Past, Present and Future:

Jackson’s era, the process of appointing a new manager and what could the future look like?

Again, I write about the past present and the hopefully successful future for the club that plays at Prenton Park. It was announced yesterday evening, thirty minutes after Tranmere’s home defeat to Morecambe, that another era was ending. This era was the reign of Micheal Jackson, as he aimed to take a recently demoted team back to the rich successes that he experienced with the club during his time as assistant manager. After Tranmere’s demotion, manager Micky Mellon reached his dream. He would travel up North, to Scotland, to manage the newly promoted Dundee United. Mellon would leave Tranmere to manage in the Premiership, the Scottish Premiership. It was announced 12 days later that the inexperienced, in the ‘hot-seat’, Jackson would be tasked with turning the club’s fates around. The reaction from the Tranmere faithful was a mixed one, this was clearly a risky appointment given the lack of experience involved. However, after a pre-season of successful recruitment and the new players talking about Jackson being an influence in many transfers the faithful took to supporting the thoughts of those that knew him better than we did. It was going to be a successful season, Tranmere were set to strive with a relatively young manager and a greatly recruited squad. 

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Transfers:

Permanent – Joe Murphy (GK), Jay Spearing (CM), Paul Lewis (CM), Otis Khan (CAM), Kaiyne Woolery (LW), James Vaughan (ST).

Loan deals – Lee O’Connor (RB), Calum Macdonald (LB), Liam Feeney (RW), Jack Young (CM), Sam Smith (ST).

Out on free transfers – Luke Pilling (GK), Jake Caprice (RB), Evan Gumbs (CB), Luke Mcculough (CM), David Perkins (CM), Neill Danns (CM), Darren Potter (CM), Harvey Gilmour (CAM), Connor Jennings (CAM), Paul Mullin (ST), Bailey Thompson (ST). 

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However, despite all of the hopes of success we knew that it was going to be difficult. The players, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, hadn’t had game time since March. It was July when Jackson was appointed, thus the players he had managed to bring in could get some level of game time through friendly fixtures. Could Jackson keep up the high standard of recruitment whilst performing well through the friendly fixtures and manage to improve the fitness of his squad. That was the first task.

Pre-season results:

Tranmere 0 TNS 1 – @Solar Campus, Tranmere training ground – First match since March, a test of fitness.

Tranmere 0 Warrington 3 – @PrentonPark, a game of home debuts as many players got to grace the newly instated turf for the first time. A worrying result none the less, looking at the match highlights .. there was plenty to work on.

Tranmere 1 Preston North End 1 – @PrentonPark – Stefan Payne scored an equalizer, he also looked like a changed man. He had certainly used lockdown to his own personal benefit, as he appeared stronger and more trim than ever.

Aswell as the ‘friendlies’ that the club had set up, the EFL had also set Tranmere up to play in different cup competitions. They would face Harrogate in the EFL Cup on home turf aswell as travelling to Port Vale for an EFL trophy tie. These games looked set to be interesting occasions against teams that would challenge them in league two encounters aswell as in the positions of the overall league table, two ties that  would certainly show where the fitness of the squad was at.

EFL Cup:

Tranmere 1 Harrogate 1 (Harrogate win 7-8 on penalties).

EFL Trophy:

Port Vale 0 Tranmere 0 (Port Vale win 4-3 on penalties).

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So, after five ‘pre-season’ games what were the thoughts of the fans? Did we see anything that helped improve or maintain the excitement we had when the appointment was announced?  

I think the majority of fans were frustrated with the pre-season performances. Although the league season hadn’t officially started, there were a few doubts.

  1. Lacking an ability to create – Tranmere had only scored two in five, excluding penalties of course. There seemed to be a problem scoring goals in open play, the goals scored so far were from the forwards pouncing on defensive mistakes meaning there was little created from midfield.
  2. Conceding too much – Tranmere had conceded in four of the five ‘pre-season’ encounters’, they had conceded in all games if you’re willing to include the goals conceded in penalty shootouts. The performance in the friendly at home to Warrington was a major worry, the ‘whites’ conceded three to Paul Carden’s seventh tier side and were unable to score.  The defenders seemed to have either lost the ability to defend in a strong manner or they were heavily lacking in terms of fitness.
  3. Lack of fitness – Expected but it certainly was a real worry.

