The appointment of Keith Hill
Saturday 21st November
The search for a manager has ended. Tranmere have appointed former Rochdale, Barnsley and Bolton manager Kieth Hill on a contract that sees him as manager at Prenton Park until the end of the season. The contract also holds an option to extend for a further year if he is to get the club promoted to the third division in the 2020/21 campaign. This was announced an hour after Tranmere’s 5-0 win at home against Ian Holloway’s Grimsby Town.
In the end it was not to be any of the names that I had mentioned in my shortlist of the next possible Tranmere managers. The dream of having the Cowley brothers or Nigel Adkins was concluded and replaced by an appointment of former Bolton, Barnsley and Rochdale manager Keith Hill.
So, who is the new Tranmere manager? Why should we be excited, as fans, about the future of the club? What are the initial thoughts and feelings across the fan base? What are my initial thoughts? I aim to go into depth on all subject matters in this write-up.
Keith Hill is a 51 year old manager with a great experience of English football. He has managed 678 football league games, across the three different divisions below the premier league leaving him with a 38% win percentage. He also played in the football league, for clubs including Plymouth Argyle, Cheltenham Town and Rochdale. The centre half also featured for Blackburn Rovers, departing the club a few seasons before they won the newly formed premier league.
The new Tranmere manager has achieved two promotions in the division that Rovers currently play in, one in each spell of his time as Rochdale manager. He has managed three different clubs across the span of a fourteen year career in the ‘hot seats’ of English football. More importantly, in four full seasons as a league two manager he has never finished outside of the play-offs.
Hill’s managerial career started as manager of the ‘Dale’, he had played for the club for five years during his athletic years thus he knew the place well. The now 51 year old had excelled in this role, promoting the club from league two to league one before achieving the club’s highest league finish in over thirty years as they finished in the top ten of the third division. It wasn’t easy but he managed to show his quality in the earliest of occasions, in his first season, taking over a struggling team that he would guide to a play-off final that ultimately ended in defeat.
He would soon swap Manchester for Barnsley, promoting his personal position up by one division, in the summer of 2011. Barnsley were struggling financially, with a poor playing budget in relation to their fellow league competitors, this budget meant they were able to sign players from lower leagues such as forward Matt Done and tall defender Scott Wiseman. He would guide the club to championship safety. Yet he would be relieved of his duties halfway into his second campaign, following a poor start to the season with many influential players being unavailable for selection due to an injury crisis. Former promotion winner David Perkins being one of those unavailable players.
Very shortly afterwards, following the clubs dismissal of now Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman, Hill would return to the club he had once led to league two promotion. He would guide the club to another great league two promotion, the side being relegated when he was not at the club. His managerial quality would again be shown when he guided Rochdale to safety and they would soon become a side that was comfortable within midtable, which is an achievement for the size of the club and with the money he had at his disposal. However this momentum would dip and the ambitions would soon turn after a couple of seasons of being comfortable, the ambition was to now avoid relegation. Hill wouldn’t be relegated, his only relegation coming in his next managerial role, yet the club would be relegated a season after dismissing him of his duties.
Keith Hill is supposedly, and this is where everything becomes controversial as the history of the club and Tranmere is steeped in rivalry, a fan of Bolton Wanderers. Thus, his ‘dream’ would come true when he was appointed manager of the ‘Trotters’ in August 2019. Yet Hill’s job, although he claimed it to be his ‘dream’, was always going to be tough as the club was suffering with administrational and financial issues. The greater manchester club would have to sign nine players in the few days that followed Hill’s appointment in order to have a comfortable squad depth as they had to start the season with an extremely inexperienced team. This squad depth would not be enough to reach the newly found ambition of the club, to stabilize themselves in the third division, they would be relegated after the season would be curtailed early due to the newly discovered worldwide problem .. the coronavirus outbreak. Hill had done well, Bolton had done well under the circumstances and they even managed to beat Tranmere in a home fixture in February. However, Bolton declared that his contract would not be extended.
Hill would be announced manager of Tranmere Rovers in mid November, having been out of the game since mid march.
