences throughout this time?

Wow, what a question. We’ve had so many for both. I’ll start with the great times first. Obviously all of us Boro fans would have to say the years where we were promoted to the EFL. A lifelong goal at the club finally achieved after years of heartache, that day at Kidderminster will never be forgotten. Also a year later getting promoted at Old Trafford to League One was incredible! I’d also throw in all the magical FA Cup ties we’ve had at the club and over the past 6 years we have celebrated some great wins. However, I’d say our darkest memory was 2 years ago thinking we’d been relegated from the EFL, what a tough season that was. But, we were kept up, so all in all a positive to finish with! 

Random fact about the club/ the area?

There are so many interesting facts about the club that date back into time, the old school Boro fans will remember the times of a trench being built on the pitch when the club was previously known as something else. However, I like the fact that we were the first ever club to lift a trophy at the new Wembley stadium! 

How would you describe Stevenage’s campaign so far, how does this start compare to last season’s and what are your hopes and expectations for the months ahead?

This season has been one hell of a rollercoaster. We came into this season on the back of some excellent football last season, finishing just shy off the play offs. We recruited what seems like a promotion team in the summer and unfortunately it hasn’t gone our way. Although we sit 12th in the home form table, our away form has been dreadful as we sit in the bottom four. A culmination of poor football, results and sitting 21st meant we parted ways with Alex Revell and Dean Wilkins. A tough call because both are really top men, but it was the right decision. Since then we’ve started to win games and we’re currently unbeaten in 3 competitive matches earning our first point away on Tuesday in 2 months. With a new manager coming in, things are starting to look greener. 

Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by the visiting interim manager following the dismissal of Alex Revell?

For us it’s Elliot List 100%! Our top goal scorer and really without him we’d be in big trouble. Listy has got the ability to score at any moment in the game because of his pace and normally finds himself clean through in pretty much every game we play. For your side I’d say players like Spearing stick out because of their experience and I can see you’ve got the best defence in the league, so I’m sure you’ll be tough to score against! Robbie has done brilliantly since taking over, he’s steadied the ship and I think he will play pretty much the same team as he has done previously. 

Revell spent just over a year and a half in the dugout, how would you describe his time at the club in this role and do you believe it was time to part ways?

Revs is a top man. I had the pleasure of speaking to Revs privately on many occasions and he is one of the nicest guys in football. He cared and loved the club, but possibly that lack of experience took its toll in the end. Unfortunately he did have to go. However, I will say this about Revs, he did brilliantly in his time. He turned the ship last season when not many managers would’ve turned the ship and he has put together a fantastic group this season. He will go on to succeed in football and I’m so routing for him that he does. Lovely bloke. 

Thinking of the club’s ownership decisions, who are Stevenage’s owners and what are the general feeling of them from fans? Are there any current exciting off pitch plans?

Phil Wallace our chairman controls the on going’s at the football club currently. There has been talk recently of a takeover from an American Consortium. Which I think would be a really positive move for the club to bridge the gap to possibly growing. The club does ever so well with things off the pitch. Sponsorship, Community work, Caring for the vulnerable and Elderly. I’m so proud of the club and how hard we work to make a difference. 

Finishing our conversation off, your score prediction for the weekend’s game at Prenton Park?

Anyone that knows me knows I’m the most POSITIVE Boro fan there is haha!! I’m going for a 1-0 win and our first away win in the league since August! BUT, I’d bite your hand off for a point.

Thank you for your time!

No worries!

Sutton United meeting the opposition.

Sutton United – meeting the opposition.

After two wins in separate cup competitions, Tranmere are back in League Two action this weekend as they face Sutton United at Prenton Park. 

Sutton were promoted to the Football League this summer and have started the campaign fairly well, their promotion making for a few interesting cases with the ground having to be brought up to EFL standards. 

To hear more about the visitors on and off pitch situations, I spoke to ‘@Gandermonium’ who also gave their thoughts on how the game may pan out.

How long have you been a Sutton United supporter and when did you first come across the club? 

My first game was in ’83 at home to Hitchin. Folks were dead set against me going to the bigger stuff due to the climate on the terraces at the time, so my godfather took me round all the local non-league outfits instead to get me out of the house. We were proper Jonahs too as all the sides we went to lost over the several games we saw and the visit to Sutton was I think the first time we’d seen the home team score, let alone win, so we tended to stick with them after that! The fact they had a bloody good side at the time and I then had friends from school who started going after that helped. It was dead easy to get on the bus from home and that kept me involved as my god father didn’t have to take me all the time. 

Some of your greatest and worst experiences throughout this time? 

When you watch a club home and away as long as I’ve been able to, there just becomes too many to mention to be honest! Plus your favourites tend to change with your mood or how things are at the time. Obviously the Cup runs will always stand out, with the away 3rd Round replay at Middlesboro in ’88 a real “I was there” classic in particular. But I’ll never forget the insanity of the last 15 minutes at Wimbledon during the Arsenal run. Proper “if you could bottle it” stuff that was. Winning the NLS 5 years ago with a ridiculous unbeaten run to reel in Ebbsfleet was special and last season winning the National League was also a huge moment obviously, but as we only got to see 3 games in person thanks to Covid, including the clincher at home to Hartlepool thankfully!, it all felt a little bit unreal and a touch removed from a normal season where we’d have seen most games home and away. As for the bad, same again, where do you start? There’s a couple of bad FA Cup defeats in there obviously, home to Alton about 10 years ago being the worst for me personally I think. We won the Isthmian League that year and were in good form, still not sure how we managed to make such a mess of that one. Lowest point probably was the 2007/2008 season though, we were just utterly dire that year barring a couple of little sparks. 5 league wins in total and 3 managers when we’d had that many in about 25 years previously! Just miserable all round really. Definitely the worst ever season I’ve witnessed. 

