On Tuesday night, Tranmere face Leicester City U21s in Papa John’s Trophy action.
The game comes a few days after The Whites drew 2-2 at home against Grimsby Town, creative midfielder Connor Jennings and goalkeeper Luke McGee were fantastic that day.
Tranmere started their PJT campaign off with a 2-0 defeat away at Fleetwood Town in early September.
Leicester also started with a defeat, a 7-1 thrashing on the road at Wigan Athletic.
The Foxes’ U21’s have also been struggling in their respective league games recently. However, there are still a few bright sparks to watch out for such as forward Amani Richards.
Ahead of the game I spoke to life-long supporter and LJMU sports journalist Zoe McGrady.
Hi Zoe, how long have you been following Leicester? What was your first game?
Hello! I’ve been following Leicester my whole life, my family are all huge supporters of the club so as soon as I was old enough to be at the games I was there. There’s no way I’m remembering my first game. I would have been so young, I wish I could!
What have been some of the best and worst moments during your time watching The Foxes?
This question just sums Leicester up because we really have been through the best and the worst of it! Obviously winning the league, you’re never ever gonna beat that. Also winning the FA Cup was such a special one. However, I can’t not mention the European away days we’ve had, especially last time round flying out to places like Randers and Rennes was just unbelievable. Worst moments obviously recently getting relegated last season, heartbreaking. Personally though the day of the helicopter crash at the club was definitely one of the darkest days at the club.
Could you tell us a little bit about the work that you have done around the club?
Yeah, so I actually used to work for the club as a Sports Turf Operative based on the King Power, so I was the one there every day maintaining the pitch. I got to watch all our games live still during Covid so that was a huge perk!
Rovers will be facing Leicester City U21s on Tuesday night in The Papa John’s Trophy after recently being defeated 2-0 by the first team in The Carabao Cup. Did you go to that game? What were your thoughts on it?
Yes I was at that game! I thought we played consistently throughout, and I was happy with the performance. If i’m honest I think Tranmere gave us more of a game than some Championship sides we’ve played recently, it wasn’t easy. Jamie Vardy got his goal which always means it’s a good game.
Leicester U21s are managed by 46-year-old Ben Petty who was a defender in his playing days for clubs such as Stoke and Hull. Petty plays a 3-4-3 formation and has been at the club since 2016. What are your thoughts on him?
Yeah so, he’s been at the club a while now, the Academy stands by him which I think is a positive. The U21s have struggled in recent times however so many factors when it comes to that squad are out of the managers control, I think it would be unfair to lay the blame on him! When I watch them play all the lads look like they are giving 110% effort and for Petty to get that out of these young lads I think he’s doing well.
The side were relegated from the PL2 this summer after losing 4-1 against Everton. They have won two of their opening six games this campaign. What do you think has been going wrong recently?
I often felt last season that the score line wasn’t an accurate representation of the game, the results just weren’t coming in. Last season was also a weird one. I do think the state of the men’s first team at the time had an effect on the whole club. There was no stability across the board, some of the Under 21s were being brought up to the first team and playing well and then we would never see them again. That can’t have had a positive effect on them. They’ve also had some injuries to key players. Sammy Braybrooke is out who I think will be crucial for them. I’m confident with these lads back and the confidence around the club right now they will turn the results around!
They started their PJT campaign off with a 7-1 defeat against Wigan in mid-September. How important do you believe it is for an academy side to test themselves against a professional outfit?
I think it’s incredibly important. These are players that ultimately want to break out of their academy side. There’s no better way to showcase your good enough for that than against a professional team.
Leicester U21s key players… Zach Booth and Silko Thomas have netted twice this season whilst Amani Richards has four assists. Who are you most excited about? Why?
Amani Richards is one to watch! But seriously those three you’ve mentioned and quite a few more I have high hopes for. They really do have a good squad. Of course, I’m excited to see the lads who are out injured getting back out there, I think they have high potential.
Leicester City Football Club has been owned by King Power since August 2010. How great have they been?
Before last season I would have had no negatives for you on this. The things that family have done for the club are incredible. They really did create a family unit around the club and looking at our trophy cabinet it paid off! We will always owe them for that. Vichai before he died would always be around the club on a match-day meeting everyone and handing out free shirts. Things like that I just don’t think you get in many other clubs. And of course, financially they have really backed us. Last season was a struggle, a lot of fans were turning against the owners. I’m not saying this was right or wrong, but we got relegated and the blame had to lie with someone. I’m confident they have backed us enough though to go straight back up.
How has First team manager Enzo Maresca, Pep Guardiola’s treble winning assistant, been with the academy and do you believe that due to the side being relegated it will be harder for him to give a look in to some?
I think the academy will be extremely happy with the way Enzo has come in. Kasey Mcateer, a former academy player, has been incredible under Enzo and in the starting line up before he got injured against Blackburn. Marcal as well has been getting in the squad, he actually scored the winner against Cardiff and I thought he was fantastic! It’s still all very new though and there is a huge focus on promotion. I think with time the academy will definitely feel the benefits of Enzo’s leadership.
Let’s finish off by hearing your score prediction for Tuesday night…
After I’ve kept saying they are gonna turn results around I hope tonight’s the night however Tranmere are a tough team so i’m going to go 2-2.
The Whites are at Prenton Park on Tuesday night, the ground that all of their competitive victories have come at this campaign. They will be looking to get revenge on Leicester City after being knocked out of The Carabao Cup here in August against the club’s first team.