Harrogate Town meeting the opposition.

Harrogate Town meeting the opposition.

Tranmere’s final game before Christmas Day 2021 sees them come up against Harrogate Town at Prenton Park this Tuesday night. It’s a fixture in a competition that has divided opinion. However, with Rovers out of the other two available cup competitions they’ll be hoping a run in a competition can come from somewhere!

I spoke to Town supporter Dave Worton ahead of the midweek game and we discussed where the game may be won or lost, our thoughts on the Papa John’s Trophy, The Sulphurites on and off pitch positions amongst a range of other subjects.

How long have you supported Harrogate Town? Why and how did your love for the club come about?

Since February 2016, when I went to see them play FC United in the National League North. It was £1 in for kids, so I asked my daughter if she wanted to come. She initially turned me down but, just as I was on the way out of the door, she changed her mind as she had nothing better to do. One 5-0 victory later, she was exiting the ground with a £10 scarf (so much for a cheap day out) asking when the next match was. We haven’t looked back since.

Since you’ve been supporting the club, what have been your best and worst footballing experiences?

Best? There have been many, as you might imagine. An extra time 3-2 win at AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy Quarter Final just before the first lockdown, the first time we’d beaten them in something like twelve games, stands out. It was in the middle of Storm Jorge and wild celebrations from that day are captured on the cover of my book. Also turning over York City twice in our first ever competitive matches against them, beating Brackley Town 3-0 to gain promotion to the National League for the first ever time in the club’s history and gaining promotion to the Football League, of course. Defeating Bradford City twice last season would also have been well up there, if only we could have attended. It’s just not the same on Ifollow.

Worst? Not being able to attend Wembley to see either the FA Trophy Final or the National League Play-Off Final in the space of a few months due to Covid.

You’ve written a book that has been praised by fellow fans, could you explain what that book is about and when did it come out?

Yes, it’s called ‘For The Love Not The Glory’. It’s telling the story of my daughter and I unbelievably following Harrogate Town into the Football League. I serialised it all via a weekly column in the local paper and realised I had enough for a book during lockdown. It came out a year ago. There’s plenty of self-deprecating humour in there, as I recount our adventures and the ups and downs of a football fan.

Random fact about Harrogate Town? (The club/The area)

We’re the only Football League club to win the FA Trophy, thanks to the pandemic and having to play the 2020 Final in 2021.

How would you describe The Sulphurite’s campaign so far and what are your hopes/expectations for the season ahead?

We started off like a bullet from a gun and hopes were high for a promotion push. but things have tailed off in the last few weeks, as our small squad has suffered injuries and a little bit of fatigue. A recent game saw us with only two senior outfield players available on the bench. Nevertheless, tenth in the league is something I would have taken before the season began and, if we use the loan transfer window as well as the last season, there’s no reason we can’t get into the play-offs this year. On their day, the players we have are as good as any team in this league, Forest Green maybe excepted!

Taking a look at Tuesday night’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side?

Falkingham, Kerry and Pattison in midfield are key for us, as we switched to 4-3-3 in recent weeks, with two offensive wide players and the full backs sitting slightly further back. Having one less striker up front though means we’ve found goals harder to come by. Luke Armstrong is our goalscorer to watch out for, but he’s been a little more isolated recently.

How do you believe the fixture will be approached by visiting manager Simon Weaver, in terms of tactics and team selection?

I think he may rest one of the central midfielders and revert to 4-4-2 with two wingers and two forwards. He’ll rotate the players he has on the bench, but they’re all basically first team players anyway, so the team will be strong.

What are your thoughts on the manager and owner’s relationship, they are father and son which isn’t quite normal in football.

No it’s not. Simon was the manager for two seasons before his dad came in. It works well, and I like the stability it’s brought to the club with our manager being the longest-running manager in the Football League. Winning helps of course!

Thoughts on Tranmere, as a club in general?

You’re forever associated with Half Man Half Biscuit in my mind, them being one of my favourite bands. I’ve been to Prenton Park before, with Wolves in the old Third Division. I always see you as a team that should be at least near the top of League One. You looked a good outfit at our place earlier in the season.

The Papa John’s Trophy is a competition that has divided opinion since the introduction of Premier League reserve sides, your thoughts on the competition?

Mixed. I originally saw this match as an unwanted extra before our short trip to Bradford City on Boxing Day, especially with the small squad we have. Now Bradford’s been called off, I’m going to enjoy it more. Saying that, I remember when it was the Sherpa Van Trophy in the late eighties and Wolves played in it for the first time. At first interest and crowds were low, until we went all the way to Wembley and 80,000 turned up at a sold-out Wembley to watch us and Burnley. It was a brilliant day out. I’d like to do that again with Town, to make up for the disappointment of not being able to go to Wembley previously and, let’s face it, we don’t have much chance of that in the FA Cup.

The January transfer window is fast approaching, who would you like to see brought into the club?

Another central defender, two central midfielders to supplement the three we have and Mohammed Salah up front would be nice!

Finishing off, your score prediction for the midweek game at Prenton Park?

2-1 Town. Sorry. Our current away form is better than our home form.

  • The discussed book ‘For the love not the glory’ is available to purchase via this link for the cost of £10.
https://ledastraypress.bigcartel.com/

Leyton Orient meeting the opposition.