Focusing on your podcast ‘Gandermonium’, could you tell us a little bit about that in terms of the content you produce and how long it has been running? 

A pod-what? Sorry, we’re old school, we only do the written word still round here fella! People have admittedly been telling us we should do a podcast for this season, but circumstances at the moment mean the writing takes enough time as it is and trying to get some of the rest of our lot involved would be just asking for trouble, mostly in a legal sense! Thankfully one of the other GGL regulars Mike has got one going in the last few weeks, so if you’re into sounds and talking, he’s your man (@suttonpod on twitter). Want something to read on your phone whilst on the bog however? That’s our department! Gandermonium initially started in ’98 with a basic site doing mostly unofficial match reports and then evolved more into the days out silliness we got up to watching alongside the football and ran through to until ’08 when I’d had enough as we’d been crap for several years and it was largely just me writing. Of course, we turned good again immediately after this! We restarted the site late in 2012 after a couple of the guys persuaded me to resurrect it as more an awayday\drinking\stupidity publication with a smattering of football chucked in and we’ve not looked back or missed a game since then, should be over 600 now I think? We’ve come close to breaking the run the last couple of years, but we’re still hanging in there! 

Random fact about the club / the area?

For the club, Malcolm Allison and Jimmy Hill both cut their teeth as young coaches at the club in their early days. That and we share our unique colours with Highland League Forres Mechanics. Up the Can Cans! As for the town. Well, it’s largely dull commutersville suburbia around here, so that’s a bit of an ask. Penelope Keith was born here (actress, ask your parents kids!) and Sutton is the site for the very first ‘All Bar One’ in the UK (you’re   welcome!) and also the town featured heavily in a good few episodes of an apparently briefly popular online ‘adult activities’ production known as ‘Fake Taxi’. If you’re into your fact checking, we’d definitely advise not Googling that last one and just take our word for it, alright? 

Saturday brings the 16th matchday of the season for both sides. How would you say that United have started the campaign in comparison with your aims at the start of the season? What are your aims going forwards? 

Slow start points wise, but the performances deserved better overall. But once we got our first win, we were fine and had a good little burst of form to fire us up the table. Couple of injuries lately has meant we’re back to bobbing along a bit again, but once we get some bodies back, we should be fine. As for goals, we were all hoping just to stay up this season, but if we keep going as we are, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. Going forwards, we just want to stay in the division as long as we can. The more time we spend here, the better we’ll adjust and catch up in certain areas off the pitch as we’re still largely reliant on volunteers in a lot of aspects. The ground also still needs work to get us properly up to FL level. 

Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by Sutton manager, Matt Gray? 

Embarrassed to say I don’t know much about Tranmere’s squad at all. Clearly not bad at the back though given how few you’ve let in, so that’ll make for an interesting afternoon. From our side, David Ajiboye usually catches the eye and Issac Olaofe too. Both quick, direct players. Ben Goodliffe at Centre back has been superb this season too. Matt’s approach? Same as all the others. Be hard to beat, compete and stay in the game for the whole 90 minutes. It’s worked fairly well so far! 

Thinking of the visitor’s ownership, who are Sutton United’s owners and what are the general feelings of them from fans? Are there any current exciting off the pitch plans? 

We don’t have out & out owners like you guys, it’s a mixed bag of shareholders and a traditional board of directors type setup still for us. The majority are long standing U’s fans however and given the recent success\elevation there’s lots of goodwill and feeling towards everyone at the top at GGL. Off the pitch, we do have plans in place apparently to redevelop the Rec side of the ground (we still need 1000 more seats for full FL grade) which is dependent on us staying up this season. The academy is stepping up to the new status and there’s other developments at GGL in hand. Will be interesting to see how everything pans out. 

Finishing our conversation off, what is your score prediction for Saturday’s game at Prenton Park? 

I hate these as I rarely get them right. Both sides are pretty solid at the back, so 0-0 or a 1-1 perhaps? Probably be an 8 goal thriller now, just to make me look daft…

Matt Gray has been manager of Sutton United since 2019. His game plan which is to ‘be hard to beat, compete and stay in the game for 90 minutes’ has worked ‘fairly well’ so far.

Oldham Athletic meeting the opposition.

Oldham Athletic meeting the opposition.

Tranmere’s final Papa John’s Trophy group game comes this Tuesday night as they face Oldham Athletic, a team who knocked them out of the EFL Cup, at Prenton Park.

This competition has had its fair share of criticism recently, with the introduction of Premier League academies into what was a tournament solely for Football League clubs. Thus, I thought it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of an Oldham supporter on the competition amongst other subjects relevant to the match.

I spoke to ‘The Boundary Park Alert System Podcast’ for the latest meeting the opposition feature.

Just to start the conversation off, when did you become an Oldham Athletic supporter and how did that come about? Also, could you tell us a bit about the content that you produce on the ‘BPAS podcast’?

I started visiting BP in the mid to late 80s. We often went with school and my dad used to take us to games. We were just getting good under Joe Royle at the time and once the ‘89-90 came around and the big cups wins, the Littlewoods Final & the FA Cup semi, I was hooked.

