When you think of the great football rivalries, you tend to think of: United v City, Everton v Liverpool, Rangers v Celtic. There are plenty of clubs that don’t like one another, yet there are a lot more clubs who’s rivalry with another isn’t greatly known about. For example, Tranmere Rovers v Bolton Wanderers.
Tranmere and Bolton don’t have much in comparison. Bolton has tended to be the more attractive club, well in terms of league positions that is. They competed in Europe a little over a decade ago, getting to the last sixteen of the UEFA Cup in 2008. However, the rivalry between the Whites and the Trotters started many years previous.
The 1991 third division play-off final could be seen as the game that sparked a rivalry between two Merseyside and Greater Manchester clubs, the two cities not liking each other too much. Even though Tranmere isn’t in Liverpool, the two areas have some similarities. If you aren’t willing to admit that, it adds to the view that this rivalry really is peculiar.
Anyway, in 1991 there was a playoff final played at Wembley Stadium between John King’s Whites and Phil Neal’s Wanderers. This match was very closely contested. In fact, the game would go to extra time for an additional thirty minutes of playtime. Chris Malkin scored the goal that would promote Tranmere to the second division. Those were the club’s glory years.
The Tranmere team was accused of celebrating too much by the Greater Manchester club, the celebrations were understandable from a neutral or even a Rovers fan’s point of view. There was too much on the line that day as King had built a fantastic squad and a ‘trip to the moon’ soon followed. The Rovers faithful were ecstatic and for good reason too.
Skip forward nine years, the two clubs met again. This time around, John Aldridge had replaced John King and Phil Neal had been replaced by Sam Allardyce. To this day, Allardyce is a man that is despised by many of the Rovers’ faithful… I don’t think that Aldridge is held too highly in the thoughts of Bolton’s fans either. This is why …
In 2000, the two clubs came head to head in the league cup semi-final. At that time, Dave Challinor played his football at Prenton Park and his throw-ins caused every opposing defence problems. In an attempt to prevent these struggles, Allardyce blocked up gaps in the advertising boards at the ‘Reebok’ stadium. Needless to say, the Whites progressed to the league cup final winning 4-0 on aggregate after two games. This made Aldridge give Allardyce a personal dance, emotions weren’t hidden and emotions of happiness for the home team made the emotions of the visitors ‘sour’.
In the post-match press conference, Allardyce gave his thoughts on his side’s defeat and had a dig at the club that he had been beaten by. ‘Every dog has its day, but you never forget’.
This certainly wasn’t forgotten … Bolton traveled to Prenton Park the following season for a league encounter. Allardyce remained as the Trotters manager and to show that he had been hurt, refused his player’s the chance of getting changed or showered following a difficult contest in which Bolton won.
On top of this, there has been numerous cases of fan trouble. For example, it has been reported that after the play-off final mentioned above Bolton fans were caught attacking vulnerable Rovers fans including women and children. This is of course ‘cowardly’. However, there have been plenty more occasions like this. I’d prefer to talk about the on-pitch rivalry yet there is a strong sense of resentment between the two sets of fans.
To this day, that isn’t forgotten and the rivalry between the two clubs remains. Despite the club not meeting much, due to Bolton’s successes, the Wanderers recently experienced great financial issues. This meant that they would be relegated, back to back to the fourth division and the rivalry was revisited last season and again in this campaign.
In the midst of these encounters, Rovers appointed ex-Trotters manager Keith Hill and the reaction due to him supporting the Wanderers wasn’t a great one at all. Hill has only ever had success in the fourth division. However, his name is on Bolton’s relegation last season. I think this was a relegation that was inevitable though, given the lack of fundings available towards a depleted squad.
Last season, when Bolton struggled to afford the ability to field a strong side they visited Prenton Park and were defeated 5-0. Rovers fans will live in hope that this scoreline can be repeated this upcoming weekend, that will be a great struggle…
I was in the midst of getting fan’s opinions. However, to keep this write-up available for people of all ages to read … I’ve decided not to.
Chris Malkin celebrates his goal in the 1991 third division play off final. Rovers would win this game, 1-0 against Bolton, after extra time. A great period of success for the Whites, Johnny King was manager then.