Leyton Orient – Meeting the opposition. 

Tranmere entertain Leyton Orient at Prenton Park this Saturday afternoon as they aim to extend their winning run in their search for a play off place.

Ahead of the game, I spoke to Orient fanzine ‘@Pandamonium1884’ about the visitors, the hosts, the fanzine and the upcoming fixture on Merseyside.

How long have you supported Leyton Orient and when did the Panda Fanzine first start? 

How would you describe the nature of the content it produces?

I started going with my Dad in 1978, aged 6 so this will be my 43rd season watching and supporting the O’s. 

The fanzine started in 1991, we celebrated our 30th birthday this year.

We tend to try and mix between serious and jovial so for example we have a resident stats man that produces a monthly column looking at data, whilst we have a stand up comedian who takes a light hearted and topical look at the world of football.

Since you’ve been supporting the club, what have been the best and worst footballing moments?

The best was probably winning promotion in 1988/89. We came with a massive second half of the season run and squeezed through 4 amazingly tense play-off games.

The worst (although not necessarily footballing) was the severe destruction of the club during 2014-2017 by Francesco Becchetti, which was after one of the worst footballing moments, losing on penalties to Rotherham in the play-offs at Wembley in 2014.

Random fact about Leyton Orient? (The club/The area they play in)

The gable on top of the East Stand roof is off centre as it was originally in the middle but we bought a further “bit of a stand” from Mitchum and now the Leyton Orient gable and plaque stands off centre in relation to the whole stand.

How would you describe the O’s season so far and what are your hopes/expectations for the months ahead?

Typically frustrating. We have actually been very hard to beat, but have drawn too many games away from home. One week (usually at home) we can look like the best team in the division, but then a few days later we can look like cannon fodder. The hope is that we become more consistent in terms of victories and if we do that then a top seven place is easily achievable.

Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side?

Unfortunately, the best and prob key player we have had all season (right back Tom James) suffered a hamstring injury last Saturday V Crawley. Up front we have two in form strikers and Drinan and Smith & Craig Clay can be a real engine in the O’s midfield. 

For Tranmere, the recent cup game saw what I believed to be a really poor Tranmere side that hardly put up a fight, but statistically, it’s obvious they have a very tight defence and therefore any or all of their back four/five plus the GK are probably key.

How do you believe this fixture will be approached by Orient manager Kenny Jackett, in terms of tactics and team selection? Also, what are the general thoughts of him by the fanbase?

Away from home we have looked less of a threat going forward and tend to play it, IMO, tighter so that we do not get beat. Most fans including me would rather see us use attack as the best form of defence and take the game to the opponent. He is going to have to shuffle the pack this weekend because we are becoming a bit decimated with injuries etc and that’s a concern as we are possibly going to have to start youngsters and won’t have a great deal on the bench. Most fans, if not all, are still behind him. Almost everybody was happy with the appointment and again the majority believe he will get it right in his two year contract here.

How would you describe the current relationship between supporters and the hierarchy of the club? Who are Orient’s owners and are there any current exciting off pitch plans to look forward to?

It’s pretty good. We obviously went through a period of extreme crisis before the current owners took over, so without being sarcastic you could have had Zippy and Bungle take over and it would have been an improvement. The new board are engaging and forward thinking, although at times can appear a little desperate for the pound in our pocket (but we all know that clubs at this level are loss making and every penny counts). Off the pitch, the owners are looking to become a sustainable club and whilst some of the ideas are a little far out, it is encouraging to see them looking further forwards in terms of building the club’s profile and attendances.

Thoughts on Tranmere, as a club in general?

Haven’t been to Tranmere for a few years now, but did quite a bit in the 80’s and 90’s and to be perfectly honest was always one of my favourite trips. Locals were pretty welcoming and we had some fantastic matches between us during that period. Like us, Tranmere live in the shadow of two massive clubs so I think there is a bit of mutual respect from both sides about the difficulties we face as clubs on and off the pitch.

The January transfer window is fast approaching, who would you like to see brought into the club and how would you describe the transfer recruitment completed in the summer of 2021?

Summer was quite astounding as we completely rebuilt the team, and to be fair we have knitted together pretty well for so many changes. It is my belief that we simply need “freshening up” in January. The midfield area is quite possibly one that needs a bit more competition (quite possibly for a more flair type player) and then defensively we might need to ship one in or out.

Finishing off, your score prediction for the weekend?

Actually, it’s ridiculously hard to predict. Following the recent cup game it would be easy to see why anyone could say we could knock Tranmere off the park again, but then that seemed a blip in terms of their results and definitely their defensive displays. I see the league game being much tighter. My heart says 1-0 to the O’s, but my head says it’s likely yet another draw for us and it could even be a 0-0 shut out.

Exeter City F.C meeting the opposition.

Exeter City meeting the opposition.

Ahead of this weekend’s game I spoke to Exeter City supporter Jamie Dyer. He’s answered questions for this feature previously stating that he started following the club just over a decade ago and he has since taken great joy in their three play-off semi final victories.

He now speaks of City’s 2021/22 campaign so far and how he believes Saturday’s game will be played out, stating two Tranmere players that Exeter supporters should be looking out for.

