Newport – Meeting the opposition.

Newport County – Meeting The Opposition.

Tranmere v Newport is a fixture that will be forever remembered by some for Conor Jenning’s last minute headed winner in the 2019 League Two Play Off Final. The two clubs will again meet, this time at Prenton Park, on 21st August for another League Two encounter. Thus, I spoke to @1912Exiles about County and a range of other relevant subjects ahead of a game which will be very close in quality at an early stage of the 21-22 campaign.

How long have you been a Newport supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I moved to South Wales in 2001 and started following County a couple of years later, when we were founder members of the Conference South and playing in front of crowds of about 600-800, at a windswept athletics stadium in the middle of an industrial estate. Compared to County fans of an older vintage, who saw us wound up and then having to restart life playing in Gloucestershire because of a legal wrangle with the FAW, I was very fortunate – even more so given that over the last two decades, we haven’t been relegated, have won two promotions to regain our place in the Football League, and have played five times at Wembley! The good times won’t last forever, but hopefully we’re not done yet on the incredible rollercoaster that is life as a Newport County supporter.

Having a look back at last season, how would you say it went in terms of expected success and how will the upcoming campaign be different? What are your expectations/predictions/ambitions for the next ten months?

Speaking of rollercoasters, last season had everything. We charged off into an early lead and were top in December before losing key loan signings Scott Twine and Brandon Cooper. Without Twine’s flair (and goals) and Cooper’s defensive solidity, we unravelled spectacularly in January and February and couldn’t buy a win. Our pitch woes further added to our misery, resulting in us having to play a couple of games at Cardiff City’s ground. Thankfully, Mike Flynn stopped the rot and we rediscovered our early-season form to end up as the form team going into the playoffs – only to lose at Wembley to a penalty-that-never-was (it was a dive, and outside the box) against Morecambe.

This season, we’d love to have another crack at promotion, but losing Josh Sheehan (to Bolton) and Joss Labadie (to Walsall) leaves our midfield lacking two talismanic players so there’s a lot of pressure on the new signings. Critical to any success will be a bit more creativity in the middle of the park – with it, we’ll be Top 7 again, but without it we’ll be mid-table.

What are your thoughts on gaffer Michael Flynn? He has been County manager since 2017, guiding the Exiles out on to the Wembley turf in the League Two Play Off Final against Tranmere two years later.

With the budget and the players at his disposal, most County fans will lavish nothing but praise on Mike Flynn. Not only did he keep us up in 2017 against all the odds (we were 11 points adrift when he took over), he has since provided us with countless wonderful (and lucrative) cup runs, some spectacular memories, two playoff finals and – last season – a much more attractive brand of football than County have played for years. His signings have been the proverbial curate’s egg, but with a new Sporting Director to help him, there’s hope that we might finally achieve that elusive promotion to the Third Division.

What are your thoughts on the way that the club is run? The owners in particular, who are they and how long have they been at the club?

We are the owners, so we think we’re wonderful! As a fan-owned club, there’s no easy answer when the team needs a new striker or a loan signing to provide cover – if we want it, ultimately we’re the ones who have to pay for it. But the club is being run sustainably and is living within its means, which is undoubtedly a good thing. The biggest challenge we face (like many clubs) is not owning our ground – we share Rodney Parade with the Newport Gwent Dragons, which not only puts the pitch under pressure, but also restricts County’s ability to maximise non-matchday income. That’s the biggest long-term challenge we face.

What players will pose the greatest threats to Tranmere at Prenton Park? From afar, how much of an influence to the team do you think Mellon will have on his return in comparison to the one that Keith Hill had? In general, what are your thoughts on Tranmere as a club and where do you think they will finish come May?

Despite the pain of losing to you at Wembley, I have a lot of time for Tranmere – you’re a ‘proper club’, with great fans and a magnificent ground. Last time I came to Prenton Park was in your promotion season where we scored early and then defended for our lives for 85 minutes to get a thoroughly undeserved 1-0 win, which your fans took extremely magnanimously in the circumstances. I then stayed in a camping pod on a llama farm in the Wirral with my son, which made for a memorable weekend! I’d expect you to be top half this season, but beyond that it’s very hard to make predictions in Div 4.

What is your score prediction and how do you think Flynn will address this game from a tactical perspective?

We’d be delighted with an away point. At this stage, it’s too early to really get a sense of how good we are – if we can score, we’ll be okay, but that’s by no means a given. I’ll say a 1-0 win, but I don’t know to whom!

Random fact about Newport?

There are a few good ones:

What are your worst and greatest experiences whilst supporting the club?

Worst was probably losing to Morecambe in May – it still hurts. When we lost to Tranmere two years previously, I felt the better side had one on the day even if a few decisions went against us, and that season qualifying for the playoffs was an unexpected bonus. Last season, I felt we had done enough to earn promotion and dominated the game at Wembley. It deserved to be won by something better than a disgraceful penalty decision.

The best would probably be any one of our recent cup scalps – for me, even though we didn’t win it, drawing against (and nearly beating) Spurs at home in 2018 was incredible and made me burst with pride at how far we had come as a club.

The game may see a return to the Wirral for Kevin Ellison. However, considering he was a trialist for the club at some point during this summer, what are your thoughts on his contract renewal and how do you think the club have done in terms of player turnover in pre-season?

He has now signed on for another year, but in a player-coach role. I think County fans are delighted to have him back – partly because he’s a useful option from the bench, but mostly because he’s an incredible ambassador for the club, doing so much great community work and being a wise old head for our crop of young players. More generally, over the summer we probably lost the players we expected to lose and kept most of the ones we wanted to keep (Labadie being the exception). It’s too early to say how well the new signings will do, but there are some good options there, and most of us expect this season to be the one where Lewis Collins (who came through the ranks at County) will really make his mark on Div 4.

‘When we lost against Tranmere, I felt that the better side had won even if I also felt that a few officiating decisions went against us’

Chris Redmond – The impact exercise has on your overall health.

Chris Redmond – sports coaching and a journey through mental health struggles.

For me, the past year has put plenty into perspective and it has made it evident how important a healthy social and life balance really is. Personally, there was a stage where I really struggled and having nothing to look forward to was certainly one of the reasons. Thus, I recently caught up with someone who I have great admiration for in Chris Redmond. He’s given plenty of people something to look forward to in his organisations and groups which all focus on exercise and having a positive outlook on different situations. We all spoke somewhat about the club we love, Tranmere, ahead of the new campaign.

To start our conversation off, could you firstly just tell me a little bit about yourself and your upbringing around mental health and football. What were you like throughout your school years and what part did football and exercise in general play in your lifestyle and earlier stages? Was it something that you were emotionally invested in? Did you play for or go to any sporting clubs? 

I had a strong upbringing, a full home of Mum, Dad, older brother and younger sister. I played football as a youngster, but I don’t ever remember winning a match! I certainly played for the team who never won a game – youth football was very different 20+ years ago, we were playing on close to full size pitches and it was 11 kids running around like headless chickens. My first dabble as a football fan was probably around 1990 when I was unfortunately given a Liverpool shirt by my auntie, so as a 5 year old I accepted it for what it was and wore it. My head got turned by a young boy called Laurie. He was sitting in the playground in school (still around the age of 5!) and I asked him what he was doing. He asked me who I supported, I didn’t know how to answer, so I asked him who he supported and he said “Tranmere Rovers” – not having a clue what a “Tranmere Rovers” was, I dutifully agreed that I also supported them and here we are 31 years later, I’m still absolutely in love with the club.
I remember watching the World Cup 1994 and I loved every second of it. Seeing teams like Brazil and Italy that year was incredible and cemented my love for the sport.
Tranmere has provided some of the best moments of my life outside of my family, and football was a huge part of my childhood and still a massive part of my life. I’ve exercised for as long as I can remember, running laps of a playground, going to the gym, swimming in the holidays with friends and having a long period of time kickboxing and bodybuilding. I spent the first part of my adult life in the gym lifting weights 5 times a week, and in 2014 I started running.
Now I run 4 times a week and I lift weights twice, partly because I’m pretty competitive but mostly to look after my mental health.

When did you first come across Tranmere and what are your greatest and worst memories that you’ve had following the club? If you had to name some of the best and worst players and places that you’ve seen and been to in that time, what players and places would you name?
As above, I first came across Tranmere as a 5 year old in a school playground – I genuinely didn’t understand anything about football whatsoever. I went to my first game which was Grimsby at home in the old format of the reserve games, which were fantastic! We won 3 – 0 and I was buzzing about it. I’ve had season tickets for 30 odd years on and off (I had to stop in my 20’s because of work commitments but still got plenty of games), now I go to the home games and the occasional away as I’ve got a young family. I sit with my Dad and the gang who we’ve grown to know over the past 5 years of sitting in the main stand.
I’ll get the worst memories out of the way first – obviously the relegations were awful. The second of the back to back relegations was the worst because of the nature in which it happened. Mark and Nicola have brought so much hope to the club and then we did the most typical Tranmere thing ever and we employ a narcissist in Adams who destroys the morale of the team and we get relegated! The atmosphere around the club and the ground was so toxic, it must have been a bit shit to have the job of sorting that out.
The Forest Green final was also an extremely low point, it was a foregone conclusion by half time so I had mostly gotten over that by the end of the game but the journey home was absolutely horrendous. Sometimes you just need to be away from people at times like that, and being on a coach for 5 hours wasn’t fun, a coach full of people who are gutted. The journey was miserable.
The worst players I’ve witnessed will be left out, but there was a group of the 2014/15 season that should never be seen in a professional team. Their commitment to earning their wage was never there, and their right to wear the badge of any football club is none existent. I’m obviously a Tranmere man through and through, but I wouldn’t wish some of those players on any club.
The best moments of being a Tranmere fan are much more important and prominent in my memories. The cup runs of the late 90’s early 2000’s were something special. When David Kelly scored that goal at Wembley the place went insane. Over 40,000 fans going bonkers, as Tranmere fans we don’t get to experience that mass celebration very often. So that was pretty special.
Norwoods header against Boreham Wood was obviously incredible for different reasons. When it was 1 – 1 the time seemed to be flying by, when the goal went in I thought “we’ve got to hold onto this for another 30 minutes”, before looking up at the clock in shock that it was 82 minutes gone. I turned to my good friend and said “fucking hell, there’s 8 minutes left – we might actually do this”, the following 10+ minutes were absolutely horrendous from a fans point of view. After the final whistle went I think I hugged everyone within a 10 seat radius.
It’s moments like these that you really feel emotion, and when you’ve had deep mental health struggles where you never thought you would feel them, it makes them extremely special.
My Rovers heros are from the 90’s – Aldridge, Morrissey and Co. Just incredible. As a man approaching middle aged, I’m not sure I’d say I have idols now, but I value a footballer who works hard for 90 minutes and knows what it means to wear the badge.
Peter Clark, Jay Spearing, James Norwood are all men from recent years that I highly appreciate for their values and work ethic they offer every single game.