This upcoming Saturday afternoon, Tranmere Rovers will travel to Bolton Wanderers’ ‘University of Bolton stadium’ as the ‘Trotters’ host the ‘whites’ in league two action. With that in mind, I placed questions towards Jonnie Tickle ‘@JonnieTickle’ who supports this encounters’ hosts. I thought it would be interesting to see the thoughts of a fan who’s club will soon face Rovers, to get his opinions of Tranmere as well as his thoughts on the position of the Greater Manchester club at the moment, on and off the pitch; amongst other subjects.
How long have you been a supporter of Bolton and how did you discover the club?
I’ve supported the club all my life pretty much, I have a family full of Bolton fans and grew up right next to the stadium so it was the perfect fit really.
Where did Bolton finish last season?
They finished 23rd I think, last season was a bit of a write off with the points deduction so wasn’t really much to expect. Unfortunately, we were relegated. I think it was fairly inevitable though.
What are your thoughts on your current manager – Ian Evatt?
I like him, the football has been frustrating to watch but it’s nice to see a manager come in and try and implement a new style and have this confidence that it’s gonna work, hopefully it does.
What are your expectations for this season? What are your thoughts on your start to the campaign?
I mean I think we should be getting promoted regardless, I always knew it would be a tough league but with a squad of our stature we should be looking to the top end of the table. It’s obviously been a disappointing start but we’ve shown glimpses of what we can do so hopefully we’ll be okay.
Which one player is your danger man, why?
A fairly obvious one really, Eoin Doyle. He is on a scoring run and was the league’s top scorer last time round, he certainly knows where the net is.
What is your score prediction for the game on Saturday?
I’m gonna be optimistic and go 2-1 Bolton, it’s at our place and I’m hoping that we can get the 3 points
Random fact about Bolton? (Famous fans, something about the town etc)
The stadium is the only ground in the UK to have a separate home and away tunnel.
Do you support/like any other clubs other than Bolton , why?
Bolton’s my main one, I always keep an eye out on the Liverpool score due to family connections and also Chorley because I’ve been there a few times.
Proudest moment as a supporter of Bolton?
There’s been a few tbh, I’m sure any other Bolton fan would say the 3-2 against Forest when we stayed up the last minute but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. Thus, I’ll say the Peterborough game where we won 3-0 that got us promotion to the Championship in 2017.
What is your opinion of Tranmere Rovers?
I’ll try and be nice haha, they are a big club for this division and they have got some good players. However, I don’t know why Keith Hill was appointed as the new manager after the state he left us in.
I would like to thank Jonnie ‘@JonnieTickle’ for his time answering the questions that I placed towards him. This league encounter should be an interesting occasion between two clubs that have a feisty history and I hope that readers enjoyed this Q+A.
Thank you very much for reading,
Bolton’s ‘University of Bolton stadium’, where the action will unfold on the Weekend.
On Monday morning, it was announced that one of Liverpool’s greatest managers Gerard Houllier had passed away. Gerard is a man that many believe brought Liverpool Football Club into the 21st Century in the best of manners. During his time at the club, he changed everything including the attitude of players and their lifestyles off the pitch. He won trophies. He also gave a debut to Steven Gerrard, one of Liverpool Football Club’s most influential players ever.
Before Houllier turned his career to football, he was a University student at Lille University where he would complete an English degree. As part of this course, Gerard would spend a year in Liverpool. Attending a 10-0 thrashing of Dundalk, in 1969. Bill Shankly was the manager then. He would use his degree to later become a deputy headmaster at a French school, leaving this role to become a player-manager aged 26.
First of all, we should talk about his career as a footballer. He wasn’t the best of footballers, at all. In fact, Danny Murphy speaking to ‘Talksport’ said ‘Gerard would ping balls across the training ground, people used to laugh, he wasn’t a great player’. He would feature for French minnows Hucqueliers after coming through their youth system, going on to play for Le Touquet. Gerard would never threaten the professional ranks as a footballer.
It was at Le Touquet that Houllier earned his coaching badges, the club’s player-manager for three years. He would spend a respective six years at Noeux-Les-Mines and a respective three at Lens before he transferred to the dugout at Paris Saint-Germain. At Noeux-Les-Mines he would win three promotions, despite limited resources, taking the club to the second division. Lens would be promoted to the top division and qualify for the UEFA Cup. He transformed PSG from a side that finished 13th to a club that would win the league, in his first campaign. This would dip as they would soon finish 7th and 15th.