Random fact about Exeter City? 

In 16/17 we set an EFL record of the most away victories in a campaign with 13.

How would you describe Exeter’s campaign so far and what are your hopes/expectations for the months ahead?

I’ll admit we’re beginning to see some chinks in the armour especially defensively, we had a very good run but we just haven’t got going since then. There’s plenty of positives to take from the start of the season though, we’ve been almost creating chances at will and finding the net regularly not forgetting our fine home form as well which should (emphasis on the word should) get us at least a playoff place. However, this month will be very telling as we face all of the current top 7 but despite the injuries we’ve got really good strength in depth so I can see us picking up some positive results in the coming weeks.

Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by manager Matt Taylor?

Paul Glatzel and Jay Spearing are the names that stick out for me. Spearing is commanding in the middle of the park, very physical, decent on the ball and very experienced. Glatzel, the Liverpool loanee, has impressed  me as he scores goals, seems to  link up play  and looks really threatening.

City have injuries like I’ve said before but Matt Jay and Jevani Brown seem to be the only consistent players at the moment.  “Jev” has been a great player for us so far, always getting into good areas and has a good assist tally already this campaign as partnership with the City skipper continues to flourish. Our diminutive skipper needs no introduction; he’s skillful, knows where the net is and is vital to the way we play .

What are your current thoughts, amongst those of other supporters’ on Taylor?

Matt  has been in charge for 4 years now and the supporters are very fond of him for what he did with us as a player and you could say we’re progressing under him to a certain extent. However, what impresses me the most is that he’s built the team and club into his image while also keeping us competitive and also building on the foundations that Tisdale left. We’ve now finally got a squad strong enough to challenge and a squad that’s capable of playing Taylor’s style of football so if we don’t go up questions have to be asked. 

How would you describe the current relationship between fans and the hierarchy of the club? Would you say that being owned by the Supporters Trust and not having a particular owner as such has its advantages? What are the current exciting off pitch plans?

I’d say it’s been better than ever to be honest, particularly being fan owned. We’ve got more and more involved, for example we got to choose next season’s kit and as well as a new electronic scoreboard coming in but also a new training facility. Being a fan owned club is very special, you’re appreciated and you can get involved in any way possible. I could go on.

Thoughts on Tranmere, as a club in general?

Tranmere are a very big fish in the lower echelons of the EFL. They have a fantastic fan base, a manager who knows the club very well and it helps that Prenton Park has been somewhat of a fortress in recent years. 

Jake Caprice, the full-back who made the assist as Tranmere won promotion to League One in 2019, now plays his football for City. What’s he been like since his arrival?

Caprice has come on leaps and bounds from last season playing on his weaker side and has really worked on his game.  

The January transfer window is fast approaching, who would you like to see being brought in and how would you describe the recruitment completed in the summer of 2021? 

Our recruitment was very underwhelming given the promises that were made but we were made to eat our words with how we’re currently capable of playing. January will be interesting with Josh Key and skipper Matt Jay attracting interest but if we can keep hold of them it’ll be a success.

Finishing our conversation off, your score prediction?

It seems you’re struggling for goals at the moment. However, I believe it’s the perfect time to play us as we’re winless in four so I’ll go 2-1 Tranmere.

Oldham v Tranmere preview.

Oldham Athletic v Tranmere Rovers 

Tuesday 7th December 2021

English Football League Two

@Bounday Park

It seems to be a regular occurrence this campaign but once again Tranmere will face Oldham, this being the first league encounter between the clubs with the other two being cup ties. There is quite a bit on the line and plenty to look out for in this midweek game, the visitors looking to get back on form as the hosts aim to add to their win against Sunderland in a bid to get away from the relegation zone.

It’s set to be another closely fought fixture, comebacks happening in the two previous games as whenever the sides face each other there doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference in quality. However, this certainly wasn’t the case on Boxing Day 1935 when Rovers came out on top with a 13-4 victory in a game well known for the many goals scored by Tranmere legend Bunny Bell.

There probably won’t be that many goals scored this time round, both side’s league goals combined being the same amount as an outfit who are placed outside of the playoff spaces. Yet, there will be players capable of creating something out of nothing meaning it probably won’t be a goalless draw derived from any entertaining action.

Oldham’s men to watch? Dylan Bahamboula and Davis Keillor-Dunn. The 26-year-old Frenchman who has been capped once by the Congo National Team has five goal involvements in 20 appearances so far this season. Keillor-Dunn has seven goal involvements in 24 appearances from midfield.  

Head to head stats:

36 Oldham Athletic wins

22 draws

34 Tranmere Rovers wins

The lineup that I’d like to be selected by the Tranmere manager?

Joe Murphy, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Tom Davies, Peter Clarke, Joe Maguire, Kieron Morris, Lee O’Connor, Sam Foley, Josh Hawkes, Nicky Maynard and Paul Glatzel.

I believe it’s time for some players to be given a rest and playing two up top around forward minded players is vital if the visitors are to score goals.

Revisiting Boundary Park.

Revisiting Boundary Park.

Tranmere’s last five times at Oldham Athletic.