Socially, how would you describe the role that Rovers have in your life? I recently saw a tweet from yourself that said how great fellow supporters were. What will it be like to finally be around others in the stadium instead of watching behind the iFollow cameras and how would you say that Rovers fans interact with each other through social media? Is there a sense of community and social strength?

Rovers are a part of your soul, It’s just how your football team works. When you see someone call us shit on social media then it’s kind of taken personally. Even though we do it to Bolton and Forest Green all the time. . .
Like any fans we have our moments, but I think we’ve had our fair share of shit over time. The two relegations, the demotion on PPG, the madness of Jeremy Butler, Micky Adams, John Barnes and to some extend Gary Brabin (I liked Brabin, he just wasn’t the right man for us), I can understand why fans are so quick to react to appointments like Keith Hill – which most were proven right about. Sometimes we react too quickly, but it just shows pure passion and love for the club.
I wouldn’t change the way we are, we’ve been through a lot as a fan base and because of that there can be tensions between us when we are quick to react.
However, I don’t think this takes away from what the community offers. We have fans who are very open about their struggles with health, their families health or their mental health, and the reaction from our fans is always fantastic. The fact that the players and Nicola Palios get involved too really speaks volumes about the way we are as a community.
When we take a shine to someone then they’re always welcome back to Prenton Park, Nors is a prime example of that. He’s one of us and when it comes down to it, we look after our own and they look after us. During lockdown (the first one!) I missed football so much, I think it’s all I talked about in the lads Whatsapp group. Not being able to go to the game was horrendous, I missed the whole routine of leaving my house to pick my dad up, the drive to the ground listening to the radio, the walk up to the ground, a pint pre match and seeing the gang that we sit with. I’m very excited to be back on Saturday, and even more excited to see us play under Micky again!
I’m not a man who shows physical affection to anyone other than my partner and my children, but I may hug Leslie, Margie, Len and Bev when I see them at the game! (if they let me!)

If you didn’t struggle mentally throughout your childhood, when did you first notice that you probably needed help? For example, what was your mental health like six years ago that you referred to in a tweet? Did you find it easy to initially talk about it and what steps did you take to improve it? How would you describe your current position now to your lowest?

I’m never sure where I should start on this question. My wider and more detailed story is a bit of a memory shit show.
Reflecting back I never really knew where I stood during my years in secondary school, I never really settled into a friendship group and that was mostly down to my inability to feel like people liked me. I wasn’t massively aware of that at the time and it isn’t something that I feel hard done by now, it is just something I acknowledge. During my late teens and early 20’s I had a bout of depression and was prescribed my first dose of tablets for that. As I headed into my early 20’s things started to escalate and I began to have panic attacks and longer and deeper periods of depression, also developing elements of OCD that I didn’t really understand. It was a very strange time, and I didn’t really know what was going on.
I had some incidents in my work life, which escalated my anxiety and OCD and it was a huge downward spiral which resulted in me having a nervous breakdown in 2015 – hence the tweet about 6 years ago. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts and it was extremely harrowing, but the best side of this was that I had hit absolute rock bottom and I’d survived, so the only place I could go now was up.
The breakdown put my problems out in the open, my family knew the full extent, work had to be told as I was having time off and I had to begin to address what was going on. There was no other choice now, and that was massive for my recovery.
At my lowest points I was lying on the kitchen floor crying my eyes out at the prospect of going to work, I tied nooses around my neck, I struggled to an incredible extent to function at times. I remember going to Matalan with my Mum to buy some new towels and it felt like a big deal that I’d managed to go down and do it.
I’ve got a great life now, I still have my struggles at times with the odd moment of panic over something that isn’t important but I’m working on that. I feel like I’ve won the war, but I’m not complacent with it.
Now I compete in Ultra endurance running races, I’ve got a beautiful partner and two children and I run 2 successful businesses that help people with their physical and mental wellbeing. I manage my mental health through running and I know when things are getting a bit tough, I need to catch up on some sleep and perhaps reduce my alcohol intake a bit.

If you could describe yourself and your ambitions in life, at work and away from it, what would you describe yourself as and what goals do you have in a working capacity and at home? Is coaching something that’s always interested you or did that come through the Rovers club?

I’ve coached for the previous 11 years as a personal trainer and a running coach, it is something I genuinely love – although the working hours can be pretty brutal at times. In 2018 I opened Running Head First, a mental health organisation that helps people with mental health through running and other exercise forms.
We help people who are experiencing mental health illness for various reasons, it may be depression, anxiety or OCD. They may be suffering a loss of a loved one or experiencing other challenges in their personal life. We also work with people who have cancer, children in poverty and youths who are engaged in crime.
I want to grow Running Head First into a large north west based organisation that offers exercise, counselling and therapies as part of a wider and more holistic service to those in need. I have much bigger goals that I like to keep to myself. I’ve learned that you keep your aspirations and goals to yourself and there is a lot less pressure on you to succeed then – resulting in a higher chance of success!
But. . .I’ve got plans to help a lot of people and raise lots of money in the process.

Could you tell me a little bit about the roles that you have in mental health. Your twitter bio states that you’re a director of three mental health organisations but what does that entail, how did it come about and could someone who needed help get in touch with you about finding support? How would they do that?
As above my work in mental health is directly with Running Head First, I’m incredibly passionate about reducing mental health illness. I was a complete write off after my breakdown, and it was down to a handful of people who showed some serious and probably blind faith in me that I didn’t have in myself.
I had an incredible amount of support, sometimes it was the wrong support, but it was support regardless. Without my family and friends I would have been dead by now. I want to make sure that nobody ever has to go through what I went through alone, and if we can, stop them ever getting to rock bottom in the first place.
We’ve actually merged the three organisations this week (I need to update the bio!) two of the organisations covered children’s mental health and nutritional interventions to aid people’s wellbeing.
We support free of charge fitness and health programmes for those suffering with their mental wellbeing. Some programmes are online, but the majority of them are face to face. If people want to find out more about or join one of our programmes they can do so by contacting us on Instagram or Facebook (both Running Head First), email at or call us on 0151 315 1092 and leave a message with reception.

Touching solely on the Tranmere walking and running club and the work that you do for that. How did that first come about in terms of the ideas and the strategies of formulating them? How long did it take to set everything up and were there people working alongside you to create it all? Is it a group that works together or is it a group where people do their individual running/walking and the group sends them supportive messages? Has there been much success so far and what do you believe the end goal for it is, if there is one? How would someone come across it if the first time that they hear about it is through our conversation?
The group is born from my passion to help people’s wellbeing and my passion for Tranmere Rovers.
Birkenhead is one of the most socially deprived areas in the UK and by that there is  a high chance of ill physical and/or mental health. We were in the heart of a pandemic, and I had some spare time with half of our business being closed down. I knew I wanted to do something for our community a long time ago and we tried to set something up, unfortunately it didn’t work out. With the rise of programmes online due to Covid and an increase in social isolation and people not getting to see their friends and family, it just made sense to set it up online and let it roll.
I would love to bring the running club in person, especially as the club has so many options of where we could host it, such as the rec centre, Solar Campus and Beechwood Leisure Centre. Unfortunately our attempts to have these conversations haven’t been too successful, but my ultimate goal with this is to have running clubs based from one of the clubs facilities as well as remote running clubs for those who aren’t local to Birkenhead.
We can then bring better health to the area and the club, we can increase footfall into the clubs facilities and we can hopefully bring additional funds to Tranmere Rovers in the Community and Running Head First, allowing us to both build on the great work that we are doing.
So, if anyone from the club is reading this, then my email is and our number is  0151 315 1092  🙂

If someone was struggling and was in need of support, what advice would you give them and what strategies help you personally? One thing that really helped me throughout my counselling was the thought strategies, me and my counsellor went through the ways that I thought and felt about different situations.

Just get help. My success is not a template for anyone else to work from, but I hope my story shows that there is hope out there. Even if you think there isn’t!
Speak to your family, go to your GP, go to the hospital if you’re in a crisis, do the things that make you feel good. Don’t do the things that make you feel bad.
But most importantly, get professional help.

Looking towards the start of the new Tranmere season. What are your thoughts and feelings in terms of squad depth and quality? How great is it to have Micky back which coincides with the return of supporters and where do you think Rovers may finish come May?
The squad depth worries me, and the lack of a reputable finisher is also a great concern. Micky has always had an unusual transfer policy, often favouring the older players, but players that know how to get the job done. If we had kept Otis Kahn and Danny Lloyd, as well as adding a finisher in then I’d think we’d be in a great position. Having said that, the man has achieved promotion with us twice. He knows how to finish a season and get a job done. I suspect that if we are around 10th in January, a few choice signings will be made and we will be in the play offs at the end of the season.
If we get someone in before the end of the window (summer one!) then we could be top 3 at the end of the season. It really does depend on how well we start, regardless, we will be in the hunt for promotion in May. 