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How did Tranmere start the league season?

The league season was set to start little under a week later than their last fixture, a midweek EFL Trophy defeat. Tranmere would travel to Nottinghamshire to face Mansfield, a strong league two side who were aiming to transfer their previous relegation fight finish to a finish they had previously seen. They wanted a promotion push, after a difficult start their aim remains the same. Thus, there are similarities between Tranmere and Mansfield. The ‘whites’ faithful hoped to see an improvement in both styles of play, going forward and defending from what they had seen through the summer.

The results of the first five encounters:

Mansfield 0 Tranmere 0 – A point away from home to set the season off in a positive light against a club that should have promotion aims. Not too much to say about the performance, in a positive or negative manner. Strong performance none the less.

Tranmere 0 Cheltenham 3 – A total disaster. The first half was extremely poor as Cheltenham managed to score three goals, the second half saw an improvement and this was carried into the next league fixture.

Cambridge 0 Tranmere 0 – A positive solid performance, this game should’ve finished 1-0 to the visitors if it wasn’t for a poor mistake by the linesman. James Vaughan shouldv’e had his first goal of the season, after beating the defenders with a burst of pace. A game that saw many positives that were yet to be seen in previous games as Tranmere looked more threatening and the defence remained strong throughout.

Tranmere 2 Scunthorpe 0 – The best performance of the Mike Jackson era. Tranmere attacked well throughout and James Vaughan hit a brace, a very successful performance by the defensive players aswell.

Salford 2 Tranmere 2 – COVID hit the camp and many vital players had to isolate. The performance wasn’t too good, that was to be expected with players out of position. However, there were certainly positives to take including the performance of young forward Jake Burton and the final few minutes which saw a comeback that would certainly excite Tranmere fans. 

Tranmere started the season off in a mixed fashion. They drew 3 from the opening 5 league fixtures and achieved a victory in one of the others. 

Positives – The defence looked strong. They had kept 3 clean sheets in 5 games and one of the games that they conceded in, defenders were put in unfavoured positions due to the training ground’s COVID outbreak. There were things to be proud of.

Negatives – There was little to be negative about. The home encounter with Cheltenham saw a major defeat however a lack of fitness etc could be blamed for this. Maybe the midfield should’ve created more. However, the results spoke for themselves and in context they were fairly successful results.

In the mix of these performances there was a local encounter with Merseyside ‘rivals’ Liverpool in the EFL Trophy.

EFL Trophy:

Tranmere 3 Liverpool U23s 2 – Successful performance and a successful result. The defence seemed pretty strong as they kept Liverpool’s young fast forwards from creating much. One of the goals came from a perfectly struck free kick which was placed into the top corner, no-one would’ve stopped it. In front of goal, Vaughan and Payne added to their goalscoring tallies as they were able to get past a Liverpool defence which included highly rated youngster Sepp Van Der Berg. 

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The start of the downfall:

The ‘downfall’ was seen in an away performance at Newport County. The next five league performances would see manager Mike Jackson lose his manager role in ‘uncertain’ times. The defence was leaking and the attack weren’t creating, problems that the club thought would improve only got worse as Tranmere entered a period of relegation form. 

Newport County 1 Tranmere 0

Tranmere 0 Orient 1

Tranmere 2 Southend 0

Crawley 4 Tranmere 0

Tranmere 0 Morecambe 1

They are all games that I’d prefer not to comment on. I will, slightly. Through every game the playing style wasnt exciting and it appeared that Jackson was unable to get the best out of the players that he had recruited. Everything went wrong through four of these five games and although we beat Southend it is a game that we expect to win, given the stats that Southend have achieved in their league encounters so far. Crawley away epitomised this run, in my opinion. We failed to create anything, we were second to every ball and our defence was anything but solid. It is unfortunate that after all of his hard work Jackson wasn’t able to leave in the best of manners. However, it is a ‘sacking’ that had to be made.


Mike Jackson’s sacking:

There was a club statement released through the club’s website and their social media platforms thirty minutes on from the home defeat to Morecambe. The man that once had aims of taking his team from demotion to promotion would leave the club. This was an unfortunate departure, Jackson had etched his name into the hearts of Tranmere fans through the time he had spent at the club as a solid defender and a great assistant to the man who would get his dream move to the Scottish Premiership. Being manager was a step too far for that manager’s assistant. 