Rovers visit Boundary Park for the second time this season on Tuesday night, this time in a League Two encounter. There have been many meetings between both clubs, the Latics coming out on top with 36 to 34 wins and the narrow difference in quality is shown perfectly by the past five games even though Rovers come out on top in that comparison. 

The past five games? Two Oldham wins, one via penalties. Three Tranmere wins, all 1-0.

Oldham Athletic 2 Tranmere Rovers 2 (Oldham won on penalties) – League Cup – 10th August 2021

The visitors looked to get their second win of the season, following an opening day victory at Prenton Park against Walsall. They seemed to have done this when they went 2-0 up with goals from new signings Sam Foley and Elliott Nevitt. The latter picked up an injury whilst celebrating as problems with advertising boards separating the away fans from the pitch were brought to light. Oldham wouldn’t be beaten without competing themselves though, in fact they wouldn’t be beaten at all on the night. Forward Dylan Bahamboula netted just before the hour mark before a Tom Davies own goal brought the scoreline level. The ninety would soon go onto penalties, the hosts winning and seemingly celebrating with a pitch invasion until another issue was brought to light in the case of their ownership frustrations.

Oldham Athletic 0 Tranmere Rovers 1 – League Two – 1st December 2020

After a poor start to the season, where Mike Jackson was appointed manager following the departure of Micky Mellon, Rovers would go on to have a great period of success as they won five games in a row. This run ended with a win away from home, a narrow win against Oldham Athletic with leading striker James Vaughan netting the crucial goal. It wasn’t too bad a start to Keith Hill’s reign at Rovers but we all know how that ended up.

Oldham Athletic 2 Tranmere Rovers 0 – League Two – 2nd April 2019

The final few months of the 2018/19 campaign were ones of great success for Tranmere, a promotion push happening after a successful winter transfer window where midfield general David Perkins would come to Prenton Park amongst others. A night at Boundary Park was too much for Mellon’s men though as Ollie Banks, to name but one, suffered a poor performance against his former employers. The final scoreline would do little to set Tranmere supporters away from the buzzing atmosphere that had been created though as they would stay behind for a while after the last whistle had blown, ‘Tequila’ being introduced to football fans up and down the country.

Oldham Athletic 0 Tranmere Rovers 1 – League One – 31st August 2013

Oldham Athletic 0 Tranmere Rovers 1 – League One – 10th November 2012

T(RFC)alking points.

T(RFC)alking points.

Following Tranmere’s defeat at Leyton Orient, there have been many examinations of where the current squad is and the way it’s being added to/operated by supporters. The only examination of great importance will happen internally and I still have the trust and faith in the Palios’ and the coaching team to do this correctly.

I gave my thoughts on five of the biggest Tranmere talking points ahead of the game at Oldham Athletic on Tuesday night.

1. ‘Palios’ and Mellon out’.

There have been calls recently for major change at the club, with shouts for the owners and manager to leave. The doubts and reasons behind these consist of poor recruitment, poor tactics and a frustrating means of communication with supporters. Personally, I don’t think that any great change needs to happen as I believe that the Palios’ have perfectly seen Tranmere through a pandemic and Micky Mellon is someone who I will always have great trust and faith in for what he has done at Prenton Park in the past. However, that is not to say that I don’t see where issues between all concerned parties lie. Micky has got his tactics and team selection wrong at times this campaign, in my opinion, yet he will have a greater understanding of this considering he works with the team every day on the training ground. Plus, some elements of the recruitment have been questionable as I look at the options and depth that we have in the squad particularly up front as The Whites have a poor goalscoring record in the 2021/22 campaign. An argument for this? You could argue that the recruitment process for the summer of 2021 was always going to be difficult, if you consider the high turnover. 

2. Slow combinations and players.

Something which I have noticed thus far is the slow combinations and players that Tranmere have as some members of the squad which were described as the ‘spine’ of the team last season continue to age. I won’t name them but a particular defensive duo seem to make many mistakes when they play together and in truth my thoughts on who our best central defender is has changed. A defensive midfielder seems to have been off the boils recently and these are all issues that need to be sorted out as with the squad members that Rovers possess they should be able to play in a fast and attacking manner with players such as Cogley, MacDonald, Morris and Hawkes all able to cause problems from the wings and there are players with experience but also those with fresh young legs looking to prove themselves in the centre of the park. Chris Merrie, it’s time to see more of him I’d say.

3. No FA Cup 3rd round lifeline this time.

Something that has seemed to help Rovers each and every season with Mellon at the helm is the FA Cup 3rd round as Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have graced the turf of Prenton Park in recent seasons, these games bringing money into the club that has seen players such as James Vaughan come to Merseyside. This time round, there will be no third round money and this is a sense of worry as there seems to be a few places to fill in next month’s window. I just hope that the Palios’ and the Indonesian investment will be able to spend some money. I’d like to see a centre back and a striker come in. However, we’ll just have to wait, see and pray for what happens on that front. 

4. So, where do we go and what would I do?

This is an important question that needs answering as it is a question that has been asked by many following the team’s second round embarrassment. My answer to this won’t count for much as I’m not in any position of power. However, this is what I’d like to be done. I’d like to see Tranmere play on the front foot and if that is a slightly more riskier manner of playing football then so be it. I believe we have the players to attack even if you may look at the strikers and somewhat disagree. However, if we were to set up with more pace and power more goals would come from elsewhere and with the wing options that are at the club it’s something that should definitely be considered. In the centre of the park, without naming names, I’d like to see two players be given less gametime as I feel they’ve underperformed this campaign and we have younger more versatile options for those positions. We’ve got the players, to a relative degree, I’d just like to see them being operated slightly better.