Chris’ Twitter cover photo shows exactly what he thinks relates to a successful, happy and healthy lifestyle. You can find his Twitter account on the name @Chris_RedPT

Swindon Town – meeting the opposition.

Swindon Town meeting the opposition

Rovers play their third league game of the 2021-22 campaign on Tuesday night as they travel to Swindon where they will come up against Ben Garner’s Robins at the County Ground. It’s safe to say that Tranmere’s record against their hosts isn’t the best, with no wins in the past ten encounters but to get further information on a range of subjects ahead of the game I spoke to Ben Nicholls who told me who to keep an eye out for and how he can see the game panning out.

How long have you been a Swindon supporter? How/when did you first come across the club?

I’ve been a Swindon fan for about 30 years. I started following them properly in 1992. My dad is a Spurs fan. At the time there were a lot of Swindon and Tottenham connections. When I played for my local under 12’s we went to watch a Swindon game, 5-1 win v notts county, from then I was hooked.

Ben Garner is Swindon gaffer and was appointed in late July this year, what are your thoughts of him so far? What did you make of the John McGreal situation who was appointed in the summer but left after four weeks through mutual consent?

I liked McGreal, however the club wasn’t honest with him. When the club stopped paying players and staff, he walked. Don’t blame him, Garner is a very good appointment. Failed at Rovers under tough circumstances. However he has great pedigree and plays excellent entertaining football. I like him being at the club a lot. 

What is your score prediction for Tuesday night and how do you think your manager will address the game in terms of tactics etc?

2-1 Swindon. We’ll play 4-2-3-1 and pass it – a lot.

Random fact about Swindon?

We’re the only West Country team to have ever played in the Premier League and win a major honour. 

What are your worst and greatest moments as a Swindon fan?

Greatest? Promotion to prem.

Worst? This summer. 

Who are the hosts’ key men?

Anthony Grant and Louis Reed are the engine room. 

What are your general thoughts on Tranmere, as a club and as a team in terms of the quality that Mellon’s side has?

Good team. Big club at this level, sooner or later you’ll go back up and rightfully so after what happened. However, it seems like the fanbase still have a chip on their shoulder over the flood lights incident in 92. 

Having a look back at last season, how would you say it went in terms of expected success and how will this upcoming campaign be any different? What are your predictions/expectations/ambitions for the ten months ahead?

Well there’s a question. Since March 2020 the club had been on self-destruction. Our (at the time) owner had come to the point where he no longer wanted to run the club. However, due to a deal he made he wasn’t able to sell the club to the group he wanted. So he just stopped, lost interest and ran the club down. 

3 weeks ago we had 8 contracted players, no manager, no board, no ground staff and no coaches. Power had paid rent since March 2020, owed a million in tax, a large number of creditors owed, and the club had stopped paying staff and players. 1.1 million EFL loan taken out. Three weeks ago I’d take relegation if it meant that we still existed.

However, it’s amazing what can happen In such a short period of time since the takeover. 

Creditors have been paid or are in the process of being paid, we have a very good coach and an excellent coaching set up for the league. 

We are going up to buy the ground from the council and re-develop the CG. The vice chair of the trust is not the CEO. We have trust not only trust members but supporters club on the board. Money’s been made, the club has been rebuilt from its core, it’s healing. To the point now just staying up would be a disappointment. 

What are your thoughts on the owner/s of the club? Who are they?

Clem is God! 

Clem Morfuni is a self made entrepreneur. Started life as a self employed plumber in Sydney. Now he has a global business with a turnover of over £200 million a year. The guy loves football, lives and breathes it. All he’s talked about is transparency and giving the club to the fans. He watches the club home and away, he used to be a sponsor. Stands with the fans. He’s out himself pushing season ticket sales, meeting fans and ultimately putting the graft in. I love it.   

What players will pose the greatest threats to Tranmere in the opening game of the season? Are you worried about any of the visiting players? If you did have any, what were your thoughts on the dismissal of Keith Hill at Prenton Park? From afar, what do you think Mellon will bring back to Merseyside from his time in the SPL?

Ben Gladwin & Jack Payne are high end league one players playing in league 2. You’ll struggle to find better in the division. Their vision and ability is beyond this league. Tbf, I’ve been so involved with Swindon this year I know little about you. However, I do know that Mellon is back and you should be in and around the top 7 come the end of the season. 

‘Clem Morfuni is a self made entrepreneur who lives and breathes football’.

Port Vale – Best and Worst

Port Vale Best and Worst – Scott Challinor.

Lower league football is a crazy scene as clubs try to navigate themselves through narrow finances, a constant change of playing and coaching staff and fans can often find themselves travelling the length of the country to watch players that may be similar to Sunday League standard. Thus, ahead of the Port Vale v Tranmere game at Vale Park I spoke to Scott Challinor who told me his worst and best of a range of subjects during his time supporting the Vale.

Best XI: 

Mark Goodlad, Matt Carragher, George Pilkington, John “Boom Boom” McCombe, Lee Collins, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Anthony Griffith, Doug Loft, Ashley Vincent, Marc Richards, Tom Pope.

Worst X1: 

Dimitar Evtimov, Lawrie Wilson, Chris Slater, Calvin Mac-Intosch, Colin Miles, Chris Mbamba, Exodus Geohaghon, Craig Rocastle, Kaid Mohamed, Kyle Perry, Danny Glover.

Best Player: In the history of the club, probably Robbie Earle. And I’ll have him in my list because I’ve seen enough clips! Ever since he made his debut aged 17 and scored his first goal in his next game at Aldershot, he showed commitment in every single game and he played in three promotion sides. He scored a famous winner in the 1988/89 playoff final to take us back into the Second Division for the first time in 32 years. He also scored in the first local derby for some time against Stoke City the following season.

Although a midfielder by trade, Earle spent two seasons as a striker and scored 36 goals. 

It was no surprise that, after he left for Wimbledon (then in the top tier) for £775,000 in 1991 where he excelled and became a fans’ favourite, Vale were relegated the following season.

Worst Player: Exodus Geohaghon. Awful footballer, slow and brought nothing to the table other than a long throw that found nobody. Being dragged away from an altercation with travelling Vale supporters as he walked off the pitch after a 3-0 loss at Accrington Stanley summed up his time here.

Best Moment: In my time as a fan, probably when we effectively secured promotion in 2012/13 with the draw against Northampton. Full time that day was wrought with emotion. Running onto that pitch and mobbing the players was unforgettable and there were a few tears to boot! To have done it from the start of the season in administration was simply amazing. Honourable mention most of course go to Tom Pope’s equaliser at the Etihad in the Third Round of the FA Cup in 2020. Being among 8,000 Vale fans going berserk is something else I’ll never forget. 

Worst Moment: The day we found out the club was going into administration for the second time in its history in 2012. We had a night game at Vale Park in League 2 with Burton Albion and I walked the two miles to the ground in tears. Sadness turned to pride when we won the game 3-0. The two relegations I’ve experienced following the club tugged at the heartstrings but neither came close to that night.

Best Game: In my time watching the club, probably the 3-2 win at home to Cheltenham in the 2012/13 League 2 promotion season. We’d halted a dour winless run the week before against struggling York but came into this game against a direct promotion rival needing to prove a point and tighten our grip on a top three spot. We dominated the first half, went ahead with a vintage Tom Pope header but were unable to build on that dominance. Cheltenham came out revitalised in the second half, stuck two quick-fire goals in and a horrible feeling of deja-vu from previous weeks set in. 

Step up leading League 2 goal scorer Tom Pope to equalise with a superb cushioned side foot volley, before completing his hattrick with a fine finish to win the game 3-2: a ball came in over the top which he latched onto and nodded down into his feet to bring it under control, before bearing down on the keeper, feinting as if he were to go around him, and he then dinked it over the top of him and into the net. For what the game meant, the end to end action and the drama, this one is up there. Pope capped off the winner with an all-time famous Vale goal celebration by ripping his shirt off and belly sliding in the snow at the side of the pitch. You couldn’t have written a better script. 

Worst Game: A few contenders here, but probably that awful night at Chasetown in a second round FA Cup replay in 2007/08. Having managed to draw 1-1 at Vale Park to the eighth tier outfit (then five leagues below us) in the initial tie, we made the short trip down to Chasetown’s Scholars Ground where we conspired to miss two penalties in normal time before conceding a stoppage time winner scored by a 19-year-old university student. 

An honourable mention should also go to our 2000/01 FA Cup humiliation to another non-league side in the shape of Canvey Island. We managed to blow a 4-2 lead away from home (in a game interrupted by two pitch invasions: one by a streaker and one by a bloke dressed as Superman) to draw 4-4 in the initial tie before being embarrassed at Vale Park in a 2-1 defeat in the replay.

Best Signing: In the history of the club probably Ray Walker. Ray was an immediate breath of fresh air when he arrived on loan from Aston Villa with his classy midfield play in 1984. He made the move a permanent one two years later for £12,000 and proved to be the bargain of the century.

He went on to make a whopping 440 appearances for the club and stamped his mark in midfield helping the club to two promotions. He also scored a famous screamer in an FA Cup victory against Spurs in the 1980s that helped put the club on the football map.

Walker’s talent didn’t go unnoticed by his fellow pros either, as he scooped the player of the year award at Vale twice and was selected in the PFA Divisional team three times. I’m mentioning him just because I’ve seen all the clips.

Worst Signing: There are a few contenders for this one, but purely for how much he flopped probably Lawrie Wilson. He was an established and supposedly very good fullback by the time he came to Port Vale in 2017 having played for Stevenage, Charlton and Bolton and featured in promotion winning sides. He looked like he couldn’t kick a ball in a Vale shirt and made seven appearances before leaving for non-league Ebbsfleet.

