The 2017/18 season was of great importance for the club as a whole, being a National league club meant having some slight financial difficulties. This brought fears about the closure of the academy, which had produced great players before such as Aaron Creswell. Tranmere had a successful 16/17 campaign, achieving 95 league points, yet they still couldn’t achieve promotion as Micky Mellon’s side were beaten comfortably at Wembley against Forest Green Rovers in a play-off final. Thus, the following season was crucial. In the summer, Mellon managed to sign players of great importance such as Larnell Cole and Ollie Norburn. These signings would feature in Tranmere’s disastrous start to the season as defeats against Eastleigh and Dover brought the club to its worst ever position. However, the team’s newly found great form would fire themselves up the table before Christmas with wins against Halifax and Sutton. In the transfer window of January 2018, many influential stars were signed on loan: Rhys Taylor, Manny Monthe, Ollie Banks, Dylan Mottley-Henry and Josh Ginnely. These loanees would be pivotal to Tranmere’s promotion as the club finished in second to set up a play-off semi-final victory against Ebbsfleet United which fired them into another play-off final, this time against Boreham Wood.
Micky Mellon – (Tranmere) – Manager Micky Mellon left Shrewsbury Town on 6 October 2016, after a poor start to the season and was appointed manager of Tranmere Rovers. He had previously managed Fleetwood Town before being appointed the Shrewsbury Town manager. During his reign at the club he had taken Fleetwood from the Conference north to League two and Shrewsbury from league two to league one. Thus the Tranmere owner, Mark Palios, had full faith in his managerial appointment. In his first season at the club, he guided the team to a play-off final against Forest Green Rovers. Unfortunately, Tranmere would lose this game 3-1. The following two seasons brought consecutive promotions, in a play-off final against Boreham Wood and a play-off final against Newport County. Mellon is still the manager of the Merseyside outfit whom he had previously experienced two playing spells at, between 1997-99 and 2001-04. Mellon was a midfielder and amassed more than 170 appearances in his Tranmere playing career.
Scott Davies (Tranmere) – On 30 June 2015, goalkeeper Scott Davies signed for Gary Brabin’s Tranmere on a one-year-contract. He had previously played for: Morecambe, Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley. His first season would be Tranmere’s first season in the national league. He would appear regularly for three seasons, in Tranmere’s fight for promotion to the football league. He had built an excellent relationship with manager Micky Mellon and the captain Steve Mcnulty, having all been together previously at Fleetwood Town. Davies was a great part of Tranmere’s consecutive promotions and is still a valuable figure in the Tranmere dressing-room, he was named captain just before the 2019/20 season started. His performance excelled in the two play-off finals, against Boreham Wood and against Newport County. He also played in the play-off final defeat against Forest Green Rovers in 2017. The fan-favourite is now captain and will soon reach the five-year mark.
Emmanuel Monthe (Tranmere) – In February 2018, defender Emmanuel Monthe joined Tranmere after signing a loan deal. He appeared six times, during the loan spell, before signing a permanent contract after Tranmere paid Forest Green Rovers an undisclosed fee. Before he signed for Tranmere, he had starred for many different non-league clubs. Southport, Hayes and Yeading United as well as Bath City. His talent was shown on a regular basis for the first time during his two year spell at Forest Green Rovers, where he played a part in their promotion to the football league in a play-off final against Tranmere. Throughout his stay at Tranmere, he has excelled at full-back and centre-half whilst becoming a fan favourite and achieving two consecutive promotions.
Steve Mcnulty (York) – Centre-half veteran Steve Mcnulty joined National-league outfit Tranmere Rovers on loan on 19 October 2015, a great reason for his move from Luton was the location as he wanted to be closer to his family who lived in Liverpool. He had previously starred for: Vauxhall Motors, Barrow, Fleetwood Town and Luton. After excelling on loan, he signed for the club permanently in the January transfer window. He received many man-of-the-match awards as well as the player of the month award for February as his defensive displays fired Tranmere into the national league play-off positions. The following season, he made 45 appearances and became club captain. However, the team would lose against Forest Green Rovers in the play-off final. He would captain the team to promotion to the football league, with a 2-1 win against Boreham Wood as he made 41 appearances throughout the course of the season. The following season, he made slightly less appearances as he battled with fitness issues. However, his performance against Newport County after he came on as a sub late on into the first half was a great reason for Tranmere’s promotion to league one in a play-off final. He was released in the summer before his move to the National league north to play for York city.