Is promotion still a possibility? I believe so but that will depend on our immediate playing style and player selection as well as hopefully adding a few more fresh faces looking to prove a point next month. We need to start scoring more. 

5. A look towards Oldham.

Oldham Athletic currently sit in 23rd thus they may be seen as perfect opposition to play as Mellon’s men aim to return to a period of good league form. However, in their last time out they beat Sunderland which proves that they’re a tough outfit to compete against in itself. It’ll be an interesting encounter and the team news which will be displayed an hour before kick off will add to that as I’d like to see some changes made to add pace and quality into the eleven. It will be down to the players though, on the night, to show determination and their qualities which were certainly lacking on the weekend. 

You can read my ‘meeting the opposition’ feature with an Oldham Athletic supporter ahead of the League Two encounter at Boundary Park.

Oldham Athletic meeting the opposition.

Oldham Athletic meeting the opposition.

In an attempt to turn wrongs to rights following a 4-0 defeat at Leyton Orient, Micky Mellon’s Tranmere travel to Oldham Athletic once again on Tuesday night. The Latics sit in 23rd and have recently parted ways with their manager Keith Curle. However, after beating Sunderland away from home in Carabao Cup action they will believe that they can extend their form against The Whites.

Ahead of the game I spoke to supporter ‘@PaddyNoWheels’ about the hosts, the visitors and the game in general before he left me with his score prediction. 

I have spoken to Paddy in the past thus I didn’t ask him to describe his relationship with the Latics this time round. He’s been a supporter of the club since birth, his first real memories being of the Premier League relegation in 1994.

Random fact about Oldham? (The club/The area) 

Latics have gone the longest of all 92 League clubs without a trophy or promotion. It’s over 30 years since the club’s last promotion. The closest challengers to that are Everton, who last won a cup in 1995.

How would you describe the Latic’s campaign so far and what are your hopes/expectations for the months ahead? 

It has been a disaster of epic proportions. The club are under a transfer embargo after taking a loan off the EFL, which means that they can only sign players on one year deals and can only pay them X amount of pounds a week…. Unfortunately, someone at the club hadn’t realised that and signed a keeper and centre half on two year deals and they missed the first part of the season because the EFL wouldn’t let the club register them until it was resolved. Off the pitch, the club is an absolute shambles, on the pitch it is even worse and the fanbase is fractured. Most people have now come round to the idea that the owner and his brother are the worst thing to happen to this football club, but they do (somehow!) seem to have a few fans still fighting their corner and digging out fans who are trying to raise awareness of the crazy goings-on at the club. My expectation will always be to get promoted from the 4th division and I will never make any apologies for it. That’s looking very unlikely now and we might have to just settle for the playoffs instead(!). In all seriousness, I think we will stay up with relative ease mainly due to the standard of the other teams. The one nagging doubt I have in the back of my mind is that other sides near the bottom have appointed decent managers recently (Scunthorpe with Keith Hill and Stevenage with Tisdale) so a lot will depend on who Oldham bring in as manager. I certainly don’t think surviving relegation in this division should be seen as any kind of achievement.

Taking a look at Tuesday night’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by Oldham’s interim manager after Rovers’ 4-0 defeat at Leyton Orient? 

Our best player at the moment is probably Harry Vaughan but I would be very surprised if he starts the game. It probably says a lot about Oldham’s season so far when I say this, but Carl Piergianni has been Oldham’s player of the season so far by a long way. He is as basic as they come, but he is probably the only one who can hold his head up with some of his performances this season. That said, he’s always likely to give a goal a game away! Dylan Bahamboula can be good when he fancies it, but I don’t think I’ve noticed him on a football pitch since the sun stopped shining in September. The rest of the side are powder puff and I would imagine Jay Spearing will be rubbing his hands at the thought of a midfield battle against Callum Whelan and Jamie Bowden. As for Tranmere’s key players, the spine of Clarke/Spearing/Vaughan impressed me in the game at Boundary Park last season. I know Vaughan has now retired, but I recently clocked that Nicky Maynard is up front for you so he is likely to play well. I’m hoping the new interim manager tries to take the game to Tranmere and abandons the crazy 3 at the back system we were playing under the previous manager.

Who is the interim following the dismissal of Keith Curle and do you think it was the correct time to part ways with the 58-year-old? 

Selim Benachaour is the interim manager at the moment. He was brought in as the youth team manager last year and most fans were pretty quick to suggest he was being groomed to eventually take the reins of the first team. He played in a World Cup for Tunisia and has also played for PSG and Rubin Kazan so not entirely sure how he rocked up at Oldham, but nothing surprises us under this ownership. The general consensus with Oldham fans is that he will get the job permanently, but there’s doubt in my mind about that because I’d have thought the Lemsagam brothers would have permanently appointed him as soon as Curle left if that was what they were going to do – the last 3 times they sacked a manager, they had named a permanent replacement within hours. I’m not sure it was the right time to part ways with Curle…. It should have been done 6 weeks earlier. One of the worst managers I have ever had the displeasure to see at Boundary Park.