Best Goal: Tom Conlon vs Barrow in 2020/21. A volley from inside the centre circle takes some beating. Should be a contender for the 2021 FIFA Puskas Award.

Worst Goal: Off the top of my head, our equaliser in a 1-1 League 2 draw with Torquay in 2012/13. I remember a cross came in from the left flank with no Vale players in the box, and visiting defender Brian Saah had nobody near him and seemingly all the time in the world to control the ball and clear his lines. Instead, he attempted to clear it for the first time and inexplicably sliced it into his own net under no pressure whatsoever. No complaints from me though!

Best Kit: I really love the 2020/21 away kit. It’s plain black but so simple and so effective. Smart and well received by the fans, as demonstrated by record sales. 

Worst Kit: The 1898-1902 kit. Some raving lunatic at the time decided to put us in red and white stripes (the colours of near rivals Stoke City). Shocking call and I hope they got a life ban. 

Best Chant: There’s a few absolutely brilliant contenders for this but so many of them are in bad taste! On that note,

I’ll go with the “Super Vale Away” chant we always sing at away games. It’s simple but when there’s a couple of thousand or more belting it out it’s just beautiful. 

Worst Chant: The song we for some reason still sing about Mark Stein, an old Stoke striker from the 1990s who famously dived to win a penalty against us. Great chants and great lyrics back in the day but we aren’t in that era anymore! 

Best Season: I’m going to say 2012/13. To start the season in administration and without a permanent kit and then go on to win promotion was special. Boyhood Vale fan Tom Pope scoring 33 goals in all competitions to help make it happen was the stuff of dreams. Certainly the best season I’ve witnessed as a Vale fan. The other good stuff was a bit before my time sadly. 

Worst Season: 2007/08. No question.  We got relegated, lost in the FA Cup to non-league opposition, near neighbours Crewe stayed up at our expense and our biggest rivals Stoke City hit the big time. Hell on earth.

Best Manager: John Rudge. Managed the club during its heyday in the 80s and 90s. In 16 years with the club he won three promotions and one trophy, keeping the club in the second tier for nine seasons and enjoying one or two memorable cup runs along the way.

Worst manager: Couple of contenders here but I’ll go for Michael Brown. He stepped in as caretaker manager with the Vale six points above the drop zone in League 1 exactly halfway through the season. Five wins in 23 games later, we were duly relegated and yet he still managed to bag the job full-time to try to build his own side and take the club back up at the first attempt. Oh dear. After a summer of signing a load of dross, eight games into the new season we’d hit the foot of the EFL which proved enough of a prompt for Norman Smurthwaite to finally swing the axe. Brown hasn’t been back in management since and can regularly be seen groundhopping on Gillette Soccer Saturday.  

Best Hard man: Captain of the 1953/54 old Division Three promotion winning Vale team (which also got to the FA Cup semi-finals) Tommy Cheadle. Vale’s record appearance holder Roy Sproson said of him “Pound for pound, in fact, I would say Tom is the hardest man I have ever met.” Cheadle was a soldier in World War Two and was injured by a grenade, as well as picking up 22 stitches in his head during his playing career from various footballing clashes. If that ain’t hard I don’t know what is!

Worst Hard man: There are a couple of contenders for this one but probably winger Ben Whitfield. I love the lad forever and a day for scoring some crucial goals to help keep us in the league in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, but he’s a classic pretty boy footballer. I remember him being tackled in one game by big Exeter fullback Dean Moxey and he looked like he wanted to throw up! 

Best Haircut: This is a tough one off the top of my head, but Shaun Brisley always seems to have had a smart lid whenever he played for the club prior to his move to Wrexham this summer, so I’ll go with him!

Worst Haircut: Luke Joyce’s Lockdown Three barnet. Imagine receding hairline, whatever hair is left is curly, and then he tries to grow out what remains. Absolutely dreadful! Ran close of course by Martin Foyle’s iconic horseshoe hairstyle in the 1990s. 

Best Away Day: There are several contenders for this, but in my recent memory I’ve got to pick a game we’ve won and meant a lot, so I’m going to go with our 2013/14 League 1 away win at local rivals Crewe. It was a key game for both sides at opposite ends of the table with Crewe struggling in and around the bottom four and Vale hovering around the playoff places. A sellout away crowd of 2,300 saw the Vale come from behind to win 2-1 with a late goal and go within a point of the playoffs.

Worst Away Day: Purely because I’ve not mentioned it yet, our 3-0 League 2 defeat away at Southend United in January 2012. I went with a close friend on the official club coach for this one, so alcohol was banned and it was a 12-hour round trip to and from Essex. Vale were around 11th at the time but in touch of the playoffs spots, yet on the way down, we discovered that injuries and illness had ravaged the squad and seven first-team regulars would be missing, so already we knew we’d be up against it against a Southend side that was in the automatic promotion places. 

After arriving at a freezing cold Roots Hall and finding we were part of a meagre 137-strong away following of diehard Valiants, a depleted Vale side were 2-0 down after just 20 minutes following two defensive errors. We stayed for the duration, seeing us finish with ten men, score an own goal in the second half and get beat 3-0 in an abject overall performance. We then had the pleasure of six more hours on the coach home without any booze to numb the pain. To rub the salt in, we went into administration two months later.

Never again, please.

Best Cult hero: I’ve really had to look through the history books here but probably Ron Futcher, because the striker was an explosive mix of mood swings, supreme skill and bad haircuts. He came to the Vale  for a fee of £35,000 as a 32-year old journeyman striker and the signing was said to be a panic buy at best. 52 appearances, 20 goals and one promotion later, he was sold to Burnley for £65,000, a profit of £30,000. 

Worst Cult Hero: Rigino Cicilia. The gangly 6ft 5 Curaçaoan striker christened “Reggie” by the Vale faithful managed to score four goals in 29 league appearances for the club…somehow! His height was deceiving as he was neither strong nor won anything in the air, and although some of his goals earned us some key points, several more missed sitters ultimately helped us on our way to losing our League 1 status. He’s since gone on to play in the Europa League with Lithuanian champions Suduva and spent a spell in the Dutch second tier. As of 2020/21, he plies his trade in the Czech top flight. Again, I’m not sure how. 

Worst player? ‘Exodus Geohaghon. Awful footballer, slow and brought nothing to the table other than a long throw that found nobody’.

Port Vale – Meeting The Opposition

Port Vale – Meeting The Opposition.

Tranmere go into the second game of the League Two campaign on the back of an opening day victory whereas their upcoming hosts lost their opening game away to Northampton Town. One similarity? Both teams had new recruits receiving red cards, as Vale keeper Lucas Covolan was dismissed. Ahead of the game at Vale Park, I spoke to a supporter of Darrell Clarke’s men in the form of Scott Challinor who told me who to look out for amongst a range of other relevant subjects.

How long have you been a Port Vale supporter and how did you first come across the club?

I have been watching the Vale since 2001, with the LDV Vans Trophy Final triumph of that season being the first game I can remember. We beat fellow Division Three club Brentford 2-1 that day. How things have changed for both clubs since! As for how I encountered the club, I owe all that to my Dad for indoctrinating me by taking me along to games as a boy. 

What are your best and worst experiences whilst supporting Vale? How does this current period compare with others?

As well as that 2001 trophy victory, my best memory of any success we’ve had would be promotion in the 2012-13 season. The club started the season in administration from the previous campaign and didn’t even have a permanent first-team kit by the opening day. 21 wins, 15 draws and just ten defeats later and the club was celebrating a miracle promotion which had manifested itself completely against the odds. Boyhood Vale supporter Tom Pope also notched 31 league goals that season (33 in all competitions) and walked away with the League Two golden boot to put the cherry on the cake. You couldn’t have written a better script for us. I’ll also have to leave an honourable mention to Tom Pope scoring at the Etihad against Manchester City to level the game at the time. 8,000 Vale fans going absolutely berserk at the home of the English champions is a moment I’ll never forget, despite the end result.

My worst moment is probably going into administration in 2011/12. The fans knew it was coming for a while but the news broke that it was actually happening on a Tuesday morning in March 2012, and we had a night game against Burton in League Two coming up. I walked up to the ground in tears that night not knowing whether we’d see out a second administration in under a decade. We won 3-0 that night. From then to the end of the season it went from a playoff chase mission to getting enough points to be mathematically safe and the lads went about their business so professionally. Fortunately, we came through the ordeal of administration and had something historic to celebrate the following season. 

It seems that this season, there’s a real sense of optimism compared to previous years, probably more so even than last year when we were fancied to do right by ourselves and win promotion after a season curtailed by the pandemic and settled on PPG ripped away the chance of securing a playoff place. Sadly the players didn’t deliver last season. However, the way we finished last season and the strong recruitment we’ve seen this summer have both offered hope that we can push on. 

There is undoubtedly more quality and mobility in the side now, but the key thing will be scoring goals. If we can make it click in the final third, I’m confident we’ll be in and around the top seven.

Random fact about Port Vale?

Since I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter lately asking “where’s good to drink in Port Vale?”, it’s going to have to be this one: Port Vale is NOT actually a place. We’re one of the few professional clubs in England not to be named after a geographical location. “Port Vale” is thought to originate from “Port Vale House” where the club was founded in nearby Longport, right on the Trent and Mersey Canal network. The town we play in is Burslem, one of the six constituent towns of the city of Stoke-on-Trent. 

Going into the upcoming campaign, what are your thoughts and expectations? How do they compare to those that you had last summer?

Funnily enough, my expectations are exactly the same as last season! I had us down finishing between 3rd and 5th last season and we didn’t deliver under John Askey. However, after the incredible job Darrell Clarke did in steering us up the table toward the end of last season, plus the players we’ve recruited over the summer, I really do feel like we can push on now.