Why am I excited, after listening to his first interview, about the appointment of a manager that has never failed to finish outside of the playoffs in the club’s current division?.
Taken, as ever, from the clubs official website; (https://www.tranmererovers.co.uk/news/2020/november/keith-hills-first-interview-as-tranmere-manager/)
Style of play we can expect to see – ‘Fans should be excited by the performances and results they see’ ‘We will score goals and I love attacking football, the DNA of the team will be to attack, we need to create the link between the team and the supporters’ ‘The football will certainly be enjoyable to watch’
The ambitions he has for the club – ‘Our aim is to challenge for promotion, this is an exciting challenge’ ‘It is about making progress and it is going to be small progress because at this moment in time there isn’t much that needs changing’ ‘There is a lot of ambition at this club and so there should be, this is a big club’
His admiration for the facilities he now has at his disposal – ‘The training facilities at the club’s training ground (Solar Campus) is exceptional’
Happiness about the Bolton-born manager’s new role – ‘I am very happy to be at this club’ ‘I am really excited about representing this fantastic football club’
Respect for the fans – ‘We have a tremendous fan base and the community is great as well, in terms of getting behind the team’
Squads quality in strength and depth – ‘This squad is experienced, it has a good depth and it is going to be a privilege to work with this group and the current staff’
Admiration for his staff, he will be working alongside interim managers Andy Parkinson and Ian Dawes – ‘The staff have done tremendous to turn this form around in the last five matches’
The need for togetherness, his joy that it is already there – ‘Just watching the away game against Port Vale, the togetherness and the celebrations as they erupted at the final whistle, it brought everyone together. It is maintaining and establishing that team spirit amongst the players, staff and supporters’
Thus, based on this interview and his managerial career so far I am very excited about the appointment of Keith Hill. Hill is a manager that has done well in his career so far, winning two promotions from this division and in my opinion he will soon make this a third. I love his optimism and his knowledge of the football club. It is great that he wants to play attacking progressive football as this is when the game is best played. It is also great that the words that he has used are words that mean he is proud to represent the fans and the board and he wants to use this pride to be successful with what he believes is a great squad. It is also great that he has chosen to keep Andy Parkinson and Ian Dawes at the club as they have guided the ‘whites’ to the hope of success with a beautiful playing style. Thus, I believe the future looks promising and I see nothing to be upset about.
Unfortunately it appears that the majority of the fanbase don’t share my views. The club appointed Hill at 6pm, across their social media platforms and the hate directed to this decision spiralled into a tweet under an hour later from the clubs co-owner Nicola Palios. ‘Only Tranmere fans could have a meltdown over the appointment of a manager who has only ever had success in this division. Sickened by some of the comments, I’m signing off twitter’.
Thus, I decided it was best to get the thoughts of fans that may have a difference in opinion to mine. I would like to thank those that replied.
‘Definitely an interesting appointment. I can actually see it paying off and I’m very excited to see how we approach the game on Tuesday’ – @Callum_TRFC_
‘He might be it, he might not be, he says he brings attacking football, he has put a lot of pressure on himself from his interview but we will be fine if we can get the attack firing. He will be a good appointment if he doesn’t try and sabotage us. I am excited despite my initial disappointment but I am looking forward to this and it is also good that we have only signed him on a six month contract so he has time but his time reflects whether he is part of the clubs future or not. Did fantastic at Rochdale and he was steering Bolton in the right direction, look forward to what’s next’ – @lonelymanatpp
‘Disappointed with the appointment as I thought the club would be a bit more ambitious especially with the level of ambition prior when we were in league one. However, I do feel like he is experienced and the fact he wants to play attacking football and has kept Ian Dawes at the club does give me hope. If the style of football remains the same I’ll be thrilled as he gives the experience that they don’t have’ – @ftblsam
‘Quite underwhelming considering the names that were being linked to the job, however he’s kept Dawes at the club as well as Parkinson and he talks about playing attacking football whilst getting everyone involved with goals. It’ll be exciting to see how we play in the big games now we have a manager with experience to coach us through the season’ – @thomas_whewell
It will certainly be an interesting few weeks ahead.
Thank you very much for reading,