Dave Higgins – Mid Season Review.
Tranmere have conceded less goals than any other professional English football club than Manchester City, thus it’d be difficult not to mention Rovers’ great defensive work when talking to club legend Dave Higgins.
Dave gave his thoughts on how the season has gone so far, on Micky Mellon’s managerial return to the club as we also discussed the January transfer window and what position he believes Tranmere will end the season in.
‘Automatic promotion is in our hands. Who will win the league title? We will’.
How would you say the season has gone so far, has it been a positive start to Micky Mellon’s return to Merseyside?
It wasn’t an amazing start to the season but everyone knew that he normally gets his team going after Christmas. We had an awful lot of players come in pre-season so it was hard for him to understand what his best team was. I still wouldn’t say we’re at our best however if we’re winning eight out of ten league games whilst not playing at our best, imagine what we can do when we are.
Micky’s come back from Scotland with more experience and he’s now utilising his new found team very well and we’ve got some amazing attacking talents. If you offered me, in the summer, second at this point of the season I’d snap your hand off so he is doing a really good job.
Talking about the squad we have, what would you say are their strengths and weaknesses? Would the weaknesses be linked to depth?
I think we’ve got enough bodies for depth, if you look at how many names we have on the back of a programme you’ll see that!
The positives are that we’re clean sheet after clean sheet but we could do with scoring more. Our opponents are having more possession than us and we’re not letting them do much, if anything, with it. We’ve made a lot of changes to the squad but the way we’re digging in to win the games shows that the players are buying into what the manager wants of them. Positives? Clean sheets, results, the team is fighting like mad and we are where we should be. Second in January is brilliant.
Touching on the defence and the clean sheets they’re producing, with you being a defender what would you say are the reasons behind the success of the Rovers back line?
A settled back four and goalkeeper is very important as they’re able to build that bond and communicate with each other well, they’ll know when to move and when to stay. It isn’t just down to them though, great defensive work must start from your forwards and trickle down into a strong midfield before you reach the last line. When we’re defending a corner everyone is back, no ones being left up and the team’s work ethic is very very good.
We were able to reach the final of the Papa John’s Trophy last season but we’ve exited all cup competitions at an early stage this campaign. Would you say that’s something that has bothered yourself or would you have wanted to focus solely on the league?
Due to the size of the squad we have, we could’ve chopped and changed to suit the fixture list demands. However, less games mean that you’re less likely to get injuries to key players. It’s always great to have a good cup run, it’s amazing to get a big club to come to Prenton Park and all of the players would’ve wanted to experience that. However, we’ve just got to accept that we’re out of the cups as our main aim is to get promoted and we’re right on course to achieve that.
Focusing on the January window and what we’ve been able to complete so far, the loans of Josh McPake and Kane Hemmings then the outgoings being Mark Duffy and Ryan Watson. How would you describe our business so far and what are your thoughts on the retirement of club captain Scott Davies?
Davies’ retirement is very sad as that was forced with injury, in a match that I was at. I’m sure he’ll get a coaching role or something similar elsewhere as he was a top professional for Tranmere.
The signings? We needed forwards, we’ve brought in forwards. Nevitt was trying his hardest up front against greatly experienced centre halves. We were feeding him on scraps and he must’ve been wondering what he had to do at times to get more opportunities at times. We’re now creating more chances as we’ve brought in players with a bit of pace and knowhow but we could still do with scoring more.
You were in the stadium last season, commentating on matches for TRFC Radio. How is it like to have supporters back now? Have you noticed much of a difference?
It’s absolutely made a difference. You go out for a pre-match warm up and nobody’s there. It’s so hard to get yourself in that correct mood. As soon as you hear the fans, it motivates you so much more and when you’re relatively clinging on to games the crowds can help the team fight on until the whistle blows. Imagine going on a promotion push and there’s no fans there? It really lacks excitement and that has all come back.
We’re now entering the final months of the season. Do you believe automatic promotion is a possibility and do you believe we could nip Forest Green to win the league title with the game against them being next week?
That’s a massive game against them next weekend and we’ll go within four points of first with a win. We did well against them in the first meeting of the season, when we drew 0-0 at their place.
Last season we had two games in hand, we had to win those games to go second and we were getting excited in the press box, what happened then was we got too far ahead of ourselves and it’s important now that we don’t make that same mistake.
If we concentrate on our games, not other games, no one will be able to catch us and with the seasoned professionals we’ve got I believe promotion is in our own hands. I’m sure we can go on to get promoted, win the league title as well.
What a win it would be to win the title. We’re doing the damage against the teams we’re facing and that’s why we are where we are.
Finishing our conversation off, where can people find your media work? Are you still commentating for the club?
I’m still doing the radio work for Tranmere. I’ve been away, I’ve been working and it’s happened that a home game hasn’t fallen in yet. Saturday I’ll be there and then the remaining Saturdays of the season, I’m unable to make midweek games due to work commitments.