As much of a disaster as last season may have seemed at times from a Port Vale perspective, had a few games won on fine margins swung in our favour, we could’ve been far closer to the top seven that we ultimately ended up. We’ve recruited this summer in a smarter way than ever before to try to make sure we win those marginal gains. So, despite the high turnover in players, once we gel, I think a good run of results could put us right in the mix. It’ll be build from the back and edge games I feel rather than going out and scoring lots of goals if we’re to be successful.

Darrell Clarke is the current Vale gaffer and was given that role earlier this calendar year. What are your thoughts so far of the former Bristol Rovers and Walsall manager? What has he brought to the club? How does he normally approach games tactically?

I’ve been really pleased with Darrell Clarke. Last season, his man management and coaching made a team that looked bereft of confidence and energy a hard to beat outfit, and he masterminded a six-match winning streak which propelled us up the table. He’s brought a winning mentality back to the Vale team, and made it clear to the players that representing Port Vale and wearing that shirt is a privilege and you should give your all in it. There’s a real sense of pride back among that squad of players now and you can see how he’s bounced back from a relegation out of the EFL with Bristol Rovers by achieving back-to-back promotions.

Tactically, Clarke doesn’t marry himself to any philosophy other than winning games, and his setup isn’t about catering to certain players or playing a certain style, it’s about what it takes to win the game on that day, on that playing surface, against that opponent. He has always spoken about wanting a squad that can change shape in-game according to different situations as the momentum of a match alters. His “Plan A” has tended to take the shape of a solid 3-5-2/3-4-1-2 to make us hard to break down and pack out the midfield to start with, but then we’ve seen the team switch to a back four during the match in certain phases of the game to counter the opposition when they switch things around, or to simply go on the offensive more. 

We’ve seen us playing it around nicely on the ground when the playing surface is good, and we’ve seen us go direct and win games ugly when the pitch has been a disgrace. So, a lot of different approaches and styles of play can be expected from this Port Vale team. 

Who are the owners of Vale and what are your thoughts on them? Are there any off-field projects that are exciting you and other supporters?

I couldn’t be happier with the owners we have. Carol and Kevin Shanahan are both supporters of the football club and they run successful IT security business Synectics Solutions which is based just next door to Vale Park. They both paid well over the odds for the club to take us out of Norman Smurthwaite’s hands (thankfully!) and since then it has largely been a period of steady improvement.

They’ve turned us into a community club again that does our bit locally, but aren’t content with just “existing” as that “nice club” and chugging along in League Two. They live and breathe success in their business culture and they’re bringing that winning mentality into Port Vale. They want promotion and they know all about uniting the fanbase and exciting the supporters with positive PR. 

Concerning projects, there are a lot of improvements going into the ground which will improve the matchday experience such as the food and drink kiosks taking debit cards at last, which seems like a simple thing but makes a huge difference to the fans and the club’s income. 

I also believe the wheels are in motion to commission a statue for John Rudge, the most decorated manager in the club’s history, as well as an elite new training facility for the players. This is all part of bringing the club into the 21st Century and making us even better run than we already are. It’ll spruce up our image, make us a more attractive prospect for fans and players, and improve us going forward. The investment the Shanahans have put in to make all of this possible shouldn’t be understated either. We have so much to be thankful to them for.

Who are your key players and danger men?

In the forward positions, Devante Rodney and James Wilson. 23-year-old Rodney finished as the Vale’s leading marksman last season with 11 league goals and boasts strength, power and pace to leave defenders trailing in his wake when he gets going.

Wilson meanwhile has suffered from injury woes in the past but is a product of the Manchester United youth academy and has enjoyed regular minutes at a higher level. He is a natural finisher and if we keep him fit could be a major asset for us. He netted eight last season for Salford playing out wide, so could sneak into double figures leading the line alongside Rodney. 

Another duo to look out for is that of captain Tom Conlon and winger/wingback (formation depending) David Worrall in the midfield. 

Conlon cleaned up at the Port Vale Player of the Year Awards for last season and was the first Vale centre midfielder to hit double figures in goals for 15 years. He has established himself as one of the most proficient set-piece takers outside of the Championship and been rewarded with a new three-year deal. 

On the other hand, Worrall finished as one of League Two’s leading assists providers last season and is known for his industry and work rate. He has already turned provider on more than one occasion during pre-season, so I suspect he’ll be on song with his deliveries again over this upcoming campaign. 

What has Vale’s summer recruitment and outgoings been like and with some time left on the clock, what else needs to be done?

The one word to describe recruitment this summer is “busy”! Clarke started the summer by releasing all 15 out of contract senior players and transfer listing a further three, leaving a core of nine players remaining in his plans and targeting a final squad of roughly 23. He backed himself to get enough quality through the door and it seems that the new-look recruitment team here have done just that.

Clarke and director of football David Flitcroft have so far recruited 12 players, including goalkeepers Lucas Covolan (who famously scored for Torquay in the National League playoff final) and Aidan Stone, defenders Lewis Cass and Ryan Johnson (both of whom won promotion to the EFL with Hartlepool last season), experienced defender Aaron Martin, long throw specialist Dan Jones, marauding fullback Mal Benning, technically gifted defensive midfield man Brad Walker, silky playmaker Tom Pett, the hard-working and combative Ben Garrity, as well as physical forward Jamie Proctor and natural finisher James Wilson.  

With quality in abundance and a squad of 21 players now, we just have two more spots to fill. One extra striker who can play off the shoulder and give us that extra bite up front, and a left-footed winger for an additional creative option out wide are the priority areas that Clarke is targeting. 

What are your thoughts on Tranmere as a club in general and who do you believe are their danger men?

As a club in general, I see Tranmere in a similar light to ourselves: a club with a history of playing in the second and third tiers and are probably underachieving by being sat in League Two. The Palios family are another fantastic set of owners who seem to love the club and have really gone above and beyond with their investment to make Tranmere a competitive force. 

As was the case last season, I expect Tranmere by May to be in and around that top seven and perhaps go one better this time providing that one quality forward can be added to the side for that little extra firepower.

As for players to watch, I think Callum McManaman is a fantastic pickup for League Two level and will cause teams a lot of problems from out wide. Kieron Morris is another versatile attacker with a lot of ability who can play in the hole and drift further wide and is capable of creating and scoring goals. 

Vale will have to be on their guard against players like those two if the result is to go our way. 

We’ve spoken about this in private many times. However, considering you couldn’t go to any of the games last season, what will it be like to finally be back?

It will be very special. I actually went to watch our first game of preseason recently. It might have been a friendly against local non-league opposition but hearing the click of the turnstiles and walking through to join another 2000 or so fans watching the lads for the first time in 16 months was one of those moments where the hairs on the back of your neck stood up. 

But there’s nothing quite like competitive fixtures is there? Getting back into the ground, the roar when that first goal goes in, the chanting on the terraces…it’s our life as football fans really, isn’t it? It’s what we all live for and we’ve been deprived of what we know and love for so long. Now it’s back, and I’ll never take it for granted again. 

The best thing about football is who you share it with, and whatever club we support we’ll all be making the most of being back in stadiums with friends and family, making memories and doing what we love. 

If we had to finish this conversation off with a score prediction from yourself, what would you say the game will finish as?

I think we’ll see a 1-1 draw. Despite my expectations of both sides over the course of the season, we are two teams that are feeling their way into the campaign with a lot of new recruits and I think we’re still in that stage where everything is gelling together before we hit our stride. I therefore expect to see a battling point between two good teams who’ll be finishing in the upper echelons of the table by May. 

’I have been watching the Vale since 2001, with the LDV Vans Trophy Final triumph of that season being the first game I can remember. We beat fellow Division Three club Brentford 2-1 that day’ 

Oldham Athletic – Meeting The Opposition.

Oldham – Meeting The Opposition.

Tranmere’s Carabao Cup journey begins this Tuesday night, with an away trip to Boundary Park where they will come up against Keith Curle’s Latics. 

Oldham were defeated in their opening game of the League Two campaign. However, they have players in their squad that are capable of causing any standard of opponents problems as @Tommy_Oldham1 talks about their qualities in our pre-match conversation together. He also spoke about a range of other interesting and relevant subjects, including his experiences as an Oldham supporter.

How long have you been a Latics supporter? How and when did you first come across the club?

I’ve been an Oldham supporter all my life really. It was my older Brother who was going to games who first told me about Latics. What also made my mind up was the epic cup runs I saw on TV. The first game I went to was when I was aged 7 as I went with my dad in 1990.

Having a look back at last season in terms of expected success, how would you say it went and how will this upcoming campaign be any different? What are your expectations/predictions/ambitions for the next ten months?

Last season was a funny one; we scored plenty of goals but also conceded far too many. The off pitch issues such as the David Wheater situation and the interference in team affairs from our owners didn’t help. We should have finished a lot higher than we actually did, it didn’t help that we failed to strengthen in the Transfer Window in January.

I think Curle has good managerial experience, with him being allowed to bring his own players in and not being told who can play we can easily finish top half. Ideally aiming for promotion as it’s been thirty years since we had any success.

What are your thoughts on Oldham manager Keith Curle? The former Northampton boss was appointed earlier this calendar year, following the dismissal of Harry Kewell. Considering the club has had nine managers in the last three years, interims included, did you think it was time to part ways with Kewell?

I was surprised Kewell lasted as long as he did. When he first got the job I thought he would be gone by November but when the news of his dismissal filtered through I was annoyed as he had a spell when we were playing well and the football was entertaining. Curle has experience in getting sides into the play offs in League 2. However, he needs to be more attacking minded in his tactics.

What are your thoughts on the way the club is run? In particular, what are the owners like and who are they? What current off field project may surprise/excite opposition fans that may improve their matchday experience or the way they view Oldham in general?

