Past, present and future: a look towards the start of a new campaign after a tough few months.

Past, present and future:

Tranmere’s broken dreams and the club’s aims of promotion.

First of all, let’s cast our mind back to January … it’s amazing how we are now in September, it’s amazing how we’ve survived this long without watching our beloved Tranmere Rovers. 

We needed a good transfer window as we moved into the new decade, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere were struggling to stay away from the relegation zone. In December, the ‘super whites’ only managed to achieve five out of a possible fifteen points. The team lacked goalscorers, players to partner Morgan Ferrier who was brought to Merseyside in the summer. The team lacked a midfield general of a positive age, an age that wouldn’t describe Prenton Park as a ‘retirement home’. The team also lacked an experienced defender who could lead Tranmere with a great character to bark orders and possess great strength, this playing description is what I’d like from a captain. To combat these lackings, Mark Palios (Tranmere owner) brought in James Vaughan and Andy Cook, Alex Woodyard and Luke Mcculough as well as veteran captain material Peter Clarke. Although these signings were positive, it took time for them to fit in and show their qualities. From January 1st to 22nd February, Tranmere played nine league fixtures achieving a shockingly disappointing two points and despite capturing the signatures of Vaughan and Cook, the ‘whites’ only managed to score three goals. The worst performance of the lot, in my opinion, came against bitter rivals Bolton Wanderers in a 2-0 defeat on February 1st which was a time when Tranmere fans were positive after a successful transfer window.  Whatever happened in training between Wycombe Wanderers away and Shrewsbury Town away clearly worked as Tranmere went from no wins in eleven to winning the first of a consecutive three games. These three victorious games were all on the road, nearby away games at Shrewsbury Accrington and Blackpool. Tranmere won all games by one goal and despite the growing feeling of positivity and the loud chants in the away terraces, there is no worry that can match the one of trying to hold onto a lead for the last thirty minutes. The performances all showed quality and all of the signings made in January showed their class. Peter Clarke was showing his strong captain leadership alongside Mark Ellis who’s return from injury was a successful one, as he scored two goals which showed his striker poaching ability. Woodyard was showing his quality in midfield alongside Mcculough, a very strong partnership in midfield. Up front, Tranmere were now scoring goals as Morgan Ferrier became comfortable on the pitch with the signing of James Vaughan and the pair excelled together, setting up and slotting home to set Tranmere to victory.    

Despite the positivity, there was a growing global pandemic and the government’s lockdown plans had to postpone the season to a point of no return. There was cries of null and void, there was cries of no relegations yet the outcome was PPG (points per game) which was terribly unfair on Tranmere giving their strong end to the season winning three consecutive games on the road and that Tranmere’s upcoming fixtures were against teams near them in the scrap for safety. The demotion to league two was announced in early June, three months later in a response to a question from the media, Mike Jackson stated ‘I think it’s far too unfair to see it as a relegation, I view it as an unfair demotion’. I thoroughly believe that we would’ve stayed up. Although I am frustrated at the EFL for their choice making in the way that they ended the season, in a world full of great upset and worry I am able to place my mind elsewhere and focus on other things as this year has taught everyone to not take anything for granted. I now look forward to the new season and will forever be thankful to Mark and Nicola Palios with the great work that they have always placed into the club to keep the fans positive through incredibly tough times.