I started ‘BPAS’ in Dublin last September, during lockdown and before I moved back to Oldham this summer. I wanted to produce something that addressed the serious plight OAFC are in now and have been in for a number of years. I wasn’t getting that information through any other outlet and it frustrated me, so I figured others felt the same. OUr pod is out every Monday at 7am and covers the games and all the news about the club, protests and off-field issues. There’s never a dull moment. 

Strictly relating to this competition, what are the greatest and worst footballing moments that you’ve experienced with Oldham in the time you’ve followed them?

Having been in Dublin for 10 years and due to the fact that Oldham are just as bad in this as any other, it’s hard to recall much of anything other than mediocrity in this competition! The first thing that springs to mind, however, is when we made the Northern Semi Final against Chesterfield in 2013/14. We Went out on pens but their keeper Tommy Lee was virtually unbeatable in the match, he saved everything! It’s one of those competitions that fans are really disengaged from but that a trip to Wembley and a bit of success in, might just be the catalyst that a club like Oldham needs.

What are your thoughts going into Tuesday’s game? Do you believe that both teams have the quality needed to get the win in the last group stage matchday? 

At this level, anyone can beat anyone. Oldham have already knocked Tranmere out of the EFL Cup this year on pens, but a look at the table suggests that Tranmere are definitely the superior side. Oldham really struggle up front and are always likely to concede. I think if Tranmere put out a strong team, they will win. Oldham don’t have a big enough squad to rest key men, so if Tranmere rest players, I can see Oldham winning. 

The Papa John’s Trophy has changed over time, with Premier League academies coming up against senior sides. What are your thoughts on the current format and is the game at Prenton Park one that you’re greatly wanting to win? 

I’m not in favour of the PL sides entering this competition as I think it devalues it even further. I’d rather see a reserve league back and have North West sides competing at that level again. As for this game; Oldham are in serious danger of relegation this year, so staying up is the number one priority, bar none. Winning or losing this game means nothing in that context but having said that, it’s always nice to beat Tranmere! I’d rather save it for the league though, given a choice.

Finishing our conversation off, what are the off pitch struggles currently looking like at Oldham Athletic given the unrest between the fans and the ownership?

Stalemate, unfortunately. The club have failed to deliver on a number of promises they made in an open letter to fans in September, but that’s no surprise. They only responded to fans because of the increased national media coverage and never intended to deliver. Fans are working hard together behind the scenes to figure out a strategy for the club going forward and to attract new investment. This project has failed and 98% of fans want the current owners to leave, so it’s time to go. Attendances are way down and there’s more protest action planned. Things at BP are grim but we’re working hard and won’t give up.

The unrest between Oldham Athletic supporters and the club’s owner has reached a ‘stalemate’.

Crawley Town meeting the opposition.

Crawley Town F.C meeting the opposition.

Tranmere’s FA Cup journey begins this Weekend as they face Crawley Town in the first round away from home. The two sides are both struggling for form, Town failing to win their last four league games whereas Rovers have struggled to get a point from their last two. 

Ahead of the Cup encounter, I spoke to Crawley fan Stephen Dimmock who gave his thoughts on the way the hosts have started their league season amongst the many more subjects that we touched on. 

How long have you been a Crawley Town supporter and when did you first come across the club?

I went to my first Crawley game back in 2007 and have been a fan since, although I got a lot more into the club around 2017 as my dad and I started to make more of an effort to go, even though I was at uni at the time. Nowadays though I worry about my obsession for the team, as I’ve got a season ticket and also have started going to other club events which have been very nice.

What are your best and worst experiences of the FA Cup throughout your time supporting them?

I’d personally say the best experience for me in the FA Cup was the Leeds United win last season, as despite not being able to attend for obvious reasons, it was just such a great moment and was exactly the kind of thing I needed considering how bad things were with Covid at the time. Also, seeing Nick Tsaroulla score such a great goal was fantastic to see considering what he had been through and how hard he’s worked to get back into professional football. Luckily we’ve both become good mates recently, although I do tease him a bit for his music choices that he revealed in an interview the other week!

Random fact about the club/the area?

Legendary alternative/gothic rock band The Cure were formed in Crawley as most of the members, including Robert Smith, grew up in the area. However, Bob Geldof’s ‘The Boomtown Rats’ are sponsoring the team for this weekend, as their recording studio is nearby!

Saturday is the start of Crawley and Tranmere FA Cup journeys in 2021/22, with League Two clubs joining the competition in the first round. How highly do you value the Cup and what it can bring to clubs in the lower leagues?

For me, the FA Cup is my favourite cup competition in the world because of its history, how important it is to English culture and the way in which it can make dreams come true for footballers up and down the country. For example, imagine what Marine’s players would have felt about getting the chance to play against a Spurs team containing Gareth Bale, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and managed by Jose Mourinho back in January!  As for Crawley it could well be the thing that could salvage our season and I’d personally love to be able to get to the third round and play a Premier League club again just so that the fans can back the lads in person. We’ve got to win two matches for that to potentially happen though of course!

Who do you believe has the individual ability to win the game on the Weekend, thinking about the key players for either side? 

I’d say we have a few players that can definitely do something special, for example Kwesi Appiah is on a really good goalscoring run currently and Nick Tsaroulla is capable of coming up with a great goal when we need it (such as vs Carlisle back in September). The main issue I’ve been having is that I really don’t think we have any kind of system in which we can get the best out of our players and some of the substitutions have just been utterly bizarre and lack common sense (such as bringing on a centre back when losing 2-1 or waiting until the 85th minute before bringing any strikers on, as well as taking off our most threatening player regularly). I do worry as well that our forwards might not be able to handle players like Peter Clarke at the back too, although I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams make changes for this game.