The way the club has been run over the last two years is shocking. Our previous owner was no angel and takes some blame but the two current owners have caused all sorts of problems. Late wages, Bills, banishing players to the Youth team. If you speak against them you are shown the door. The Chairman’s Brother is Sporting director but a lot of the players from overseas he has brought in have been shockingly bad with one or two exceptions. It has left the fanbase very divided. One positive: the New North Stand is open again for fans after an ongoing dispute between the chairman and one of the former directors who owns the stand. Hopefully it will help improve the matchday experience when we are playing well Oldham fans can be loud as shown away from home. We have a young group called the Atléticos who try to generate and create an atmosphere. They have moved to a more central spot and sounded ok against Newport. 

I still like the old fashioned spur of the moment chanting myself but anything that helps bring an atmosphere to a ground is a positive.

What players will pose the greatest threat to Rovers in the opening Carabao Cup game of the campaign? 

Dylan Bahamboula and Hallam Hope if both are fit. Nicky Adams is a very experienced and established player.

Are you worried about any of the hosts’ men? If you do have any, from an outsider’s perspective what boost do you think the return of fans will have alongside the return of Micky Mellon and were you slightly surprised to see Keith Hill dismissed? 

Keith Hill being dismissed was a big surprise due to his Rochdale days he has always been hot headed and a Pantomime Villain.

They say managers should never go back. However, Micky Mellon did a great job last time and probably sees this role as unfinished business. Especially considering the circumstances that lead to your relegation from League One. Tranmere are one of the few teams who often bring a few to Boundary Park. I think having fans back will boost clubs as the players know and like hearing their names and some grounds can also be intimidating for away teams.

Callum McManaman is a cracking signing at this level. I also like the look of both Sam Foley and Josh Cogley. Obviously Jay Spearing is a very experienced player who can cause problems for opponents too.

What is your score prediction and how do you think that Latics will address this game? Is the carabao cup a competition that you’d like to have success in? 

Anything can happen in the cup. We didn’t look good on Saturday and need to improve. We were missing a few players due to Covid. So I’m going to say 1-1, Oldham to win on pens (Gotta be optimistic aint I 🙂 )

Random fact about Oldham?

We have a long standing friendship with German side Eintracht Frankfurt

What are your best and worst experiences throughout your time as a supporter? Best experience? Seeing us play at Wembley, beating Chelsea, Man United, Man City’s and Liverpool in the league. Knocking the latter two out of the FA cup as well as Fulham, Everton and West Ham also in The League cup.

Worst experiences? Mark Hughes scoring that late equaliser and Man United then hammering us in the replay. Being stuck in League 2. Losing 7-1 at home to Cardiff when I arrived at 3 0 down. Play off semi final heartbreak at Loftus Road, all close calls.

This summer the club brought in six new recruits, including the former Everton youth star Hallam Hope. However, what are your overriding thoughts and feelings about the way that Oldham have operated in this transfer window and with some time left on the clock would you like to see anyone else brought in/let go?

The problem in football now is the entire team is not allowed to develop. Too many players come and are gone so we are effectively starting from scratch each season. In recent years any player who does well gets signed by a bigger club or clubs can only afford one year deals or has been on loan. 

Our Sporting Director has also brought in a lot of his own players from abroad who have either been awful or have been brought in behind the manager’s back and told him who he can and cannot pick. 

I still think we need another striker.

Hallam Hope looks a good signing and the young lad Jamie Bowden on loan from Spurs does too.

Nicky Adams signed a permanent Oldham Athletic contract in January and is capable of causing the visitors a range of problems. ‘He’s an experienced and established forward’.

Zak Hayes’ thoughts ahead of the new campaign.

Zak Hayes gave his thoughts ahead of the new Tranmere campaign. He joined me to give his thoughts on the summer, the players that the club has recruited on Micky Mellon’s return to Prenton Park and the friendlies that have been contested in the past few weeks. It has been an action packed summer, one in which has set a promising background to a hopefully successful ten months. 

Hello Zak, to start our conversation off could you tell me and whoever’s reading this a little bit about yourself. How long have you been following Rovers, how did your love for the club first develop and could you tell us also about your sports journalism work?  

I was first taken to Prenton Park by my dad in early 2008. We were playing Millwall and won 2-0 with goals from Ian Moore and Shane Sheriff and I just remember being taken in by the atmosphere and feel of it, it just felt right for me. I’d followed Liverpool before then and continued to after but over the next few years I realised that supporting Tranmere just felt like the right thing to do.

I’ve been studying sports journalism at the University of Chester since September 2019, I’ve been lucky enough to report from the press box at Prenton Park as well as Chester FC’s Deva Stadium and interview some very interesting people as a result. In the past year I’ve also written for a couple of websites and appeared on a podcast. I’d love to be able to cover Tranmere in any way, shape or form as a sports journalist in the future if it’s possible.

What are your greatest and worst moments as a Tranmere supporter? If you had to make a best and worst six-a-side and place a manager behind them both, what would those teams look like? We’ve had many good and bad players!

The greatest moment has to be the final whistle of the 2018 playoff final. I can’t recall ever going through so many emotions as I did that day. Connor Jennings’s winner against Newport a year later is a very close second, with honourable mentions to Paul Mullin’s equaliser and winner in the two FA Cup games against Watford, Andy Robinson’s strike against Millwall in 2010 and Harvey Gilmour’s last minute winner at Morecambe.

The obvious worst moment would be confirmation that we were out of the football league in 2015, although the PPG demotion being confirmed last year isn’t far behind. The defeat to FGR at Wembley in 2017 was gutting but not as damaging as the first two, since I knew we had the right manager and a good enough team to go again the next season, which we certainly did.

The best 6 a side for me in my time supporting the club? I’d probably go with Danny Coyne in goal, Ian Goodison and Peter Clarke at the back, midfield of Max Power with Connor Jennings just in front, James Norwood up top. Only one man for manager, Micky Mellon.

The worst 6 a side? Blimey, where do we start? Probably Owain Fon Williams in goal (feels harsh but we’ve not had much range of keepers in my memory), Marcus Holness and Ash Taylor at the back, Marc Laird behind Elliot Richards with Kayode Odejayi up front. There’s probably plenty more who haven’t come to mind though.

Talking about sports journalism itself at Tranmere, what is it like surrounding the club? What sports journalism and reporting features do you enjoy that someone who may be unaware of it but loves Tranmere could enjoy too? 

I think the likes of Richard Garnett, Nick Hilton and Ben Reardon all do a very good job with covering the club in the local media but it’s great that we also have plenty of coverage and content made by fans independently, such as the This is Tranmere and ATTTM podcast and websites such as Planet Prentonia and Prenton Park Press. I think the fact that we’re a medium sized club with a modest fanbase helps us out in this area, we don’t get much coverage from the national sports media so anything that gets produced is usually read/listened to and appreciated by fans.

Possibly the greatest bit of recruitment this summer for Rovers has been the re-appointment of Scotsman Micky Mellon, who won two promotions via the Play-Offs last campaign. What are your thoughts on his return and what does he bring to the club that other managers may not? 

I was really pleased when the re-appointment was confirmed, he’s not only a man who understands the club and has an outstanding relationship with the fans but also has a proven track record in League Two with two previous promotions from this division.

In terms of what he brings to the club that other managers wouldn’t, there’s the unfinished business following our very harsh removal from League One, as it’s something he’ll be determined to put right. There’s also the way he very much has the club in his heart and is in some ways a supporter in the dugout, whereas to Keith Hill we were just another job at just another club.

You obviously experienced the club under the ownership of Peter Johnson so what has Mark Palios, owner since 2015, brought to the club as well as Mellon and do you believe that the club is in good hands going forwards for a successful future?

Mark Palios is an example of a chairman who’s involved in the club for all the right reasons. I honestly think we’d have ended up like Stockport County or maybe even worse, like Darlington or Hereford if he and Nicola hadn’t intervened. After years of stagnation under Johnson I think it’s their contributions that have breathed new life in to the club over the past seven years and the work they’ve done to improve the stadium and the matchday experience is commendable to say the least, even if I sometimes wonder if the amount of money allocated to the playing budget could be improved.

I do think the club is in good hands going forward. Palios is certainly someone who cares about the club’s future and sustainability and when there’s often news of other EFL clubs having financial difficulties and struggling to put a team together it does make me think we’re lucky to have a man with the experience and know-how of Mark Palios in charge at Rovers.

Last season opened in an unprecedented fashion, with the Covid pandemic posing many questions for lower league clubs. What were your thoughts on the demotion and the appointment of Mike Jackson? Looking back, how would you describe the way that the 2020-21 season went and do you believe that Mellon will hold the demotion as something to tackle now he is back?

I had a feeling the demotion was coming for weeks before it was confirmed if I’m honest, but it doesn’t take away how it left a large sense of injustice and unfairness. I will say though that it would have been a lot easier to take had the playoffs not gone ahead in both league one and league two. It was wrong that teams were allowed to play on to try and go up, but we weren’t allowed to play on to try and stay up.

At the time, I thought Jackson was a sensible, no-nonsense appointment who would stabilise us in mid table at least before pushing on the year after.  Obviously I and many others were proved wrong, as no disrespect to Jackson but it’s safe to say the job just wasn’t for him.

I thought the 20/21 season was one which had it’s good moments, but overall was one of underwhelming disappointment. Ultimately we had no solution when James Vaughan got injured and things just spiralled downward from there, culminating in Keith Hill calling fans “fickle” and refusing to accept responsibility for poor results. The positive of losing in the playoffs for me was knowing we could now get a new manager in and start the clear-out and rebuild.

Who do you believe were the club’s shining lights and biggest recruitment mistakes of last season? There are a few who have extended their contract at Prenton Park this summer, Liam Feeney etc but there has been a massive overhaul of new faces. I think I counted up to 20 when analysing things the other night. How do you think this overhaul could affect things and how important is it for them all to gel quickly?

