The man who made us proud to be Tranmere, again:
In my honest opinion, I believe Micky Mellon made Tranmere less laughable of a club to support, as a kid I experienced on many occasions people laughing at people born on the wirral peninsula for supporting their local club. Throughout his tenure, supporting Tranmere became more fashionable. This is the result of great hard work, a manager with a strong knowledge of football and passion for the club he had played for many years before. This is the result of back-to-back promotions and three visits to the capital to play at the greatest stadium in the nation, Wembley. This was also the result of the club’s ownership, Mark and Nicola Palios, appointing the correct man to take Tranmere fans to the feeling that they hadn’t experienced since the days of the ‘King’, Johnny King. Following the recent news, I believe we as fans can be gutted about Mellon’s departure but should also be excited about the future and the next journey of our great football club. Mellon made us proud to be Rovers fans again, it’s our job now to make our new manager whoever it may be proud to be part of us.
Micky Mellon was appointed on the 7th October of 2016, an appointment which brought great excitement in my eyes as well as the eyes of others. We had previously experienced dark days with managers such as Rob Edwards and Micky Adams who had brought a greatly established football league club to the national league. Although the tenure of Gary Brabin was hard to experience, as we missed out on the play-offs in our first season in the fifth tier, we also tried to understand the difficulty of adapting. Once Brabin was sacked and replaced by Micky Mellon, a proud scotsman with a great CV of the football league, we believed we had the correct man at the helm to adapt and thrive through our lowest period. Micky had played for the club, he was part of the ‘fabric of the place’ and through his press conference alongside Mark Palios, his words made the fans excited, his passion for the club oozed and his wanting to win games showed. ‘The players need to be proud to be playing for Tranmere and show that to win games’. Once I met him, my excitement grew further … the Tranmere manager we had recently appointed was great with the fans and considering the times we were enduring as a club we needed a man with these qualities in the hot-seat.
Mellon’s first game at the helm was at home against Wrexham, the day following his announcement’s press conference. ‘I will be in the dug-out, I want to bring my passion and feel part of the group from an early stage’. The game was to be televised on BT cameras, the game was to finish with an Andy Cook goal in front of the Kop’s faithful and a fist in the air was raised … the first of many through a successful four years. This was the start of an unbeaten run of ten games, is there a better start for a new manager? The Scotsman’s first league defeat in the dugout came at Sincil Bank, in a meeting between the top two. However, the pride that the boss had spoken about in his press conference had already been shown. The club was starting a new chapter, a great time to be excited. The season continued in an excellent fashion: a last minute televised win in a local derby away at Chester, a 3-2 last minute home win against Sutton United before a risky infamous tweet by Micheal Ihiekwe and a 9-0 win at home to Solihull. This wasn’t enough to win the league, although we amassed an amazing 95 points, Lincoln were to be title winners. We would face Aldershot in the play-offs, an away tie first which was a 3-0 win down south with a packed and very loud away following followed by a home draw. For the first time in my lifetime, Tranmere were heading to Wembley. The result in the greatest stadium in England wasn’t a successful one. The performance of the players wasn’t successful either. Players, now club legends, apologised to the many thousands of travelling fans and stories such as striker James Norwood’s ‘I was at Andy Mangan’s all summer surviving on Mcdonalds and crying’ followed a year on. This was the start of Mellon’s tenure, this was the start of the years that would see Wembley labelled as ‘Prenton Park South’. This was the start of excitement, you mightn’t have believed it as you walked out of Wembley that afternoon … looking back, you believe it now.
In the summer of 2017, Mellon had to prepare his squad to get out of the national league in his first full season. Mellon’s need of pride remained, whatever faces came in or out his squad would have to play with passion to excite the fans and lift the club out of the fifth tier, it couldn’t survive in a great fashion for too long. Difficulties with keeping the club’s academy were released and ex-players, who the Tranmere academy had made, such as Max Power, took to twitter to state their feelings of upset. Mellon’s task was thus great, the start of the season didn’t match his needs. The start of a poor run of form came on the opening day with a poor uninspiring goal-less draw on the south-coast, at Torquay. The poor run of form ended once the players started to realise the need for improvement, they had let the club sink down the fifth tier table to a worrying position of (I believe) 18th. Within this worrying run of form, there was a Q and A held with fans in ‘Aldos’ where fans explained their worries about the start to the season, Micky remained calm and made fans laugh about the drone that watched over training which had been paid for from a player’s suspension fee. The remainder of the season was aimed at fighting for the play-offs, although there was a period of time that optimistic fans chose to aim towards the eventual title winners Macclesfield Town. Mid-November 2017 saw a state of result stabilisation and a sense of thriving, this was started by a 2-2 draw at Macclesfield and soon saw five victories where Tranmere would smash three or four goals past their opponents. This was halted by a 5-2 defeat at Fylde on the opening day of 2018, this was a constant. There was always an unbeaten streak of five or six that was halted by one poor defeat. The defeat in 2018 that will stay in the memories of Tranmere fans was the home performance against Macclesfield Town on a cold February night, the game showed the gulf in difference of quality between the eventual title winners and runners up. Being the runners up meant that we would yet again compete in the national league play-offs. However, there was a new rule which meant we would only have to play one home game against Ebbsfleet to get to Wembley. The game would be incredibly tight, however the quality shown in James Norwood’s feet shown as he struck a free-kick past the Ebbsfleet goalkeeper in extra-time and set Rovers on the verge of another trip to Wembley. This time, Mellon wouldn’t stand for any early celebrations, we wouldn’t be happy to just get there. We had a job to do. Micky’s eleven would face Boreham Wood and from the off, the ‘Tranmere way to victory’ was shown. We wouldn’t make the game easy for ourselves, left-back Liam Ridehalgh would be sent off in the first minute and all of our substitutions would be used up before the half-time break. Tranmere fans were worried, Micky expressed the need for them to be loud and guide his eleven to victory … victory was achieved from the feet of Connor Jennings and the head of James Norwood in front of the travelling loud Tranmere faithful. ‘Micky Mellon’s mission accomplished’ exclaimed the commentator, this was just the start. That was a great weekend, partnered with dancing and taking pictures with players and Micky himself in the fan park tent the following day, it made Tranmere fans proud to be Tranmere. Something no manager had been able to do in these lengths since Johnny King.