Finishing our conversation off. Your score prediction?

I reckon it will be a boring 1-1 to be honest, with Crawley being woefully out of form and Tranmere struggling to score goals. If we lose this though I really think we need to change the manager as soon as possible, as I can’t trust John Yems to turn the form around. He always blames everyone other than himself for mistakes and losses, plus I don’t really know what the tactics even are most of the time and think there are much better managers available that would get more out of this squad! 

Crawley Town manager John Yems is losing the confidence of some supporters following a poor run of league form. 

Stockport County Q+A

Stockport County Q+A 

Stockport County have had a brilliant week in terms of who they’ve been able to bring in to the club, they are now looking like promotion candidates with the managerial appointment of Dave Challinor and the signing of one of Bolton’s greatest attacking threats Antoni Sarvecic. 

County face Bolton in the FA Cup this Weekend so amidst all of this positivity, I thought it was only just that I spoke to a fan with great knowledge on the club, Dave Philbin was the man that spoke to me.

Hello Dave, first of all can we learn a little bit about yourself? How long have you been supporting Stockport County, how did that come about and what are your best/worst experiences following the club throughout this time? 

I first started going to County back in the late 90’s, so I’ve seen the demise from the Championship to part time regional football in full! My first away game was at Man City in 1999 is definitely up there with my best experience. We went 1-0 down early on and completed the 2-1 win with the iconic Tony Dinning penalty in front of the packed away end. Winning the National League North at Nuneaton in 2019 was another great moment, thousands of County fans took over that day! I took my 3 year old daughter to her first game recently too, that was special for different reasons. The negatives, where do I start? I’ve seen more relegations than I care to remember and the administration in 2009/10 was tough.

County were relegated to the National League in 2013, being relegated to League Two on the final day of the 2010-11 season at home to Tranmere. Could you give a brief description of the goings on since then? What were County like around the early 2010s?

It’s been a roller coaster since then! The general consensus amongst County fans was that, although things were bad, we will surely get back into League Two at the first attempt. A comedy of errors ensued though. In 2011 we were going to be bought by a consortium headed up by a Scouser called Tony Evans who brought in Dietmar Hamann as manager. Hamann left 19 games and 3 wins later and Evans and his mates didn’t manage to complete the takeover. That’s when Jim Gannon came back for his second spell and he managed to steady the ship and prevent relegation that year. Gannon’s second tenure ended in 2013 as we were at the wrong end of mid table – then two managers between January and the end of the season (Kalezic and Bogie) saw us relegated into the North. Experience wouldn’t teach us though, because of course we’d get out of there at the first time of asking… wrong! 6 years and another Gannon return saw us win the league that year. Although the level was abysmal, it definitely ranks as one of my favourite seasons.

How would you describe the club at the moment? Who are Stockport’s owners and what is the atmosphere like around Edgeley Park?

The owner is a local business man called Mark Stott and he’s made plenty of investment on and off the pitch. He came in just before Covid hit so it was a bad time to buy a football club but a great time to be bought! He has brought The Cheadle End into the 21st Century while keeping its history, put a lovely new scoreboard in, moved us to a top level training complex at Carrington and even got good beer in the ground! He got rid of Jim Gannon in February this year which wasn’t popular with the fans but other than that, he’s done wonders. In terms of the atmosphere, if you’d have asked me a week ago I would have said we have no identity, the fans are divided and Edgeley Park was turning very toxic very quickly. Understandably so, with the investments that have been made and the players we’ve signed, we shouldn’t be sitting in 9th after 13 games. After an embarrassing defeat at home to Barnet last week, manager Simon Rusk got sacked and we’ve just this evening announced Dave Challinor. If Twitter is anything to go by, Edgeley Park will be rocking! We’ve also sold 5,000 tickets for Bolton this weekend in the first round of the cup, so that tells you everything you need to know about the fans. We may not like what we see, and we may not agree with everything they do, but we’ll be there in numbers whatever happens.

Touching on the signings that were made in the summer and the very recent past, can you see an upwards trajectory of quality in the squad and how impressed were you with the club’s signing of Bolton’s Sarvecic?

We signed top quality in the summer which of course has been topped up recently with Sarcevic. Quality that he’ll be playing the team he was captain of two weeks ago on Sunday by the way! The problem we have had is, we’ve signed players for positions that we weren’t using. For example, we signed the league’s best winger from last season in Ben Whitfield and we didn’t play with wingers for the first 8 or 9 games, so he was rotting at left wing back. Scott Quigley has been injured for most of the season but has recently come back into the side and has scored a couple of goals. He’s the striker we’ve been crying out for who does the dirty work up top and I can see him and Paddy Madden forming a dangerous partnership. Special mention to Ethan Ross as well, not one of the bigger names we’ve signed but definitely the biggest bloke! He’s a keeper and since coming into the side you can just see he gets the club and fans.

Another change in quality has come recently with the club’s appointment of Dave Challinor. How excited are you about his time back in Manchester and do you think this will take County closer to promotion to the Football League than they have been for some time?