However, he had done more than enough to show that he was worthy of a coaching role within the French national team’s system. Gerard would be Michel Platini’s assistant manager, upon the departure of Henri Michel. This wasn’t a successful time though, France’s best finish between 1988-1992 was a group stage finish in the ’92 Group stage. Due to this, Platini was sacked yet Houllier would stay in the French setup. Gerard Houllier was named manager of the French senior team in 1992. This was a team that consisted of a few ‘world-class’ talents, such as Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and Eric Cantona. Gerard would be in charge of twelve games: winning seven and losing four. However, this wasn’t enough to qualify for the 1994 World Cup thus he would resign from his duties in the November of ’93. Gerard Houllier would spend three years managing the youth talents of the country whilst continuing his role as technical director. France under 18s would be victorious in the 1996 Under18s Euros and this team consisted of Premier league great Thierry Henry.
After many years in France, Gerard would return to the city that he called home for a year during his student life. Houllier would return to Liverpool being partnered up with Roy Evans as joint managers in 1998. This wouldn’t be a successful partnership. The ‘reds’ were knocked out of the league cup with a defeat to Tottenham, after losing their place in the UEFA Cup with a defeat against Spanish side Celta Vigo. Evans would soon leave, Houllier being named sole manager. In this role, he could truly transform Liverpool who hadn’t won the league for eight years and were struggling with consistent off the pitch attitudes. The team was, at the time, labeled the ‘spice boys’. In Jamie Carragher’s autobiography, ‘Carra’, he said ‘Gerard rigorously modernized Liverpool’s traditions, the club’s recovery began under him. Players started to care more and the attention to detail was amazing’.
Gerard took a continental approach to his recruitment. During his first summer transfer window, players such as Paul Ince, David James, Jason McAteer were all sold and Steve McMannaman would depart Anfield on a free transfer. Centre-half Sami Hyypia, defensive midfielder Dietmar Hamann, and ‘heading specialist’ Eric Meijer were upon the list that would be signed. However, the youth system would be used to good effect. It wasn’t a totally continental approach to the squad revamp. Defender Jamie Carragher, midfielder Steven Gerrard and forward Micheal Owen became a cornerstone of the team.
Along with the squad, the training facilities at Melwood were also transformed into something ‘special’. Gerrard, just like Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, was a Frenchman who knew what needed to be done to turn his team into winners and he was determined to do so.
Micheal Owen was a great talent that had been produced by the club’s youth system. However, he needed someone to partner him. Another forward that would be on his wavelength, someone to do the ‘dirty’ work whilst he could use his pace to tire defences. With that in mind, Emile Heskey would be signed in 2000.
Taken from Owen’s book ‘Reboot’, published in 2019.
‘When Emile first turned up at the club, I used to look at him and think you’re absolutely unplayable. I remember playing a reserve game alongside him against Italy, the Italian defenders would swarm around me but Emile would fend them all off. I thought, you’ll do for me! He was a terrific player: big, strong and had a good touch – he offered something different. He was very unselfish, he loved scoring goals but he could also hold the ball up very well and look for chances to put me in. I’ve played with many better strikers with arguably bigger reputations across my career: Shearer, Raul and Fowler etc. However, I’d have to say my favourite strike partnership was with Emile Heskey. He enhanced my play’
As well as the signing of Heskey, Gary McAllister and Nicky Barmby were another two that would call Anfield ‘home.’
With these signings, Liverpool had a fantastic 2000/01 campaign. Winning a cup treble: League cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. They would finish third in the Premier League, qualifying for the next season’s Champions League tournament. They would soon win the Charity Shield against Manchester United and the UEFA Super Cup against Bayern Munich, all in 2001. This was a phenomenal year for Liverpool, with five trophies and two great awards for academy products. Micheal Owen winning the Ballon D’or and Steven Gerrard winning the PFA young player of the season. It was on Houllier’s hospital bed, before a European fixture, that he would ring Owen and tell him about the award that he would soon receive. Micheal couldn’t believe it, he was amazed, he would be the first English man to win the Ballon D’or since Stanley Matthews.
This campaign alongside his general work was enough for Gerard to be named in Jamie Carragher’s book ‘Carra’ as the best manager he had worked for. ‘Gerard spoke my football language’.