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One month after the demotion to league two, Tranmere legend Micky Mellon placed his signature on to a Dundee United contract to seal his dream move home to the Scottish premiership. A few days before this, Tranmere legend Connor Jennings moved to Stockport County following the end of his contract in Merseyside. On the same day, Bailey Thompson was transferred to non-league Tadcaster Albion. Unfortunately Thompson wasn’t able to show his qualities in a Tranmere shirt. The greatest of blows to Tranmere fans was the departures of Mellon and Jennings. Mellon had been the manager since the club had competed in the national league and with him at the helm Tranmere fans had experienced three walks down wembley way, winning promotion twice in two very emotional days against Boreham Wood which was a game that would have made a movie and against Newport County. Connor Jennings would also be a miss, he was the man that assisted the goal in the play off final to seal Tranmere’s return to the football league after being in a ‘coma state’ a few days prior. The other players that would leave Tranmere in the same summer are: Paul Mullin, Jake Caprice, Luke Mcculough, Evan Gumbs, David Perkins, Harvey Gilmour and Luke Pilling. All players that I believe we have been able to strengthen on with recruitment, yet I’d like to thank them all for their contributions in a white shirt as players such as Harvey Gilmour have been able to create great memories such as the manic game in Morecambe where we won 4-3. We have also been able to say farewell to the old pitch, thankfully, as it was tearing up and looking like a horrific mud bath throughout the 2019/20 season.

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So, with all these departures what have we done with recruitment and who is the new manager that has the tough task of replacing scotsman Micky Mellon? Also, how good is the new playing surface that they will attempt to achieve promotion back to league one on?

‘After a time of careful consideration, we have come to the decision to announce Mike Jakcon as the new Tranmere manager’. When Mellon left for his homeland, Tranmere fans were hoping for an experienced football league name and the majority wanted Nidgel Adkins. Mark Palios, however, believed it was best that Mellon was replaced by his assistant and there has since been a strong sense of optimism after a summer of great recruitment for the manager with little football experience in the hot-seat, with videos of training and players clearly backing their manager on social media. I believe that Jackson will do well as Tranmere manager. The 46-year-old played as a defender, and was once a mainstay in the Tranmere line-up. He played for: crewe, bury, preston, tranmere, blackpool and shrewsbury. He was at Tranmere for four years from 2002 to 2006 before returning in 2016 with Micky Mellon after the duo’s departure from Shrewsbury Town. Thus, Jackson understands the characters in the current Tranmere squad and will know how to get the best out of them, this season should be exciting. Mike Jackson’s assistant will be Ian Dawes, who has managed Bangor City and coached at Liverpool and Blackpool.

There have been many signings over the summer that show promise, there have also been many that show experience and leadership qualities in their performances. I think it’s safe to say that this pre-season has been the best in a long while in terms of recruitment. It’s been a summer that proves the Palios’ want the best for Tranmere to have any chance of a first attempt promotion.

In goal, Joe Murphy has replaced the departing Luke Pilling. Joe is an experienced goalkeeper and began his career at Tranmere in 1998 when he turned professional, he has since played for clubs such as Scunthorpe United, Coventry City and Bury. I believe Murphy will challenge Scott Davies in goal for the number 1 spot. 

In defence, Lee O’Connor and Calum Macdonald. O’Connor comes in replacing Jake Caprice as the former Tranmere full-back moved to Exeter City this summer. The 20-year-old has featured for Manchester United at youth level before signing for Celtic, he has also represented his country, Ireland, at senior level. Macdonald has featured for Barrow and Blackpool and has the ability and comfortability in his attacking left-back play to challenge Liam Ridehalgh’s place in the starting eleven.

In midfield: Paul Lewis, Jay Spearing and Otis Khan have all travelled to Merseyside to show their leadership ability and quality. Lewis has previously featured for Macclesfield and Cambridge Town, Tranmere fans may remember him as he scored a hat-trick against the ‘Rovers’ whilst he was at Macclesfield. Spearing is a captain material midfielder and as little as eight years ago featured for Liverpool in a FA Cup final against Chelsea, he has since played for Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool and many Blackpool fans have stated their disappointment about the club’s departure on social media. Otis Khan, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder who can also play as a winger, has previously featured for Yeovil and Mansfield Town after coming through the academies of both Manchester and Sheffield United. In 2016, Khan appeared on ITV’s ‘ninja warrior’ completing the course in a time of 2:41 so be aware that I may nickname him as the ‘ninja warrior’ through my match reports.   