Firstly, Dave Challinor has come back to Stockport not Manchester! I’m really excited to see him here and I know the rest of the fans are too. It was tough to see Simon Rusk struggling. He seemed like a really nice guy and I wanted him to succeed, but ultimately the gamble of signing a very good under 23’s coach didn’t pay off. We’ve now got a guy who has been there and done it at this level – knocking us out in the playoffs last season to go to the play off final and win that! It also helps that he was once our captain as well. I’d be lying if I said he did particularly well as a player here but he knows what Stockport County means to so many people and he will make sure the players know as well. His experience of promotions and play off campaigns is vital and with 31 games still left to play there are still chances of a title challenge yet. We were 12th coming up to Christmas in 2018/19 and we already know what happened there!

To finish our conversation off, ahead of the game on the weekend, how important do you believe the FA Cup is for lower league clubs in particular and can we expect Stockport to cause an ‘upset’ when they take on Bolton away from home?

Cup games are incredibly important for lower league clubs. You only have to look at Lincoln’s incredible run in 2016/17 – the money made from that sent them up to League One from non league. Bringing it back to County, we got to the second round in 2018/19, and the money from that meant we could strengthen around Christmas time to kick on and win the title. That’s just the finances, but as a fan there’s nothing better. In terms of glamorous ties, we haven’t seen many this century. The 90’s was special for us when we got to the semi-finals of the League Cup beating West Ham with a famous Iain Dowie own goal. Last season in lockdown we welcomed West Ham to a wet Edgeley Park, and we lost very late on but it wasn’t the same watching it on tele. This weekend will be massively different though. 5,000 travelling fans, a new manager, Bolton’s ex captain in midfield, Bolton struggling for form… all the ingredients required for the Hatters to storm into the second round! 

Antoni Sarvecic returns to the home of his former club this weekend as Stockport face Bolton at the UniBol Stadium. 

Mansfield Town 2 Tranmere Rovers 0 – Match report.

Mansfield Town 2 v Tranmere Rovers 0 

Saturday 30th October 2021, 3pm KO

English Football League 2

@FieldMill

It was a frustrating afternoon in Nottinghamshire for Tranmere as the Whites aimed to put all worries to bed, following a home defeat to Northampton.

The hosts, Mansfield Town, showed their attacking intent from the off as they were awarded a penalty within the opening few minutes. However, the effort was fired over the bar much to the Rovers keeper’s delight.

Tranmere thought that they had put themselves in front on the five minute mark but due to the final touch coming from a man in an offside position, the goal was eventually ruled out to bring an ecstatic away end back down to earth.

Two of Town’s shining lights throughout this performance were Rhys Oates and Danny Johnson, Oates opening the scoreline halfway through the first half as the 26-year-old forward slotted home calmly after a great threaded ball into the box by Stephen Quinn.

Micky Mellon’s chosen eleven tried to get themselves back into the game. However, their crossing efforts weren’t enough, bringing an element of frustration not too long afterwards. Jay Spearing being booked for a late challenge.

Town went into the half 1-0 up, Rovers coming back out with two substitutions made. Mark Duffy and Paul Glatzel on for Calum McManaman and Liam Feeney.

It would be twenty minutes later that the hosts made their first change, Kellan Gordon on for Stephen McLaughlin as the Irish defender received his team’s first booking of the game.

However, the booking didn’t mean that the hosts had backed down and were on the ropes of conceding an equaliser. Johnson doubled the scoreline, Oates showing his brilliance once again with a run and a pass into his fellow forward’s direction leaving little work left to do. 

A goal that would’ve been of great frustration to Mellon as a sub was on it’s way of being completed, Elliott Nevitt for Mani Dieseruvwe up top.

Similar to the closing stages of the first half, there wasn’t much to comment on in the last few moments other than the hosts completing their allocated substitute count. Tyrese Sinclair coming on for goalscorer Johnson, John-Joe O’Toole replacing Oates to a round of applause following a great afternoon’s work.

Mansfield Town: Bishop, Hewitt, Rawson, Hawkins, McLaughlin, Maris, Charsley, Quinn, Clarke, Johnson, Oates. Subs used: Gordon, Sinclair, O’Toole.

Tranmere Rovers: Doohan, Cogley, Davies, Clarke, McDonald, Morris, Spearing, Foley, Feeney, Dieseruvwe, McManaman. Subs used: Glatzel, Nevitt, Duffy.

Attendance: 3,381 (630 Tranmere).

Officials: Referee – James Bell. Assistants – Robert Atkin and Lisa Rashid. Fourth Official: Lee Freeman.

Rovers are next in action next Saturday as they travel south to face Crawley Town in the FA Cup 1st round. 

Mansfield Town – meeting the opposition.

Mansfield Town meeting the opposition.

Tranmere, looking to get back to winning ways after a Prenton Park defeat to Northampton Town, travel to the Field Mill this Saturday afternoon where they will come up against Mansfield Town in a League Two encounter.

Mansfield have had a really frustrating start to the campaign, currently placed in the relegation zone. However, the games between these two sides tend to always be close encounters. To find out more about the hosts including their current on and off pitch situations, I spoke to @MarkerStag1897 who also gave his thoughts on the visitors.

How long have you been a Mansfield Town supporter and how did you first come across the club?
I first started supporting Mansfield Town, at the age of 8 years old. My Dad took me to my first game, and I have been hooked since.

What are your best and worst experiences through watching the Stags?

Best experience was when we got promoted back into the Football League, the worst was relegation a few seasons back. 

Random fact about the club/the area?

Our stadium, Field Mill, is the world’s oldest professional football Stadium.

We’re a fair bit of games into the current campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations on the months ahead? How do they compare to those that you

had this time last year?
At the time of writing, it is hard to see where a win is coming from. I am hoping we can improve, when our injured players come back, as well as sign some players in January that are hopefully effective. 

