Tranmere Rovers face an Everton XI on Saturday afternoon at Prenton Park as both clubs continue their preparations for the 2023-24 season.
The Rovers come into the fixture, which will be their first at home since the season ended in early May against Northampton Town, on the back of two behind closed doors friendlies.
Ian Dawes’ side beat Fleetwood before losing against Rochdale at The Campus.
Josh Hawkes and Charlie Jolley both impressed as they had a great afternoon in front of goal in the first game. However, Jordan Turnbull was sent off against recently relegated Rochdale as he gave a penalty away.
Everton stayed up on the final day of their Premier League campaign with a narrow victory against AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park.
The Blues also have a game against Wigan on Saturday thus it will be interesting to see who they field.
I spoke to freelancer Tactically Matt ahead of the ninety minutes.
How long have you been an Everton fan? What was your first experience of the club?
Since the day I was born. With a day from Liverpool and a full family of Evertonians, I had zero choice in who I supported. I went to my first game at Goodison Park at the age of six and I will never forget it. Manchester City at home, we drew 2-2 with a last minute equaliser and I’ve been in love with the club ever since, unfortunately.
Best and worst moments in your time following The Blues?
There’s not been many good times as an Evertonian, but I’d do anything to go back to the David Moyes days. Limited money, but the players that came in always had a point to prove. They worked for each other and played for the badge. Goes back to the old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’. I wanted a big investment but I’d do anything to go back. Worst times? These last two seasons. The stress of a relegation battle is like no other. Genuine sleepless nights and anger. Especially when some of my work is based around talking about Everton, it was a horrible time and I hope it never happens again.
You’re well known for your great tactical analysis as you write pieces for The Bullens View and other well respected outlets in your role as a freelancer. When did your love for analysing the game deeply start and when did you start getting your work published?
Around four years ago, I ruptured my ACL and consequently was unable to play football. Two years later, when I thought I was fully recovered, I did it again. In those four years, I’ve spent time coaching football and decided that if I can’t play, I need to be involved in some way. I started learning the game from an analytical perspective and made this Twitter account in August of 2021. Nearly two years later, I’m writing full-time with multiple freelance opportunities and have had an amazing experience so far.
Everton survived relegation with a narrow victory from an Abdoulaye Doucoure volley against Bournemouth at Goodison Park on the final day of last season. What are your thoughts on the campaign when you take a look back on it?
Terrible. A club the size of Everton can’t be involved in relegation battles, it’s as simple as that. The club has been run into the ground and we’re paying the price now. Things are looking rosier under Sean Dyche, but with our financial problems, there’s still a lot of problems at the club.
How have the club attempted to address their issues in the summer and how well do you believe they have done with Ashley Young being the sole signing so far?
It’s been a slow start, but it’s not easy with our limited budget. Also, it’s not an attractive club for players at the moment, with the off the pitch issues and on the pitch struggles. Ashley Young is probably a smart signing, considering his experience and versatility, but it’s hardly exciting for Evertonians.
Manager Sean Dyche was appointed in late January as Frank Lampard made a poor start to the season. What are your thoughts on his playing style and relationship with the fans so far?
I think fans are slowly buying into it all. At the start, there were a lot of people who were sceptical, but you can see he’s implementing a structure from top to bottom and is demanding a lot from the players. Hard work and commitment is all Everton fans want, and he gets that out of every single player.
How do you think Lampard did as boss? Was it the correct time to part ways?
Unfortunately for him, he’s simply not good enough. A nice guy and he connected with the fans, but tactically, we were all over the place. It wasn’t the correct time, really, it should have been done a few months before.
It all got a bit messy last season with Owner Farhad Moshiri and other board members staying away from the club in reported fear of being hurt by fans. What are your thoughts on those at the top and what would they need to do to get themselves back on the side of the fans?
There’s no turning back, in my opinion. The board all has to go. The evidence shows that they’re massively underachieving on the pitch and have caused financial mess off it. The fans thank Moshiri for sorting a state of the art stadium, but it’s time for him and the rest of the board to depart.
Winger Dwight Mcneil netted 7 last season. How important is he to the team and how would you describe his playing style? Who would you say are Everton’s other one’s to watch?
He’s extremely important. His work rate and crossing ability are so suited to Sean Dyche’s system. He started slowly under Frank Lampard, but you can see that Dyche gets the best out of him. Expecting a big season from him. Nathan Patterson and James Garner are ones to watch next season, for me. Both have struggled with injuries, but with a full season under their belt, hopefully we see what they can do.
Tranmere last played Everton competitively in 2001 as The Whites won 3-0 at Goodison Park. What are your thoughts on The Whites?
I think most Everton fans want to see Tranmere doing well. Over the years we’ve had players join the club on loan, former youth players often make the move there. Maybe it would be a little different if they were competing in the same league, but it’s a club I’ve always checked the results of, especially when the likes of Lewis Warrington were there on loan.
What type of team can we expect Everton to field at Prenton Park?
I think it could be a lot of youth players. Everton also have a friendly against Wigan Athletic, where I imagine more of the first-team will go.
What are your thoughts ahead of the 2023-24 season? How confident are you that the club can again avoid the drop?
If we get a few more players in, I’ll be excited for a full season under Dyche. With a pre-season learning his methods, hopefully we can start well and show a bit of consistency, especially with the manager. I believe we will stay up, but that rests on Everton signing a striker, a couple of wingers, and a centre-back.
Rovers are back in action at Prenton Park for the first time since the League Two season ended in early May as they face an Everton XI this Saturday.