The obvious answer to last season’s shining light would be James Vaughan, for being our most consistent goal scorer up until his injury. I can only wonder if we would have kept our good form going and gained promotion to league one had he not become unavailable for a large part of the season due to his injury.

There’s also Ian Dawes and Andy Parkinson, for surprising everyone, getting the team going again in between Jackson and Hill and giving it everything they had in the playoffs when they found out they’d be in charge at short notice.

Not to mention Peter Clarke. For 39 years old he’s ridiculously good, playing every minute of the league season and showing the passion and commitment to the cause we love to see as supporters.

I think the overhaul means we might have to be patient with the new squad and that we might be stop start for the first few weeks and months of the campaign, however we’ve looked fairly sharp and organised in the preseason games I’ve seen so I’m hopeful it shouldn’t take too long to click. Not to mention we aren’t exactly the only club in League Two that’s had a large rebuild so it’s a very interesting season in more than one way.

I’m open minded with the new players and how Micky will set them up but I still think the objective of the season has to be promotion, no doubt about that. If we can keep ourselves at least in the playoff places or the chasing pack by January time I’ll be happy as we tend to kick on and mount a push from there.

We’re obviously talking at a very early stage of the campaign. I’m sending you these questions after only two pre-season games, one in which was a great victory against Rangers with Mellon back in the home dugout and a mammoth 7-1 victory against Cammell Lairds. However, what were your thoughts going into the games, Rangers especially, and how did they compare with your thoughts leaving the stadium?

I was expecting us to be comfortably beaten by Rangers so was very pleasantly surprised to see us taking the lead and seeing the rest of the game out with good organisation and defensive play even if Rangers played at half pace.

I wasn’t able to be at the Lairds game but went to our friendlies away at Stalybridge Celtic and Warrington Town (won 3-1 and 1-0 respectively) and thought we looked fairly well organised, the players seemed to be getting to know each other and we came through with no injuries which is all you can really ask for. Callum McManaman and Ryan Watson spring to mind as two players who stood out and impressed me in those games and I think they’ll be really useful assets for us in league two. 

Do Tranmere need any more players in your viewpoint?

Yes, in my opinion we need at least one more out and out striker to boost ourselves up front, from his stats Mani Dieseruvwe looks to be more of a utility striker who can both thrive from having a good strike partner to work with and a player who can help bring out the best in a strike partner through tactics like laying the ball off for them and helping to create space for example.

I do think we have a lack of depth in our squad as well and the thought of injuries and suspensions kicking in does worry me a little. I am aware though that for league two, having an out and out goalscorer and strength in depth is often asking a lot of a club’s finances and availability of players.

Why will this season be different to any other?

The obvious answer would be that every match-going fan will have a feeling of being very grateful indeed simply because they can attend games, something no one could have predicted at the start of 2020.

Aside from that, I’m not sure if there have been many summers where as many clubs have had as many full on rebuilds ahead of the season as this one. There are a good number of teams in this division with similar hopes and capabilities to us and it’s looking like it could be a very action packed season for league two as a whole.

Zak Hayes and his dad at the 2018 National League Play Off Final at Wembley Stadium. Rovers would beat Boreham Wood with thanks to a late header to reclaim their Football League status. This is what Zak has described as his greatest moment during his time supporting the club.

Meeting the opposition – Walsall.

Walsall – meeting the opposition.

The opening day of the Football League Two campaign will see Micky Mellon’s Tranmere Rovers play host to Walsall at Prenton Park. 

This same game was played last December, as fans were able to return to the ground for the first time in nine months. The Whites would go on to lose that game 3-1. However, much has happened since and as the likes of Manny Monthe and Ash Taylor brace themselves for a return to Merseyside I had the great pleasure of talking to @BescotBanter about the experiences they’ve had supporting the club and the threats that they believe they will pose in a game that may or may not be a sign of what’s to come throughout the next ten months. 

How long have you been a Walsall supporter, and how did you first come across the club?

We’re lifelong Saddlers. Born and bred in the town, we’re duty bound to follow them up and down the country, as well as the leagues.

Having a look back at last season, how would you say that it went in terms of expected success, and how will this upcoming campaign be any different? What are your expectations/predictions/ambitions for the next ten months?

Last season was a disaster. A worst-ever finish coupled with fans’ Covid-enforced boycott saw us slope through a season we’d all happily forget.

This season is a bit of an unknown. A new manager, squad, and backroom set up have breathed new life into the club and fanbase as a whole. However, until the team plays some competitive games, we’d be silly to offer a prediction to how the campaign will play out. The chairman has insisted he’d like to see the team challenging towards the top of the table, and, as fans, we’d like to see that happen too.

What are your thoughts on new gaffer Matthew Taylor? This will be his first time in a permanent manager role. What were your thoughts on the dismissal of former manager Brian Dutton?

The appointment of Matthew Taylor seems to be a shrewd bit of business. An experienced former player, Matthew brings a wealth of knowledge to the club and, along with First-Team Coach Neil McDonald and Technical Director Jamie Fullarton, has already begun to reshape the club.

We’re optimistic, but will always be weary of any so-called new era, as there have been so many false dawns over recent years. But there appears to be a new attitude both inside the boardroom and at the training ground, so, for now at least, we can continue to look ahead with a positive mindset.

Former assistant Brian Dutton’s days were numbered as soon as he replaced Darrell Clarke at the helm. Regardless of how the team performed he was part of another failed regime at the club and, even if his stay had been extended, he would have struggled to win over the doubters, especially as the performances were nothing to write home about.

What are your thoughts on the way that the club is run, the owners in particular? Who owns the club?

Our chairman and majority shareholder is Leigh Pomlett. A local lad, Leigh loves the club as much as the most loyal of supporters and, despite getting off to a rough start with the failed Darrell Clarke era, has always been upfront with fans and seems to be keen to keep on closing the gap created by former chairman Jeff Bonser, who preferred to keep supporters at arms length.

Whilst the issue of the freehold of the club’s Banks’s Stadium home is yet to be resolved, we’re happy with how Leigh has done since he took his place at the head of the table and are keen to see if his latest appointment pays off.

What players will pose the greatest threats to Tranmere in the opening game of the season? Are you worried about any of the hosts’ men? If you did have any, what were your thoughts on the dismissal of Keith Hill at Prenton Park? From afar, what do you think Mellon will bring back to Merseyside from his time in the SPL?

With an almost completely rebuilt squad to select from, it is difficult to pick a danger man outside of the strikers, new signings Conor Wilkinson and Kieran Phillips, or pre-season stand-out Emmanuel Osadebe and hopefully soon to be fit Rory Holden. We expect one or all of them to give a few defences a headache over the coming campaign.

As with the Saddlers, Tranmere have been busy in the transfer market over the summer, signing some experienced heads as well as a few unknown quantities. As no-one likes a player to have a good game against their former employers, we’d hope that Kieron Morris is kept quiet during the match, as there’s always a small chance that one of his regular long-distance efforts may actually hit the target!

Not really sure what to make of Keith Hill’s dismissal. Despite helping the team into the Play-Offs, their form was pretty poor towards the end of the campaign, so you can see why the board opted to press the panic button. Can’t help but feel it also left room for plenty of ‘what if’ scenarios after the team ultimately failed to win promotion.

The return of Micky Mellon seems to be the board opting to press the reset button after last season’s managerial strife. Micky, who had been linked with the Saddlers during our various manager-less spells, should have a point to prove after hardly setting the world alight whilst in charge of Dundee United.

What is your score prediction, and how do you believe your manager will address this game?

Always poor at predicting games, so we’d avoid laying any money on this. But you’ve always got to get behind the team, so we’ll go 2-1 Walsall. Hopefully, the gaffer will send the team out with an attacking mindset. For too long, we’ve approached games with a desire to secure the point we began the game with, rather than battle for all three.

Random fact about Walsall?

Last season we gave you the fact that we’re joined as Saddlers supporters by the likes of Pop Idol judge and train aficionado Pete Waterman and aren’t sure how to top it…

What are your worst and greatest experiences as a Walsall supporter?

The last few seasons as a whole have been dismal. With relegation, managerial merry-go-rounds, and players quite simply phoning it in, it’s hard to see how the club will be able to convince the younger generation to ignore the trappings of local Premier League and Championship sides with so little to cheer.

In recent times, the greatest memory has to be the trip to Wembley for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final – a game which may have ended in defeat but saw the Saddlers faithful make a welcome visit to the home of English football.

Sadly, a first in a lifetime event for many modern fans has now been tainted by the EFL’s desire to take what small amount of money the Premier League offered to allow their oversubscribed ‘youth’ teams into the competition.

The game will see a return to Prenton Park for three newly recruited players: Joss Labadie, Ash Taylor and Manny Monthé. What are your thoughts on the club’s recruitment this summer, would you have wanted to do anything differently?

Happy with the club’s recruitment as a whole. After ending last season on such a low, the board, chairman and management team have acted quickly to not only fill in some of the gaps but improve the team overall.

We’d welcome another attacking addition, but overall are happy with the recruitment that has been done, especially as there is still an apparent desire to land a few more players before the window closes in a few week’s time.

You can find great Walsall content via @BescotBanter on Twitter, I’d like to thank them for their time and answers as both are greatly appreciated!

Lux Et Robur – The interview.

Lux Et Robur

Throughout the course of the pandemic, I’ve documented the struggles that Tranmere have encountered as the club and it’s supporters try to navigate themselves towards a positive future. Through a League One demotion in an unprecedented time of a health pandemic and a couple of managers who didn’t really bring the success or the unity to the club that they thought they would’ve been able to achieve and bring. However, something that has continued to deliver is ‘’ as the saying (‘where there is faith there is light and strength’) has never been more relevant and the shirts that the brand has made have kept fellow supporters in high spirits. 

Before the start of the new campaign, I caught up with the man behind it all as he went into depth with me about how the business operates and his feelings ahead of a new start with the return of Micky Mellon at the helm.