Compared to last year, we are in a worse position now, in the League.

Nigel Clough is the current Town manager and has been since his appointment last year. What are your thoughts on him and the style of play that his team

plays at Field Mill, as well as away from home?
When we first appointed him, I along with many Stags fans, was happy that he dropped down this level, to try and turn our fortunes around. 

From his time so far, I think he has been unlucky, with the amount of injuries/ suspensions we have had, having said that, I haven’t been impressed by his recruitment, as we don’t seem to have improved, as well as we would have liked to. He likes to play the Diamond formation a lot, which I don’t think we can do well, as I don’t think some of the players are the best at, in my opinion. 

The Stags are owned by Carolyn and John Radford, what are your thoughts on what they’ve brought to the club? Are there any current plans that are building

a sense of excitement?
They are the best owners we could have asked for, John is a local lad, who knows what it means to be a Stag, and Carolyn is as equally passionate about the club. They have gotten us back promoted to the Football League, as well as save the club from extinction. They have plans to build a hotel at the side of the stadium, as well as fix Bishop Street Stand.

Who are your key players and danger men?

At this moment in time, Oli Hawkins, who has scored 4, who has had to play centre half, due to injuries. George Lapslie, Stephen Quinn, and Harry Charsley are workhorses in midfield. Also Nathan Bishop, on loan from Manchester United, has been a good addition. 

If we are to take a look at this summer’s transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the completed incomings and outgoings? Would you have wanted much

more to have happened?

The one area that we haven’t properly addressed is the defence, since James Perch has been ruled out for the season, we have leaked too many goals, only keeping 2 clean sheets. Another area would be up front, as apart from Hawkins, none of the other strikers have been clinical enough.

What do you make of the visitors, Tranmere, as a club in general and what are your thoughts on their team and the man they’re managed by?

Tranmere have had a good start, from what I’ve seen so far, so I would expect them to be in the playoffs. You’re another side that has another experienced manager, who will no doubt want to take you that extra step this time. 

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the game on Saturday afternoon in Nottinghamshire?

It’ll be a very tough game and in truth I’m not feeling optimistic to be honest, so I will say 1-1.

Field Mill, the home of Mansfield Town, is the oldest professional football stadium in the world.

Northampton Town – meeting the opposition.

Tranmere, after picking up four points in two games on the road, return home this Saturday where they will come up against Northampton Town.

Town have had a successful start to the new campaign, currently placed in the play-offs one point away from their upcoming hosts. They’ve won their last two games convincingly and Sam Hoskins has proved a threat with five goal involvements in 14 games. 

To find out more about the Cobblers, I spoke to @CobblersToMe about the club they support, Micky Mellon’s Whites and the upcoming game.

How long have you been a Northampton Town supporter and how did you first come across the club?

My Dad first took me to watch The Cobblers in the early 90’s. I don’t remember much from back then other than the odd good result here or there. It was the 96/97 season that we became regulars, getting our first season ticket in 98/99 after we had our back to back Play-Off final appearances.

What are your best and worst experiences while watching Town?

The promotions have to be the best experiences I’ve had. The 2015/16 League Two Champions season will live long in the memory for sure. So will the night we beat Liverpool on penalties in the League Cup at Anfield in 2011. We might have been soaked to the bone but what a game!

As for worst, there’s been loads! Too many to mention probably. We’ve come close to going out of the league on many occasions and it’s those seasons where I’ve found myself not enjoying the experience.

Random fact about the club / the area?

Entertainer and British legend, Des O’Connor used to play for us.

We’re a fair bit of games into the league campaign but what are your thoughts and expectations for the months ahead and how do they compare to those that you had this time last season?

On a personal level, my expectations for this season are to be pushing for promotion. We should be a top end League Two, lower League One club at the moment, anything less is not good enough. That’s not meant to be arrogant, it’s purely our expectation as a fanbase.

Last year was a dreadful season. We should have stayed in League One but we played dire football and our recruitment was awful after losing players like Charlie Goode and Vadaine Oliver to a higher level. Lessons need to have been learned from that and I think we’re at the start of a new era at Northampton with Jon Brady and Colin Calderwood in charge.

Former U16s and U18s manager Jon Brady was given the senior role in the summer. What are your thoughts on him and his style of play so far?

Jon Brady has instilled a lot of passion back into the club. There was a disconnect between the club and the fans under Keith Curle. It wasn’t entirely Keith’s fault, lockdown had a large part to play but the players we had were awful and the style of play was turgid. Brady has promised to get us playing football again and we’re now starting to see that now the lads have a bit of confidence in themselves. I don’t think we’ll see the best of what Jon is wanting to do this season. There are still some holes in the squad that need filling to really get the “bums off seats” exciting football Brady promised us over the summer.

Who is the owner of the club, what are your thoughts on them and are there any current projects that are bringing upon some excitement?