Houllier had started his reign at Liverpool in the best possible manner. However, his health deteriorated and this would cause great worry across the Liverpool squad. Another thing mentioned in Micheal Owen’s book ‘Reboot’ was the compassion that the manager showed towards his players. ‘Houllier would ask about the player’s families and when he asked you knew he was being serious. With some people, they do that and you know they are just doing it to seem nice but Gerard did it and he was nice. He really would care about you. He would remember what you had told him the last time you spoke, that’s how you knew he cared about off-the-pitch matters’. This care even stretched to his recruitment process. He would ask players if someone he was looking to sign was a player that key squad members would like to be brought into the club. Squad unity was important. Gerard would discover that he had a bad heart condition in 2001, after falling ill during a match against Leeds. At halftime, he was found unconscious in the toilets and the players were rushed back out. Their manager would soon be rushed to the hospital with the use of an ambulance.
Caretaker manager Phil Thompson would guide Liverpool to a second placed league finish with the absence of Houllier, Liverpool’s best-recorded league finish in the ‘premier league’ at the time.
He would return to Liverpool to manage the ‘reds’ during the 2002/03 campaign. However, this was a fairly unsuccessful season. They would finish fifth and Houllier’s summer signings were highly criticized: El Hadji Diouf (£10million), Salif Diao (£5million) and Bruno Cheyrou (£4million). It was also deemed a failure to not make Nicolas Anelka’s time at the club permanent. However, it would be the season that Liverpool would defeat Manchester United 2-0 in the League cup final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Another good thing came in 2003 as Steven Gerrard would be named club captain.
Gerrard Houllier would depart Anfield in May 2004, following a couple of seasons of deemed ‘unattractive football’ and a perceived lack of support from the ‘reds’ faithful. Off the pitch and in the calendar year of 2001, Houllier had done phenomenally well. However, his time was up.
In Jamie Carragher’s autobiography ‘Carra’, the former Liverpool centre half says ‘I felt sorry for Gerard but the decision was the correct one’.
Rafa Benitez would be appointed Liverpool manager in the summer of 2004 and with a team that had been recruited by the departed manager, they would win the UEFA Champions League with a performance deemed the ‘miracle of Istanbul’.
Upon his departure from Anfield in 2004, he would go on to manage French league winners Lyon before returning to England to manage Aston Villa. Houllier would also make a return to the French national set up, as technical director.
Gerard would pass away, on 14th December 2020 following a heart operation. He will be missed by all that knew him and all of the fans that he had given great memories to. He truly transformed Liverpool Football Club and some say that today’s successes started with the actions he made during his reign.
Tributes to Gerard Houllier – taken from Liverpool’s official website ‘https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/announcements/420028-tributes-to-gerard-houllier’ :
‘I didn’t know Gerard too well – I met him a couple of times, but in those few moments he created a relationship with me that was really special. He is a true Liverpool legend and he is a true coaching legend. He was really influential in the game. A great coach, but a human being who gave you a really warm feeling when you were around him. For all of us it is a big loss and a really sad day’. (Jurgen Klopp)
‘Devastated to hear the news that my former boss Gerard Houllier has passed away. I will never forget what this man did for me and my career. Rest in peace Boss. YNWA x’ (Steven Gerrard)
‘Very sad news about Gerard Houllier. He was a gentleman and a great footballing person; I enjoyed his company many times. His legacy at LFC will forever be appreciated, respected and never forgotten. Marina and I offer our sincere condolences to his family. RIP Gerard. YNWA’ (Kenny Dalglish)
‘Absolutely devastated by the news about Gerard Houllier, I was in touch with him only last month to arrange him coming to Liverpool. Loved that man to bits, he changed me as a person & as a player & got Liverpool back winning trophies. RIP Boss’. (Jamie Carragher)
Pressure has been placed onto Keith Hill, following Tranmere’s devastating 5-0 away defeat to Exeter City.
The game saw a repeat of many of the mistakes that were made in Rovers’ last time out. The ‘Grecians’ would pounce on these mistakes and were good quality for a 5-0 victory, in truth they could and probably should have scored more. To put it simply, the hosts managed to walk through their visitors defensive line on many occasions and the quality that they possess has left the Tranmere manager and his team with many questions to answer.