How would you describe the current relationship between the fans and the owners? Are the on-pitch protests still happening? 

The relationship between the owners and 90% of the fans is non-existent. As I alluded to earlier, there are still a few that somehow defend him, but the vast majority can see that the club is a shambles under him. It’s been a shambles from the day he started getting involved, it’s been a shambles for the 4 years he has been here and it will continue to be a shambles until the day he sells the club or the club gets put into administration…. Both of which are a better option than another minute under his reign! The on-pitch protests are not happening as much as they were earlier on in the season, but there was a brief stoppage in play at Salford last week as tensions rose and missiles were thrown onto the pitch to vent anger at the way the club is heading. I obviously won’t come on here and condone missiles being thrown on the pitch or pitch invasions taking place, but I genuinely think disrupting the games is the best way to go about protests. There is a campaign for the game on Saturday at home to Forest Green to “empty the park”, where all Season Ticket holders are asked to not attend the game to show what the owners are doing to the club.

Finishing our conversation off, your score prediction? 

Oldham are the masters of papering over cracks, so I fully expect a win. 2-1 Oldham.

Stevenage F.C meeting the opposition.

Stevenage meeting the opposition.

Tranmere Rovers come into this weekend, for the first time in a while, on the back of a midweek win at Prenton Park. They’re currently positioned tenth in the table and will look to add to their league standings when they face Stevenage this Saturday.

Ahead of the game I spoke to ‘Boro’ supporter Matt Farley who went into depth about a range of subjects relating to the club who are now managed by an interim coach, his experiences with the club, his thoughts on the hosts and much more!

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

I have been supporting Boro for just shy of 20 years. It first started when my dad wanted me to watch a better standard of football when I was a kid, so we started going to Stevenage. Ever since that point myself and my dad have become die hard supporters travelling home and away every single week of every season. 

Some of the greatest and worst footballing experiences throughout this time?

Wow, what a question. We’ve had so many for both. I’ll start with the great times first. Obviously all of us Boro fans would have to say the years where we were promoted to the EFL. A lifelong goal at the club finally achieved after years of heartache, that day at Kidderminster will never be forgotten. Also a year later getting promoted at Old Trafford to League One was incredible! I’d also throw in all the magical FA Cup ties we’ve had at the club and over the past 6 years we have celebrated some great wins. However, I’d say our darkest memory was 2 years ago thinking we’d been relegated from the EFL, what a tough season that was. But, we were kept up, so all in all a positive to finish with! 

Random fact about the club/ the area?

There are so many interesting facts about the club that date back into time, the old school Boro fans will remember the times of a trench being built on the pitch when the club was previously known as something else. However, I like the fact that we were the first ever club to lift a trophy at the new Wembley stadium! 

How would you describe Stevenage’s campaign so far, how does this start compare to last season’s and what are your hopes and expectations for the months ahead?

This season has been one hell of a rollercoaster. We came into this season on the back of some excellent football last season, finishing just shy off the play offs. We recruited what seems like a promotion team in the summer and unfortunately it hasn’t gone our way. Although we sit 12th in the home form table, our away form has been dreadful as we sit in the bottom four. A culmination of poor football, results and sitting 21st meant we parted ways with Alex Revell and Dean Wilkins. A tough call because both are really top men, but it was the right decision. Since then we’ve started to win games and we’re currently unbeaten in 3 competitive matches earning our first point away on Tuesday in 2 months. With a new manager coming in, things are starting to look greener. 

Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by the visiting interim manager following the dismissal of Alex Revell?

For us it’s Elliot List 100%! Our top goal scorer and really without him we’d be in big trouble. Listy has got the ability to score at any moment in the game because of his pace and normally finds himself clean through in pretty much every game we play. For your side I’d say players like Spearing stick out because of their experience and I can see you’ve got the best defence in the league, so I’m sure you’ll be tough to score against! Robbie has done brilliantly since taking over, he’s steadied the ship and I think he will play pretty much the same team as he has done previously. 

Revell spent just over a year and a half in the dugout, how would you describe his time at the club in this role and do you believe it was time to part ways?

Revs is a top man. I had the pleasure of speaking to Revs privately on many occasions and he is one of the nicest guys in football. He cared and loved the club, but possibly that lack of experience took its toll in the end. Unfortunately he did have to go. However, I will say this about Revs, he did brilliantly in his time. He turned the ship last season when not many managers would’ve turned the ship and he has put together a fantastic group this season. He will go on to succeed in football and I’m so routing for him that he does. Lovely bloke. 

Thinking of the club’s ownership decisions, who are Stevenage’s owners and what are the general feeling of them from fans? Are there any current exciting off pitch plans?

Phil Wallace our chairman controls the on going’s at the football club currently. There has been talk recently of a takeover from an American Consortium. Which I think would be a really positive move for the club to bridge the gap to possibly growing. The club does ever so well with things off the pitch. Sponsorship, Community work, Caring for the vulnerable and Elderly. I’m so proud of the club and how hard we work to make a difference. 

Finishing our conversation off, your score prediction for the weekend’s game at Prenton Park?