Oh now you’re opening a can of worms! David Bower is the owner of the club. He is a retired lawyer who lives in Dubai. He’s been to watch the Cobblers about 6 times in the nearly 6 years he has owned the club. Some fans aren’t convinced he has the best interests of the club at heart because of this. The frontman for the ownership is Chairman Kelvin Thomas. Thomas was previously at Oxford and Torquay. There is a lot to go into here but the long and short of it is that they came to the club in 2015 when we nearly went bust after the previous owner “lost” £10.25 million that was loaned to the club by the council to redevelop the stadium. The one stand that this redevelopment centred around is still not complete despite many discussions between the club and council. The most recent development on that front was some CGI pictures of how the stand will look when completed, being unveiled back in the summer. We’ve not heard much about it since then but the Supporters’ Trust have stated they no longer back the deal the club have put on the table to the council. It’s all one big, complicated issue.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Kion Etete is one to watch for sure. The on-loan front man from Spurs is a handful and finally got off the mark on Tuesday against Stevenage. He will terrorise any defender but can be a bit weak and gets lots of fouls given against him. He’s a raw and exciting talent.

If we are to take a look at the recruitment the Cobblers did this summer, what are your thoughts on the completed incomings and outgoings? Would you have wanted much more to have happened?

I’m fairly happy with this season’s recruitment. Our biggest issue last year was our goalkeeper and we have more than rectified that problem with the addition of Liam Roberts from Walsall. He has been immense between the sticks so far and it’s obvious that the rest of the team have full confidence in him.

Jon Guthrie has also been another stand-out addition to the side. The defender has scored a fair few goals from set pieces already and formed a great partnership with Fraser Horsfall.

Our attacking recruitment could have been better but it’s beginning to come good with the likes of Mitch Pinnock becoming a big threat on the wing.

The only players who left at the end of last year that Cobblers fans would have liked to have stayed are Lloyd Jones (Cambridge) and Ryan Watson. Watto was a favourite, having spent two spells at Sixfields and scoring the opening goal in the Play Off Final against Exeter. We haven’t missed either of them though.

What do you think of the hosts, Tranmere, as a club in general and what are your thoughts on the team and the Scotsman they’re managed by?

Being in my late 30’s I remember Tranmere being a big, Division 1 club. I haven’t been for a while but I always enjoy going to Prenton Park. It feels like a proper stadium and the fans can get right behind their team.

I don’t know much about Micky Mellon other than he has done well for Tranmere in his previous spell. Perhaps his move to Dundee United was a bit of a step up too far and it’s nice to see him back at Tranmere where he had some success.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming League Two encounter at Prenton Park?

I think it’s going to be a good challenge for both teams this game. It’s 5th vs 6th and we’ve played some right old rubbish teams lately so it will be good to see where we’re at.

I’m feeling positive after our last two results. The players look confident and we’ve found a formation and starting eleven which seems to have clicked into gear. I’m going for a 2-1 Cobblers win but I’ll be happy with a draw. 

Tranmere signed Ryan Watson this summer, the attacker having spent two years and two loan spells at Sixfields.

Carlisle United – Meeting The Opposition.

Carlisle United meeting the opposition.

Ahead of Tranmere’s trip to Brunton Park on Saturday afternoon, I spoke to someone with a great knowledge of Carlisle United in the form of UcLan student Ben Pitkeathly. 

The upcoming encounter is one that will ask much of either side due to the qualities that both sides possess, the Rovers are currently on a roll but the managerless hosts will want to impress.

How long have you been a Carlisle United supporter? How did you first come across the club? 

I have supported Carlisle since moving down from Aberdeen in 2007, I went to my first game not long after and have been hooked ever since. 

What are your best and worst experiences through following United?

The best experience following United has to be winning the Johnstone Paint Trophy at Wembley in 2011, with Peter Murphy scoring a volley. The worst experience was definitely Jack Stacey’s goal against us for Exeter City in the playoffs, it was a gut-wrenching feeling when that went in after coming back from two goals down.

Random fact about the club/the area?

Carlisle is the biggest city in England by landmass, 1,039.97 square kilometres.

We’re currently two months into the new campaign. However, what are your thoughts and expectations for the eight months ahead and how do they compare to those that you held at this stage last season?

Hopes are now for survival after a disastrous start, whereas at this point last season we were approaching our good run of form, which I cannot see us doing this season.

Something which happened very recently is the departure of manager Chris Beech. What were your thoughts on his dismissal and going forward, who would you like to see in the managerial seat?

No one likes to see someone lose their job but unfortunately for Chris Beech it has been in the offing for a while. Poor results and lack of a plan B has led to his dismissal. There were good times, saving us from relegation when he first arrived and a spell at the top of the table last January, but he’s been unable to stop the recent rut. I’d quite like to see Andy Morrison given the job after being very effective at Connah’s Quay, Zigor Aranalde is another who should be targeted having coached at a very high level and has brilliant contacts in the game.

Who are/is the current owner of United and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any existing off-field plans that are exciting supporters?

The less said the better really, we have three custodians who’ve been in charge for 13 years, but behind the scenes, a succession plan is supposedly being worked on so there is hope for the future.

Who are your key players and danger men?

Jon Mellish, who scored 16 times last season, is our biggest goal threat. Joe Riley has been our most impressive player this season, but his level of influence will depend on whether he plays right-back or central midfielder.

If we are to take a look at his summer transfer recruitment, what are your thoughts on the incomings and outgoings? Also, would you have wanted more to have happened?

Our recruitment was incredibly poor losing several first-team regulars and the replacements don’t seem to have the same quality or are yet to show it. Many would’ve liked to see a target man brought in as the strikers we have do not suit the managers direct style of play.

What do you think of Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their danger men?

I admire Tranmere and its fans standing independently and proudly away from the other clubs across the river. Callum McManaman stands out as a player who could cause problems for us and I’ve heard good reviews of Elliot Nevitt.

To finish our conversation off, what is your score prediction for the upcoming encounter at Brunton Park? 