Ritchie Sutton (Morecambe) – Defender Ritchie Sutton signed a two-year contract with newly-relegated Tranmere in May 2015. He had previously starred for clubs such as Stafford Rangers, Port Vale (the club he supports having grown up in Burslem) and Mansfield Town. He was sent off in the second month of the season against Welling United; this decision was overturned. The centre-half started regularly until Mcnulty and Ihiekwe formed a solid partnership in December 2015, Sutton would soon join Barrow in March 2016 until the end of the season. Sutton, in an interview, stated that new manager Micky Mellon ‘has improved me defensively’ in an interview. In the 16/17 season he made 27 appearances and scored four times. His season was cut short due to an achilles injury. In the 17/18 season, he made 49 appearances and scored five times. He was taken off before half-time during the play-off final victory against Boreham Wood due to an injury. In the 2018/19 season, the defender made 9 appearances before being signed by Morecambe, to the delight of manager Jim Bentley, in January 2019. He is still currently at Morecambe.
Liam Ridehalgh (Tranmere) – On 28 September 2013, full-back Liam Ridehalgh joined Tranmere on a 3-month loan from Huddersfield. He would make his debut against Port Vale on the same day. However, his game time was cut short following a red card in the 30th minute. Port Vale would go on to win 1-0 at Prenton Park. During his loan spell, he would make 17 appearances and score one goal which came against Bristol City on 16 November. The Halifax-born defender would rejoin Tranmere on 1 January 2014, he became available for the New Year’s Day game against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Weeks later he would suffer a groin injury during a game against Peterborough and be substituted at half-time. He made his return ,one month later, in a win against MK. However, although he made 38 appearances during the season, he was unable to help the club survive relegation. Ridehalgh suffered an ankle injury in a pre-season game before the 14/15 season which would take him out of action for six weeks. After three months out, he would make his first appearance of the season against AFC Wimbledon. The full-back ended the season with only 18 appearances as Tranmere suffered relegation to the National league. Ridehalgh would be a regular starter in the Tranmere defence during the three National league seasons, managing to maintain a good standard of quality. In the play-off final against Boreham Wood he would be sent off after thirty seconds. He would play a great part in Tranmere’s promotion to league two in the following season and is currently still at Tranmere.
Josh Ginnelly (Preston) – On 12 January 2018, winger Josh Ginelly signed a loan deal at Tranmere until the end of the season. He had previously starred for Altrincham and Lincoln, on loan from Burnley. Ginelly scored his first Tranmere goal on his debut against Maidenhead, eight days after joining the club. He lost his starting place between mid March-mid April, he returned to the starting eleven on 21 April 2018 in a win against Halifax Town at the Shay stadium. In the play-off semi final, Ginelly scored in a 4-2 win at Prenton Park against Ebbsfleet United. On 12 May 2018, he started the whole game against Boreham Wood and helped to ensure Tranmere’s promotion and return to the football league. He has since signed for Walsall and Preston North End, he still plays his football at the Deepdale stadium.
Ollie Norburn (Shrewsbury) – Central-Midfielder Ollie Norburn signed a two-year contract with Tranmere on 31 May 2017. He had previously made appearances for: Bristol Rovers, Plymouth Argyle, Guiseley and Macclesfield Town. Norburn had been offered a new contract at Macclesfield Town yet he believed signing for Tranmere had a better chance of enhancing his career. Throughout the 17/18 season he made 46 appearances, scoring four and assisting four. His presence in central-midfield was a great factor in Tranmere’s promotion to the football league. He was a solid central-midfielder with an eye for a great forward pass. In the summer of 2018, Shrewsbury signed the Mancunian midfielder for an undisclosed fee. He is currently still at the League one outfit.