Anyone that knows me knows I’m the most POSITIVE Boro fan there is haha!! I’m going for a 1-0 win and our first away win in the league since August! BUT, I’d bite your hand off for a point.

Thank you for your time!

No worries!

Sutton United meeting the opposition.

Sutton United – meeting the opposition.

After two wins in separate cup competitions, Tranmere are back in League Two action this weekend as they face Sutton United at Prenton Park. 

Sutton were promoted to the Football League this summer and have started the campaign fairly well, their promotion making for a few interesting cases with the ground having to be brought up to EFL standards. 

To hear more about the visitors on and off pitch situations, I spoke to ‘@Gandermonium’ who also gave their thoughts on how the game may pan out.

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

My first game was in ’83 at home to Hitchin. Folks were dead set against me going to the bigger stuff due to the climate on the terraces at the time, so my godfather took me round all the local non-league outfits instead to get me out of the house. We were proper Jonahs too as all the sides we went to lost over the several games we saw and the visit to Sutton was I think the first time we’d seen the home team score, let alone win, so we tended to stick with them after that! The fact they had a bloody good side at the time and I then had friends from school who started going after that helped. It was dead easy to get on the bus from home and that kept me involved as my god father didn’t have to take me all the time. 

Some of your greatest and worst experiences throughout this time? 

When you watch a club home and away as long as I’ve been able to, there just becomes too many to mention to be honest! Plus your favourites tend to change with your mood or how things are at the time. Obviously the Cup runs will always stand out, with the away 3rd Round replay at Middlesboro in ’88 a real “I was there” classic in particular. But I’ll never forget the insanity of the last 15 minutes at Wimbledon during the Arsenal run. Proper “if you could bottle it” stuff that was. Winning the NLS 5 years ago with a ridiculous unbeaten run to reel in Ebbsfleet was special and last season winning the National League was also a huge moment obviously, but as we only got to see 3 games in person thanks to Covid, including the clincher at home to Hartlepool thankfully!, it all felt a little bit unreal and a touch removed from a normal season where we’d have seen most games home and away. As for the bad, same again, where do you start? There’s a couple of bad FA Cup defeats in there obviously, home to Alton about 10 years ago being the worst for me personally I think. We won the Isthmian League that year and were in good form, still not sure how we managed to make such a mess of that one. Lowest point probably was the 2007/2008 season though, we were just utterly dire that year barring a couple of little sparks. 5 league wins in total and 3 managers when we’d had that many in about 25 years previously! Just miserable all round really. Definitely the worst ever season I’ve witnessed. 

Focusing on your podcast ‘Gandermonium’, could you tell us a little bit about that in terms of the content you produce and how long it has been running? 

A pod-what? Sorry, we’re old school, we only do the written word still round here fella! People have admittedly been telling us we should do a podcast for this season, but circumstances at the moment mean the writing takes enough time as it is and trying to get some of the rest of our lot involved would be just asking for trouble, mostly in a legal sense! Thankfully one of the other GGL regulars Mike has got one going in the last few weeks, so if you’re into sounds and talking, he’s your man (@suttonpod on twitter). Want something to read on your phone whilst on the bog however? That’s our department! Gandermonium initially started in ’98 with a basic site doing mostly unofficial match reports and then evolved more into the days out silliness we got up to watching alongside the football and ran through to until ’08 when I’d had enough as we’d been crap for several years and it was largely just me writing. Of course, we turned good again immediately after this! We restarted the site late in 2012 after a couple of the guys persuaded me to resurrect it as more an awayday\drinking\stupidity publication with a smattering of football chucked in and we’ve not looked back or missed a game since then, should be over 600 now I think? We’ve come close to breaking the run the last couple of years, but we’re still hanging in there! 

Random fact about the club / the area?

For the club, Malcolm Allison and Jimmy Hill both cut their teeth as young coaches at the club in their early days. That and we share our unique colours with Highland League Forres Mechanics. Up the Can Cans! As for the town. Well, it’s largely dull commutersville suburbia around here, so that’s a bit of an ask. Penelope Keith was born here (actress, ask your parents kids!) and Sutton is the site for the very first ‘All Bar One’ in the UK (you’re   welcome!) and also the town featured heavily in a good few episodes of an apparently briefly popular online ‘adult activities’ production known as ‘Fake Taxi’. If you’re into your fact checking, we’d definitely advise not Googling that last one and just take our word for it, alright? 

Saturday brings the 16th matchday of the season for both sides. How would you say that United have started the campaign in comparison with your aims at the start of the season? What are your aims going forwards? 

Slow start points wise, but the performances deserved better overall. But once we got our first win, we were fine and had a good little burst of form to fire us up the table. Couple of injuries lately has meant we’re back to bobbing along a bit again, but once we get some bodies back, we should be fine. As for goals, we were all hoping just to stay up this season, but if we keep going as we are, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. Going forwards, we just want to stay in the division as long as we can. The more time we spend here, the better we’ll adjust and catch up in certain areas off the pitch as we’re still largely reliant on volunteers in a lot of aspects. The ground also still needs work to get us properly up to FL level. 

Taking a look at Saturday’s game, who would you say are the key players for either side and how do you believe the fixture will be approached by Sutton manager, Matt Gray? 