In the search for goals, last season’s successful loanee James Vaughan has signed from Bradford City.  The experienced striker has previously played for: Everton, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, Birmingham, Bury, Wigan, Sunderland and Bradford. Micky Mellon brought Vaughan to Tranmere last season on loan, the striker made an impact as he scored three goals in eight games. League two should be afraid of the partnership that is James Vaughan and Morgan Ferrier.

Mark Ellis, Peter Clarke and Danny Walker-Rice have all extended their contracts. Ellis and Clarke are two great central defenders who last season proved that they could play incredibly well together, Walker-Rice is a young winger who has featured in cup games and friendlies such as the game against Liverpool last season. He is a winger with no short of confidence and a great ability to bring the ball forwards and create great opportunities for the strikers. 

Tranmere are also delighted to announce the signings of George Nugent (winger), Kyle Hayde (defender) and Jake Burton (forward) as the trio move from Andy Parkinson’s academy to Mike Jackson’s senior squad.

A new playing surface has also been brought into Prenton Park over the summer, it looks amazing and has premier league standard qualities which should excite Tranmere fans considering the state of the pitch that we saw last season.

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As Well as being a time to sign players, the summer’s pre-season has also been a time of trying to regain the fitness that may have been lost over the course of lockdown through the covid-19 pandemic. Friendlies have been organised and played against: The New Saints, Warrington, Preston and Burnley. Manager Mike Jackson has said ‘I am happy with the way we have performed through the friendlies, we have shown quality at times and the fitness keeps improving, so I am happy’. The games are soon set to become more competitive …

Tranmere face Harrogate on Saturday 5th September in the EFL Cup, it will be at Prenton Park but behind closed doors. Those who want to watch the game will be able to purchase it from iFollow for £10.

Tranmere face Port Vale on Tuesday 8th September in the EFL Trophy, it will be at Vale Park but behind closed doors. Again, those wanting to view it, will be able to purchase it from iFollow.

Harrogate have recently been promoted to the football league, in a play-off final against Neal Ardley’s Notts County. They are managed by Simon Weaver, who has managed the ‘sulphurites’ since 2009 in their great journey to the football league. I believe that they are a strong side however they have a lot to prove as the club has never competed in the football league. They were founded in 1914, yet before the second world war was known as Harrogate Hotspurs. I believe that Saturday will be the first time that Tranmere will have ever faced them. Tranmere fans should keep their eye out for a player named George Thompson who is a technical and experienced midfielder who scored in the national league play-off final last season.

Last season, Port Vale finished in a strong position of 8th. They are managed by John Askey and have been since 2019, Tranmere fans should recognise Askey as he was the manager of Macclesfield Town through Tranmere’s many battles with them through national league fixtures. Their summer has been successful as they try to build on from last season and aim for promotion, they have added players such as the experienced striker Theo Robinson, who scored 11 goals in 28 games in a loan spell at Colchester United last season. They were founded in 1907 and are great rivals with Stoke City. Tranmere have met the ‘valiants’ 93 times, being victorious 40 times.

Personally, I think that Tranmere are both strong in the 4/2/3/1 and 4/4/2 formations, I would play: Scott Davies, Lee O’Connor, Mark Ellis, Peter Clarke, Calum Macdonald, Jay Spearing, Paul Lewis, Kieron Morris, Otis Khan, Corey Blackett-Taylor and Stefan Payne. However, if manager Mike Jackson opts for the 4/4/2 formation I would play James Vaughan and Morgan Ferrier in the places of Otis Khan and Stefan Payne.  

I think both games will be exciting as they are both opposition who Tranmere will soon face in league action. The games will aim to show Tranmere’s quality against league opponents and I think that the games will display Tranmere’s areas of weaknesses and strengths to help Jackson understand  where he may need to keep strengthening in the summer transfer window as they aim to have a strong league two campaign.

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Throughout the course of the season, I aim to do my best to improve on the content I produce and to bring you the best that I can possibly manage.

Thank you.

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