Jeff Hughes (Larne) – In January 2016, central midfielder Jeff Hughes signed a loan deal at Tranmere until the end of the season. The 30-year-old midfielder had previously starred regularly for: Larne, Lincoln City, Bristol Rovers, Notts County, Fleetwood Town before signing for Cambridge United. He would impress manager Gary Brabin during his loan spell, making 18 appearances and scoring one goal. The Northern Irishman would sign a two-year-deal with them in the July of 2016. Through the following two seasons, he would establish himself as a regular in the middle of the Prenton Park pitch. He would make 67 appearances overall and play a great part in Tranmere’s promotion to the football league. In the summer of 2018, the midfielder would sign for his hometown NIFL club ,Larne, on a three-year-deal. He still plays his football at Larne’s Inver Park stadium.
Larnell Cole (FC United of Manchester) – On 27 October 2017, forward Larnell Cole signed for Tranmere on a deal until January 2018. The Manchester United academy product had previously starred for Shrewsbury Town and Inverness. Cole made his Tranmere debut the following day against Halifax Town, he would score after coming on as a substitute in a 4-2 win at Prenton Park. Cole extended his Tranmere contract until the end of the season, he was a great factor in Tranmere’s promotion to the football league as he scored the fourth goal against Ebbsfleet United in the play-off semi final. He would sign a further deal in the summer of 2018 after playing a great part in Tranmere’s promotion. However, the mancunian-born midfielder would leave by mutual consent in January 2019. The tricky 27-year-old forward currently plays for FC United of Manchester.
Andy Cook (Mansfield/Tranmere) – On 1 July 2016 striker Andy Cook signed a two-year-deal at Tranmere. He had previously played for: Workington, Barrow and Grimsby Town. In his first season, he scored 23 goals in 44 appearances, his many goals helped Tranmere reach a great 95 points. However, this point tally only resulted in a play-off position and after beating Aldershot in the play-off semi-finals they would lose against Forest Green in the final. The following season, he scored 26 goals in 41 appearances. Cook would win the league’s golden boot in the 17/18 season whilst he helped Tranmere achieve promotion to the football league. The north-eastern born striker scored in the play-off final victory against Boreham Wood. When his contract expired, he signed for League one outfit Walsall. After scoring 17 goals in 43 appearances, he signed for League two Mansfield town. In January 2020, Cook re-joined Tranmere on a loan deal until the summer.
James Norwood (Ipswich) – On 13 May 2015, Norwood signed a two-year-contract at Tranmere following his release from Forest Green. He was initially troubled with injury yet found the net against Chester in mid-September. In his first season, the Eastbourne-born striker scored 19 times in 38 appearances. He was less prolific in his second season, managing to score 14 times in 40 appearances. He scored many important goals throughout this season, including a dramatic injury time winner at home to Eastleigh. His third season was his most successful yet, following a very poor opening to the season as Tranmere dropped to their lowest ever league position. Norwood finished the season with 24 goals and 11 assists, in all competitions. This was enough to finish as the league’s third highest scorer, two places behind strike partner Andy Cook. Two of Norwoods goals came in the play-off semi final against Ebbsfleet, a great low hit into the bottom corner and an exquisite top-cornered free kick. His most important Tranmere goal came on 12 May 2018, he scored the goal to regain the clubs football league status. Norwood finished the following season as the joint top scorer in English football, with 32 goals in all competitions, along with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero as Tranmere won promotion to league one. His excellent goal-scoring season saw him winning the League Two player of the year award. As soon as his contract ended, he joined League one Ipswich Town.
Rhys Taylor (Bradford Park Avenue) – Goalkeeper, Rhys Taylor joined Tranmere on loan in 2018 following an injury to Scott Davies. He had joined on loan from AFC Fylde where he had played since 2016. The Welshman made six appearances for Tranmere, keeping two clean-sheets. Before signing on loan he had previously played for: Crewe Alexandra (on loan), Rotherham United (on loan), Macclesfield Town, Wrexhham and AFC Fylde. The 30-year-old goalkeeper now stars for Bradford Park Avenue in the National league North.