Quotes from Mark Palios, following the decision to sack manager Mike Jackson, that were seen in the club statement;

“I appointed Mike because he was an excellent coach who had some forward-thinking ideas and had played a big part in the two promotions enjoyed under Micky Mellon’s tenure. I therefore felt he deserved the chance to make the step up this summer when Micky left the Club. Despite the fact that this is a season which has thrown up challenges that no manager has had to face before I have regrettably come to the conclusion that it is right for the Club to make a change of manager. This is a season which could still yet be shortened due to Covid so we do not have the luxury of time to turn things around.  The Club will always be grateful to Mike for his contributions first as a player and then as assistant manager as well as his efforts as first team manager. He has always shown himself to be a great professional in whatever role he served the Club and we wish him well for the future.”

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The future – the managers I’d love to see in the Prenton Park hot seat.

The next task the Palios’ have, if they weren’t busy enough already, is to appoint a manager in the hope of kick starting a promotion season. Tranmere’s next league encounter is away at Harrogate Town, this fixture will be played on Tuesday evening. Andy Parkinson, the manager of the reserves, will take interim charge. Below is a list of names of managers that I’d love to see appointed.

Nigel Adkins – Birkenhead-born Adkins was once goalkeeper for Tranmere, between 1983 and 1986. He met Palios during his time at the club. He went on to play for Wigan Athletic and Bangor City. After his time as a goalkeeper, he went on to have a successful career as football manager. He managed: Scunthorpe, Southampton, Reading, Sheffield United and Reading. He has managed 535 league games and from this has a 42% win percentage. His greatest honours include two league one promotions with Scunthorpe United and he took Southampton from league one to the premier league. Adkins left his last role in the summer of 2019, following his contract’s end date as Hull City manager. 

Paul Cook – Liverpudlian manager Paul Cook had a successful career as a midfielder. He represented Wolverhampton, Burnley and Tranmere (aswell as many other clubs). Before retiring, as an athlete, in 2006. He has since managed Sligo Rovers, Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan (amongst many others). He is yet to win any honours as a football manager. However, his 48% win percentage across 107 Portsmouth matches and 41% win percentage across 155 Wigan matches truly does speak for itself. 

Cowley Brothers – The Cowley’s rose to ‘fame’ during their time at Braintree Town Football Club in the Vanarama National League. They took a team that looked set to be relegated, to the play-offs whilst playing a beautiful style of football. They did this whilst being part-time managers as they were also PE teachers at a local secondary school. After this season, they waved goodbye to the classrooms as they travelled up north to Lincoln City. They promoted the ‘Imps’ to the fourth division and went on a wonderful FA Cup run; beating Burnley at the premier league club’s stadium ‘Turf Moor’ to set up a tie away at Arsenal. After two seasons in league two, they took Lincoln to league one before being named as Huddersfield Town managers in the championship. It didn’t exactly work out for them during their time at the ‘Terriers’. However, their track record of success ‘speaks for itself’ and they are a pair that are highly sought after as football league managers. 

Graham Alexander – Graham Alexander has had a great career in football. He has played over 150 games for Scunthorpe, Luton, Preston and Burnley and he has since managed Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Salford City. Whilst a player, he appeared for his nation of Scotland, over forty times. His win percentage as manager is successful, he has a 43% win percentage over 372 football league games which proves that he would be a good appointment. 

The recruitment stage is set to be a fairly interesting and exciting one, if the recruitment of players is anything to go by, the Tranmere faithful are set for a successful season ahead.

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I would love to see Mike Jackson as a successful football manager/assistant in the football league regardless of whatever club that may be at, I wish him well for his future in football. I would also like to thank him for his services at our great football club. I look forward, in excitement, to see who the Palios’ appoint to be the next Tranmere manager. I trust that they will make the correct decisions.

Thank you for reading, stay safe.

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Links to my other write-ups during Jackson’s reign:

https://ethanhoijord.com/2020/09/04/past-present-and-future-a-look-towards-the-start-of-a-new-campaign-after-a-tough-few-months/ (the clubs pre-season aims)

https://ethanhoijord.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=168&action=edit (my match report after a huge defeat at home to Cheltenham, I detail how I want the team to improve)

https://ethanhoijord.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=178&action=edit (my match report on Tranmere’s greatest performance during the Jackson reign)

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