The next aim of Mellon’s was to take Tranmere to League one. A league that their demise to the national league started in, four years earlier. The opening game of the season saw Mellon’s pride and passion in a hard-working draw at Stevenage, Micky’s half-time team talk must have worked wonders as his eleven were able to turn a losing position into a drawing one and start a solid basis in Rovers’ first season back in the football league. The opening half of the season, the first twenty-three games, Mellon’s team drifted between 15th and 4th. There were some great highs such as the last minute winner by Harvey Gilmour in a 4-3 thriller at Morecambe and an amazing display at Prenton Park in which Tranmere beat Crawley Town 5-1. However, performances of great quality were very inconsistent. On the road, Tranmere would be beaten by hosts Forest Green and Grimsby Town where the defensive qualities were lacking. A 3-1 defeat in Gloucestershire and a 5-2 defeat in the North East. Tranmere would go into the January window of 2019 in 9th place, which was considerably successful considering this was the re-start of another era in the football league. However, Mellon understood his personal attributes of promoting sides and knew that if he was to add experience and quality successfully in the first month of the year then he could promote Tranmere back-to-back. January was tough, half of the league games would end in defeats after a 7-0 home thrashing by Premier league opponents Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. February began the start of a great unbeaten run, the start of great optimism and the beginning for a new great chant to be sung on the kop ‘Micky Mellon going for two in a row’. An unbeaten streak of nine started in a home victory against Stevenage, what followed was victories against sides such as Port Vale, Exeter City and Colchester. The colchester game was away, ‘down south’, many of the Tranmere faithful travelled … they all travelled home with the birth of another great song to the tune of ‘Tequila’. The mood and atmosphere around the club was growing in positivity. April saw the biggest task of the season, however fans although worried or excited by the many tough games ahead saw light as their club was placed firmly in the play-off mix. Six games were in April, the majority were against sides pushing for promotion: MK, Forest Green, Lincoln and Bury. April would start with a poor performance on the pitch but a total contrast off it, Tranmere fans were great that day. 2,000 fans stood in the away terrace singing the chant of ‘Tequila’ as loud as possible until ten minutes after the final whistle. This feeling was amazing and it was created by Mellon’s tactics and signings in the recent previous months. Following the run of games against the promotion chasing clubs, although Tranmere had only taken five out of twelve available points they had confirmed their play-off place. They would face Forest Green, who had recently beaten them 1-0 at Prenton Park. Fans were excited but again worried, they knew the capabilities of their opponents and they had witnessed the previous encounters between them. What was to follow was amazing, an Ollie Bank’s screamer in front of their fans with the aid of the ‘goal-line technology’ and a Mike Dean celebration on the terraces in Gloucestershire. Mellon had guided Tranmere to Wembley again, for the third year running and they would face a tough Newport County side. 25th May 2019, a sunny day in the capital of England as thousands flocked from Merseyside for another great occasion. Chants of excitement were sung in the nearby Wembley pubs before the game, a game contested over 120 minutes. A game that was very edgy. A game that was settled by a substitution that brought Tranmere from defense to attack as Steve McNulty took to the pitch for the first time in months to the shock and disbelief of fans. In my opinion, this is the best substitution of Mellon’s reign at Tranmere. An unexpected one, that would lead to another promotion as the ball from the feet of Jake Caprice would meet the head of Connor Jennings and would bring euphoria amongst the travelling ‘Super White Army’. Tranmere were heading to League one, remember one year ago when the BT Sport commentator said that Mellon’s mission was accomplished? This was the greater definition of defying the odds, Tranmere had grown immensely and Mellon had created a new attitude for the club’s performance in major games, this resulted in the second trophy being held aloft in the Wembley skies by Steve McNulty and Scott Davies. Euphoria, memories, what a weekend.