To start the conversation off, could you tell us a little bit about the person that you are. Have you always been a Tranmere supporter and have you always been interested in clothes designing?

‘All of my friends in school would support Liverpool or other clubs but I didn’t have a team at that time. I spoke to my dad about it all and he told me that if I did choose to support Liverpool or another Premier League club I’d only be able to get the shirts and not go to the games but if I was to support Tranmere I’d get the shirts and the chance to go to the games. So, I got the shirt, went to an Anglo-Italian game at Prenton Park and fell in love with the club from there. Tranmere has been one constant in my life from that moment onwards, even if my head was slightly turned by other things when I was in my late teenage years’.

‘I haven’t always been interested in clothes designing. I don’t really know how to describe how my love for that grew. It was at a moment in time where I didn’t have a job and I noticed that I could make money by making and selling shirts. That idea came about when I saw that Liverpool had similar brands and fan designs. I thought it would be cool if Tranmere had something similar but I didn’t think anyone other than me would be interested in starting anything so I saw an opportunity. It was around the time of the 2018 world cup, I made a website for it and it really got my creative juices flowing. One of my friends is really good at graphic designing so he made pictures for the site and from there people started to ask for different shirts etc. It caught fire from there really and it was helped massively by the club’s form and the positive atmosphere. It’s not my full time job, it’s something that I enjoy and I like engaging with others through it as no one’s really interested in negativity and I try to make my clothes as positive and humorous as possible’ 

In terms of the brand’s success, do you think it’s gone as well as you thought it would have been when you first wanted to formulate your idea?

‘There was nothing to really base an expectation off when I first had the idea because it was something that hadn’t been done before at the club. You may have seen the odd bit of tat on ebay but something with a good knowledge of Tranmere wasn’t really out there, there were no shirts that if you weren’t a Tranmere supporter you’d look at it and go that’s a Tranmere shirt. There was no real expectation at the time,  I’m not even too sure what my end goal was. There’s a little bit of pressure on me now, I’d say, to create something when something significant has happened but it’s what I enjoy. I’ve had many compliments about my work as well which is something that keeps you going, people saying that they wouldn’t have similar shirts if it wasn’t for me. However, I also don’t want to be in competition with anyone like the likes of the Trust and the club itself because everyone is doing great work. Some people have misunderstood my intentions at times but I just try to do stuff that maybe the club wouldn’t and couldn’t do, for example the EFL shirts. However, I’ve also tried to help the club at times. For example, I helped produce the Rover and Out shirts which are still available to buy in the club shop. To answer the original question, I didn’t really have any expectations but I’ve certainly noticed the growth’. 

I was just thinking from a business perspective, as we’ve touched on expectations, how would you address something which hasn’t sold well which you thought would? If that’s something that you’ve experienced thus far.

‘No, I think something which has been made evident over the past two years is that I have no idea on what will sell well and what won’t. There are some items that I’ve paid an artist to do or I’ve spent my whole day working on and it’s only one had like when I put it out on social media and I go on to sell three. However, I see the positives in that as it’s at least been noticed by someone. I try to make stuff that I’d wear as well and I like to keep everything simplistic in a way. 

The shirts stay relevant as well, for example the EFL one’s and they’re still able to be bought. However, I’ve made some for players that have still gone on to leave like the Otis Khan Boss one. I couldn’t quite make the font right on that, I may have been done for copyright if I perfected it!’

We started our conversation off by talking about how your dad bought you your first Rovers shirt and that you’d go to the games in the 90’s. What are your thoughts on the new home shirt and does it pay homage to kits of that era?

‘The first shirt I had was the one with the stripes over the shoulder. The new shirt, I think is a brave move to change the manufacturer to a lesser recognised one. I had a meeting recently with Christine from the club shop and she was saying how important it was that the kits sell, so to take a risk in that area is really brave. With old kits, I don’t think that they should be kept in the past. I think they should be left there because there is a market for them and it’s always great to look back on them. I like the new crest though, it’s not really new as it’s the one that we had in the past but it’s a great badge and it’s in Oxton Village as we all know! I get on with the artist behind that painting, Paul Curtis, as I’ve produced shirts for him for his website in the past’.

Touching on people who have purchased your shirts, have you ever been surprised by someone wanting them. For example, I’m just wondering if Mike Dean has one!

‘Scotty’s bought a shirt, Nors has requested one after Wembley which I duly obliged, Mark Ellis had one. Simon Howarth, he bought a couple and we played against the team which he manages the other day. He was a great striker for Tranmere’.

I’d just like to place your attention on the upcoming season and the return of Micky Mellon, someone who certainly acts and behaves like a Rovers supporter. Where does he rank in terms of your greatest Tranmere managers and what are your thoughts on his return? Also, what will it be like to actually go to games instead of watching it behind a screen via iFollow?

‘I think he’s the greatest manager in my lifetime, I experienced some of the Johnny King games but I was too young so I didn’t really get a feel for how great he was. I feel a bit gutted that I wasn’t aware of how good King’s tenure was. However, it’s not even Mellon’s results it’s the way that he builds a togetherness around the club and if you had to give a microphone to anyone to talk about the club you’d want it to be him. He understands and knows that everyone needs to get on board and I can’t imagine anyone else managing us and building the same feeling that he continues to create. When everyone gets into the stadiums it can go one or two ways but I think we’ll all just be happy to get back, results are put under more scrutiny and more excitement with fans back I think because that’s where supporters can gather to talk and express their feeling. It’s a stroke of genius to get Mellon back I think, the club wants promotion and Mellon is someone who can, as proved in the past, show our ambitions. There is what seems like a perfect storm of positivity, with awaydays back, great signings and we have played well in the friendlies we’ve had so far. I feel that there is some recruitment left to be done though’.

Are there any new player names that have given you ideas for new shirts?

‘I’ll be honest it seems like they all leave or drop in form when I make shirts for them so I don’t want to jinx anything before the new season starts! At the moment, I’m making us a German team T-shirt. Don’t ask me why! It’s got German writing on it which translates into English as ‘Rovers above everything’. Maybe it’ll gain the club some German followers!’

Has there ever been a player or a moment that you look back in hindsight and feel like you’ve missed out on creating something for?

‘Probably not, there’s none that I can think of. There’s a subbuteo T-shirt that I wanted to get the 1991 Wembley team printed onto, I wanted to get that done for the 30th anniversary but I completely missed the deadline for that. I was disappointed not to get that out in time but it could be out in time for the 40th anniversary!’

To finish this conversation off, where can people come across your work and what recently made item should they be placing their attention to?

‘Every Tranmere fan who’s on social media knows what my Twitter username is (laughs), it’s @luxetrobur. Also, my website is The shirts that they should be placing their attention towards? I’ve got this Jurassic Park shirt out which has ‘Prenton Park’ in its place and Johnny King instead of a dinosaur. I quite like that one!’

Thank you very much for your time!

No worries mate, there were fewer questions than you originally made out there was (laughs)!

Tranmere v Sunderland – PSF Preview.

Tranmere v Sunderland preview.

Tuesday 27th July 2021

Pre Season Friendly


Micky Mellon will once again lead his side out in front of Tranmere supporters at Prenton Park as the new League Two season draws closer, this Tuesday night. 

All in all it’s been a successful summer for the Whites as players of great quality, a quality that may have lacked at times last season, have been brought in and on the pitch Rovers are unbeaten in all of their friendlies thus far. However, the upcoming challenge will pose a greater threat than they have faced in their last two times out as Lee Johnson’s Sunderland come to Merseyside a few months on from the last meeting in which the Black Cats beat Keith Hill’s men 1-0 at Wembley. 

Since Rovers last played in front of a home attendance, only a couple of players have been brought into the club thus a massive influx of new recruits still needs to continue with around ten days left on the clock until the first game of great significance. This is something that Mellon has commented on a number of times in his meetings with the press. However, match fitness and momentum is another vital part of pre-season and it’s evident that some players have grown in confidence under the return of their Scottish manager. Emmanuel Dieseruvwe scored two goals in the last two games, Kieran Morris also netting to add to his tally after scoring the winning goal against Rangers.

It’s quite surreal that Steven Gerrard’s Gers have beaten Real Madrid at Ibrox after drawing against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal following on from their game on the Wirral. However, this shows that pre-season is a test of mentality as well as ability as the previous campaign which was unprecedented to say the least arguably tired athletes out like no other. Tuesday’s game against Sunderland will be a final chance for the players to show what they’re capable of before fixtures grow in importance. 

The visitors are managed by Johnson and have been since last year, the newly recruited gaffer winning the Papa John’s Trophy in March to break the club’s Wembley ‘hoodoo’ as they hadn’t won there since 1973. The Stadium of Light outfit being relegated to League One in 2018, which is well documented on Netflix hit-series ‘Sunderland Till I Die’, leaving a lot left to catch up on as they aim for a positive and successful future. 

Just like Tranmere, they have had to oversee a great amount of transfer business in the past month or two as top striker Charlie Wyke left the North East for Wigan Athletic. However, they still have young and old attacking prospects who are capable of causing any level of opposition trouble. A prime two examples being Jack Diamond and former Everton forward Aiden McGeady, leaving no wonder why they are tipped for promotion this year.

However, the hosts have players of flair and strength littered throughout their squad and it’ll be good to see Sam Foley, Mark Duffy and Callum McManaman in a white shirt for the first time amongst others. Full backs Calum MacDonald, Joe Maguire and winger Kieron Morris all need to be assessed to see if they can feature.  

You can find more about Sunderland, in a greater depth, in my ‘meeting the opposition’ piece. I had the great pleasure of talking to Malcolm Dugdale from Roker Report about a range of relevant subjects from the game itself to who the club is managed and owned by. The link to that feature? 

With attacking talents like Aiden McGeady in the Sunderland squad it’s no surprise that they are tipped for promotion back to the Championship this campaign.