Embarrassed to say I don’t know much about Tranmere’s squad at all. Clearly not bad at the back though given how few you’ve let in, so that’ll make for an interesting afternoon. From our side, David Ajiboye usually catches the eye and Issac Olaofe too. Both quick, direct players. Ben Goodliffe at Centre back has been superb this season too. Matt’s approach? Same as all the others. Be hard to beat, compete and stay in the game for the whole 90 minutes. It’s worked fairly well so far! 

Thinking of the visitor’s ownership, who are Sutton United’s owners and what are the general feelings of them from fans? Are there any current exciting off the pitch plans? 

We don’t have out & out owners like you guys, it’s a mixed bag of shareholders and a traditional board of directors type setup still for us. The majority are long standing U’s fans however and given the recent success\elevation there’s lots of goodwill and feeling towards everyone at the top at GGL. Off the pitch, we do have plans in place apparently to redevelop the Rec side of the ground (we still need 1000 more seats for full FL grade) which is dependent on us staying up this season. The academy is stepping up to the new status and there’s other developments at GGL in hand. Will be interesting to see how everything pans out. 

Finishing our conversation off, what is your score prediction for Saturday’s game at Prenton Park? 

I hate these as I rarely get them right. Both sides are pretty solid at the back, so 0-0 or a 1-1 perhaps? Probably be an 8 goal thriller now, just to make me look daft…

Matt Gray has been manager of Sutton United since 2019. His game plan which is to ‘be hard to beat, compete and stay in the game for 90 minutes’ has worked ‘fairly well’ so far.

Oldham Athletic meeting the opposition.

Oldham Athletic meeting the opposition.

Tranmere’s final Papa John’s Trophy group game comes this Tuesday night as they face Oldham Athletic, a team who knocked them out of the EFL Cup, at Prenton Park.

This competition has had its fair share of criticism recently, with the introduction of Premier League academies into what was a tournament solely for Football League clubs. Thus, I thought it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of an Oldham supporter on the competition amongst other subjects relevant to the match.

I spoke to ‘The Boundary Park Alert System Podcast’ for the latest meeting the opposition feature.

Just to start the conversation off, when did you become an Oldham Athletic supporter and how did that come about? Also, could you tell us a bit about the content that you produce on the ‘BPAS podcast’?

I started visiting BP in the mid to late 80s. We often went with school and my dad used to take us to games. We were just getting good under Joe Royle at the time and once the ‘89-90 came around and the big cups wins, the Littlewoods Final & the FA Cup semi, I was hooked.

I started ‘BPAS’ in Dublin last September, during lockdown and before I moved back to Oldham this summer. I wanted to produce something that addressed the serious plight OAFC are in now and have been in for a number of years. I wasn’t getting that information through any other outlet and it frustrated me, so I figured others felt the same. OUr pod is out every Monday at 7am and covers the games and all the news about the club, protests and off-field issues. There’s never a dull moment. 

Strictly relating to this competition, what are the greatest and worst footballing moments that you’ve experienced with Oldham in the time you’ve followed them?

Having been in Dublin for 10 years and due to the fact that Oldham are just as bad in this as any other, it’s hard to recall much of anything other than mediocrity in this competition! The first thing that springs to mind, however, is when we made the Northern Semi Final against Chesterfield in 2013/14. We Went out on pens but their keeper Tommy Lee was virtually unbeatable in the match, he saved everything! It’s one of those competitions that fans are really disengaged from but that a trip to Wembley and a bit of success in, might just be the catalyst that a club like Oldham needs.

What are your thoughts going into Tuesday’s game? Do you believe that both teams have the quality needed to get the win in the last group stage matchday? 

At this level, anyone can beat anyone. Oldham have already knocked Tranmere out of the EFL Cup this year on pens, but a look at the table suggests that Tranmere are definitely the superior side. Oldham really struggle up front and are always likely to concede. I think if Tranmere put out a strong team, they will win. Oldham don’t have a big enough squad to rest key men, so if Tranmere rest players, I can see Oldham winning. 

The Papa John’s Trophy has changed over time, with Premier League academies coming up against senior sides. What are your thoughts on the current format and is the game at Prenton Park one that you’re greatly wanting to win? 

I’m not in favour of the PL sides entering this competition as I think it devalues it even further. I’d rather see a reserve league back and have North West sides competing at that level again. As for this game; Oldham are in serious danger of relegation this year, so staying up is the number one priority, bar none. Winning or losing this game means nothing in that context but having said that, it’s always nice to beat Tranmere! I’d rather save it for the league though, given a choice.

Finishing our conversation off, what are the off pitch struggles currently looking like at Oldham Athletic given the unrest between the fans and the ownership?

Stalemate, unfortunately. The club have failed to deliver on a number of promises they made in an open letter to fans in September, but that’s no surprise. They only responded to fans because of the increased national media coverage and never intended to deliver. Fans are working hard together behind the scenes to figure out a strategy for the club going forward and to attract new investment. This project has failed and 98% of fans want the current owners to leave, so it’s time to go. Attendances are way down and there’s more protest action planned. Things at BP are grim but we’re working hard and won’t give up.

The unrest between Oldham Athletic supporters and the club’s owner has reached a ‘stalemate’.