Unfortunately, I can’t see anything but a loss for us. 3-0 Tranmere, Hawkes, Nevitt, Maynard.

‘Joe Riley has been our most impressive player this season, his level of influence depending on what position he plays in’

Thoughts on a betting documentary.

The Big Step’s thoughts on The Paul Merson Documentary.

As soon as Paul Merson’s documentary was released I couldn’t wait to watch it due to the significance of the subject it encaptures. I’d spoken to ‘The Big Step’ about gambling before but I wanted to find out exactly what the trouble is like through the eyes of an Arsenal great. I personally thought the documentary was enlightening and it touched on more than I could’ve asked it to. However, to hear more about the show and how it had been received by those with more knowledge than myself about the industry, I spoke to ‘The Big Step’ once again.

When the show first got media attention, when it was first announced that the show was going to be released, what were your thoughts and how important do you believe it is that attention is given to the problem of gambling?

Gambling with Lives (of which The Big Step is a part of) was contacted by the production company when the show was being planned, as they wanted to feature some of the families that we support and have bereaved by gambling-related suicide (referenced in question 5). From the off, we were confident that this programme was going to be a positive thing and look constructively at how the gambling industry operates. We were very pleased that it was given a prime time slot at 9pm too, which shows how important the issue is becoming.

With Paul Merson’s experience in the game, how significant do you believe that it is his voice that is speaking out on a topic as hard-hitting as this? Does it surprise you in some way that people of such sporting experience can be trapped in a world of sport betting and what surrounds that?

It’s really great that Paul has been so open about his experiences. His standing within the game makes him an important role model, so it’s really helpful that he’s been so candid about his experiences with addiction. It doesn’t surprise us at all that people in the sports world are affected by gambling disorder – as Paul mentioned in the programme, they are often far from home, with time and money on their hands and surrounded by a rampant betting culture.

Through watching the show, how interesting did you find certain aspects of it? For example, when they were showing the brain activity through a scan and it showed how engrossed Merson’s brain was to gambling in comparison to that of a healthy person who would be attracted to family bonding and nature. Was this a test that had ever crossed your mind before?

We thought the brain scan part was very interesting, but what really stuck with us was how the gambling industry cultivates and sustains addiction. In Matt Zarb-Cousin’s part, he explains how the industry hold all the data necessary to stop gambling addiction and harm, but instead of using it to help people, they use it to make more money and cause more harm. He also explained that 60% of the industry’s profits (£14bn plus a year) come from just 5% of gamblers. As Matt himself put it: “Your gambling addiction is their business model.”

Do you believe that anything was missing from the show that you may have wanted to be included in or do you think that the hour covered everything greatly? 

There was quite a bit of footage that was cut from the section near the end with the families, specifically talking about the language of addiction that we would have liked included. Language is very key in framing the debate. For example, ‘problem gambler’ (widely used term to refer to someone with gambling disorder) suggests that the problem is with the individual and that they are somehow faulty. Gambling addiction is a classified mental health disorder – called gambling disorder – and can affect anyone. It works in the industry’s favour to push the ‘problem gambler’ narrative, as it frames the debate as a few ‘weak’ people who have a problem with gambling, and deflects attention away from an industry that are deliberating, encouraging and sustaining addiction.

Paul Merson sat around a table with others talking about the way that gambling companies entice people to place money with them for a bet. What were your thoughts on the adverts that included music such as ‘Sweet Caroline’ etc to make it seem like you have to gamble to enjoy yourselves? What are your overall thoughts on gambling adverts?

The gambling industry makes a lot of money and they are very good at doing it. Sweet Caroline is a good example as the song was adopted by England fans during Euro 2020, which was obviously a good tournament for us, so Ladbrokes knew exactly what they were doing when they used it. They wanted to evoke those feelings of happiness and associate them with their brand. Much like smoking, gambling is a dangerous product that we believe shouldn’t be advertised. We don’t think gambling should be banned at all, but it needs to be subject to much tougher regulation, which would include banning advertising. Important to note that this won’t stop those who want to from gambling – I haven’t seen a cigarette advert in 20 years but I know where to buy them from. What it will do is stop gambling from permeating mainstream culture and ensure children don’t grow up thinking gambling is a normal, safe and fun activity.   

What were your thoughts on the company’s messages at the end of the show and do you believe that the Gambling Commission could do much more than they currently are? The Betting and Gambling Council said that they completely reject any suggestion that the industry targets vulnerable customers whilst William Hill stated that 20% of their advertising is about time-outs and how people can bet responsibly and safely.

Frankly, we thought these messages were insulting. It shows how out of touch the industry is and that they are unwilling to engage and acknowledge the harm they are causing. With regards to player controls and responsible gambling messages, there’s absolutely no evidence to show that these have any effect whatsoever, which is actually why they use them, as it sustains their profits. It demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of addiction too: someone who is addicted to anything is robbed of their ability to think and act rationally – it’s a bit like advertising heroin with a ‘please use responsibly’ message!

Where does the future of ‘The Big Step’ lie in terms of plans and projects that the group is currently completing or about to start? How could people find out more or get involved if they wanted to?

We’ve recently partnered with Dulwich Hamlet FC and held a walking event before their game last weekend, and then had a fantastic reception at the game itself. We’ll continue partnering with clubs and asking them to say no to gambling sponsorship money. For the latest news and content, keep an eye on our twitter (@the_bigstep).

‘For the latest news and content, keep an eye on our twitter, ‘@the_bigstep’