Eddie Clarke – substituted on for Larnell Cole in the 9th minute following Liam Ridehalgh’s red card – (Fleetwood) – Full-back Eddie Clarke is a product of the Tranmere academy. He made his first team debut in a win against Maidstone, in the finale of the 16/17 season. However, he would fully showcase his talent in the following season. He would play fifteen times for Tranmere and would be a great factor of the club’s promotion to the football league, as a solid defender with a great eye for an assist. Following the promotion, in a play-off final at Wembley, he would sign for Joey Barton’s Fleetwood and has since had loan spells for Macclesfield Town and Stockport County.
Jay Harris – substituted on for the injured Ritchie Sutton in the fifth minute of the first half’s added time – (Wrexham) – Central midfielder Jay Harris signed a free transfer on 22nd May 2015, his first season at the club would be Tranmere’s first season in the National league, after his contract at Wrexham ended. Before Wrexham, he had showcased his talents at: Accrington Stanley and Chester. He was a very popular figure with the fans, he would play very well in positions from central midfield to full-back and always wore his heart on his sleeve. On 27th June 2019, after helping Tranmere to consecutive promotions he would leave Merseyside for Manchester as he signed for Macclesfield Town. He now plays for Wrexham, after returning to North Wales in January on an 18-month-contract.
Connor Jennings – substituted on for Josh Ginnelly in the 34th minute – (Tranmere) – On June 2nd 2016, creative midfielder Connor Jennings signed for Tranmere on a 2-year-contract. He had previously starred for Stalybridge Celtic, Scunthorpe United and Wrexham. His career at Tranmere got off to a relatively slow start, only appearing eleven times before January. He was then loaned to Macclesfield Town, he would play five times and score once. The mancunian midfielder would return to Merseyside in the March and would soon establish himself as a first-team regular, his excellent end-of season form saw him excell in the 9-0 demolition of Solihull Moors at Prenton Park as he scored a hat-trick. He would score an exquisite top-corner goal in the play-off final defeat against Forest Green Rovers, one month later. In the following season, he would play a great part in Tranmere’s promotion to the football league. The midfielder made 43 appearances in the 2017/18 season which he scored eight goals and provided many assists for the excellent James Norwood and Andy Cook partnership. His best assist of the season was in the play-off final against Boreham Wood, a week after he survived a near-death coma experience, where his exquisite cross would meet the head of James Norwood and fire Tranmere into the football league. He would carry this form on into the following season, scoring eight goals in 45 appearances as Tranmere achieved consecutive promotions and returned to League one. He scored the only goal a year later in a play-off final against Newport County, in the 119th minute. Fan-favourite Connor Jennings is in his fourth year at Prenton Park.
Andy Mangan (N/A) – Striker Andy Mangan joined Gary Brabin’s Tranmere on 2nd July 2015. He had previously starred for: Accrington Stanley, Bury, Forest Green, Wrexham, Fleetwood and Shrewsbury. He scored seven goals in the first half of the season but lost his place in the team due to injury and the manager’s preferred position of 4-5-1 where James Norwood would be the lone striker. Thus, he re-joined Shrewsbury Town in the January transfer window. The striker would rejoin Micky Mellon’s Tranmere for an undisclosed fee on 4 November 2016. He would make 25 appearances, scoring three goals, before being released in 2018 following Tranmere’s promotion to the football league. Towards the end of the season, he would become a fan-favourite due to his memorable hilarious speech at the players’ end of season awards night and his powerful speech to fans at a drinking area in the stadium following Tranmere’s promotion. He has since signed for Welsh club Bala Town and Accrington Stanley, he is currently without a club.
This team would go on to beat Boreham Wood 2-1, James Norwood scoring the crucial winning goal in the 81st minute after rising the highest from a Connor Jennings’ cross and sending the ball into the bottom corner. The team would encounter many difficulties throughout the game: Liam Ridehalgh received a red card in the first minute and all substitutions were made before half-time. For regaining Tranmere’s football league status with a showing of great character, everyone associated with the club that day will be seen as ‘heroes’ due to the great memories and happiness that they brought to the Tranmere faithful.