The 2019/20 season seemed a stretch too far, disappointing signings were made in a relatively disappointing summer transfer window as Tranmere looked to compete in the third tier of English football. August 2019 to February 2020 saw the worst period of football from Mellon’s team and some fans called for him to be sacked. Only five games were won in the opening thirty performances, yet there were still some positive times amongst the disastrous. We beat Coventry City at Birmingham’s ‘St. Andrews’ on Sky sport cameras, we were victorious in Milton Keynes as loanee Rushian Hepburn-Murphy struck his hat-trick and we also beat promotion chasing Wycombe Wanderers away in a FA Cup clash which saw Kieron Morris hit a wonder goal. There were some positives, there was also a growing of inconsistency and signs of a side that were already down and heading to be relegated, I believe the biggest sign of a team already beaten came at Bolton Wanderers away on the 1st February. That was the biggest scare. However, with the signings that Mellon had made in the January transfer window he was able to bring another period of optimism. 25th February 2020 saw the start of a team that was trying their best to keep their league one status. It was a 3-2 win at Shrewsbury Town, Corey Blackett-Taylor showed his finishing qualities from a wonderfully hit assist by goalkeeper Davies to slot past the Shropshire outfit’s goalkeeper in front of the travelling faithful on a mid-week night. The following games would see trips to Accrington Stanley and Blackpool, both resulting in 2-1 wins with great performances in attack and defense. The growing partnerships of Peter Clarke and Mark Ellis, Alex Woodyard and Luke Mcculough, James Vaughan and Morgan Ferrier as well as the qualities from the wing such as player of the season Kieron Morris brought a new wave of excitement. I firmly believe Tranmere would’ve stayed up. Unfortunately, the EFL and Covid-19 had different ideas. With the growth of a global pandemic the EFL decided to end leagues one and two after giving a vote to all clubs and Tranmere would go down with 0.94 Points Per Game despite a game in hand on the team above ,AFC Wimbledon, who were a side that had 1 Point Per Game. Thus, Mellon’s reign would finish with a fist in Blackpool his home-town and very excited fans … we can only dream of what we were near to and look back with fond memories of the great manager who made Tranmere fans proud to be Tranmere again.
Micky Mellon’s departure from Tranmere Rovers was announced little over three and a half years after his appointment, his time at the club was above was to come to an end. He would leave as a legend in my eyes, the man who had brought excitement to my great local club through three trips to Wembley and two successful promotions from the fifth to third tier was to depart Merseyside for Dundee United. United, a club who have recently been promoted to the first tier of Scottish football was an opportunity that any proud Scotsman wouldn’t be able to turn down. Although I am slightly gutted, as I stated in the opening paragraph I believe we have owners that are capable of appointing the correct manager thus I look forward to the future and wish Micky Mellon the greatest of successes in Scotland.
Micky, thank you!
Mellon’s first eleven: 08/10/16 v Wrexham: W 2-0: Scott Davies, Mitch Duggan, Micheal Ihiekwe, Steve McNulty, Ritchie Sutton, Liam Ridehalgh, Jay Harris, Steve Jennings, Ben Tollit (Elliot Osbourne), Andy Cook, Jake Kirby (Darren Stephenson).
Mellon’s final eleven: 10/03/20 v Blackpool: W 2-1: Scott Davies, Kane Wilson, Mark Ellis, Peter Clarke, Manny Monthe, Calum Woods (Corey Blackett-Taylor), David Perkins, Alex Woodyard, Kieron Morris, James Vaughan (Connor Jennings), Morgan Ferrier.
Mellon’s Tranmere signings: Adam Dawson, James Wallace, Jack Dunn, Erico Sousa, Aaron Collins, George Waring, James Alabi, Elliot Rokka, Jay McEvely, Dylan Mottley-Henry, Gerry McDonagh, Ollie Banks, Josh Kay, Rhys Taylor, Josh Ginnelly, Manny Monthe, Drissa Troare, Zoumana Bakayogo, Mark Ellis, Jonny Smith, Harvey Gilmour, Cole Stockton, Luke Mcculough, Ishmael Miller, Ben Pringle, Kieron Morris, Chris Dagnall, Calum Woods, George Ray, Darren Potter, Sid Nelson, Corey Blackett-Taylor, Stefan Payne, Jordan Ponticelli, Kane Wilson, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Peter Clarke, Aaron Chapman, Alex Woodyard, James Vaughan, Andy Mangan, Ben Tollit, Ollie Norburn, Devarn Green, Paul Mullin, Jake Caprice, Shamal George, Franklyn Akamaddu, David Perkins, Morgan Ferrier, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Jacob Maddox, Andy Cook, Darren Stephenson, Adam Buxton, Louis Almond, Larnell Cole, Ryan Williams, Neil Danns, Morgan Feeney.
Mellon’s tranmere record:
Games managed – 199.
Games won – 92.
Games drew – 45.
Games lost – 62.
Promotions – 2. Relegations – 1*. (due to ppg).