The performance simply wasn’t good enough, Rovers were dominated.
First half –
Tranmere started with a showing of their attacking intent, Kaiyne Woolery broke forward and would eventually ‘pull the trigger’. His left footed shot from outside the box being blocked, before deflecting wide. It was an even start to the game.
However, Rovers’ defensive frailties would soon show. Exeter striker Joel Randall volleying over the bar, he was left unmarked at the back post. The hosts were finding it too easy to get through the visitor’s defensive line but this was the closest they had gotten so far.
They would soon open the scoring. Ryan Bowman having another shot from inside the box. This time his attempt found itself being placed beautifully into the top left corner. It would be their academy product, Matt Jay, that assisted the opener and he was certainly displaying his qualities.
The Grecians’ top scorer, Jay, would soon cut inside and release a shot. It failed to have the accuracy required to meet the back of the net. His attempt would go harmlessly wide.
The hosts would soon find themselves with a great opportunity to double their lead, after being awarded a penalty from a Jay Spearing foul. This set piece seemed to be incredibly harshly given. Nevertheless, Jay would double the hosts’ lead sending Scott Davies the wrong way from twelve yards out.
At the other end, Danny Lloyd would try to find the feet of striker Kaiyne Woolery. However, the pair were on different wavelengths and nothing was created.
It would soon go from bad to worse for Rovers, the scoreline was ‘put out of reach’ as Bowman doubled his goal tally for the afternoon. His shot from inside the box finding the bottom left corner of Davies’ net.
The ‘whites’ would try their best to bring a goal back as they tried to force their way into the game. Full-back loanee Calum Macdonald and creative midfielder Otis Khan having crosses blocked from the left hand side of the pitch.
A cross would soon find the head of Kaiyne Woolery, who was unable to find the target.
It could have easily been four to the good for the hosts before the half time whistle blew, Bowman again showing his capabilities. However, he would fire another good chance wide.
There was little action left of a half to forget for Tranmere, Macdonald being booked for a foul on Randell Williams as the winger aimed to break forward.
Second half –
Tranmere manager Keith Hill recognised that changes had to be made if Rovers’ fortunes was to change. They had put a lot of miles in on the road for the work to seemingly go to waste. Thus, he made four changes before the second half commenced. Liam Ridehalgh, Paul Lewis, Ollie Banks and Morgan Ferrier would replace Calum Macdonald, Otis Khan, Danny Lloyd and Kieron Morris.
These changes seemed to add a new breath of attacking intent. Tranmere started the half off with Woolery breaking forward and out pacing Tom Parkes who would eventually bring him down. The defender was booked as a result of this foul.
Substitute Morgan Ferrier would soon chase down a short back pass and force goalkeeper Jonny Maxted to clear the ball high into the stand.
He would soon drive forward again and deliver a low cross, the goalkeeper was again called into action but he gathered the ball calmly.
At the other end, defender Tom Parkes would see his effort fire over the bar from the club’s top scorer’s free kick. Time for a Rovers comeback was getting slimmer.
The referee awarded another booking, this time it was veteran centre half Peter Clarke that was on the end of this. For a handball.
The visitor’s fifth change of the half came when forward replaced forward. Corey Blackett-Taylor would come onto the pitch for Kaiyne Woolery. An injection of well needed pace.
However, the hopes of Blackett-Taylor having a great impact on the game was soon squashed.
Jake Taylor’s shot from the centre of the box saw itself fired into the bottom right corner.
Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies was soon awarded a yellow card.
His afternoon would get worse when a fifth was fired past him. Another shot from the centre of the box would travel past Davies and slot into the bottom right corner. There was certainly no chance of redemption for Rovers now.
There weren’t many chances created after this, from either side.
Former ‘super whites’ full-back Jake Caprice would come onto the pitch late on into the game.
This Saturday afternoon, Keith Hill’s ‘super whites’ travel to Exeter City in the aim of adding momentum to their midweek EFL Trophy win. However, they will also be aiming to turn wrongs to rights after losing in their last league encounter.
It will be a great test of the club’s strength and the relatively new manager will certainly get to experience the quality that his side has after being in charge for three weeks. This is because Exeter are placed in fifth starting the campaign off to a good standard, after being heavily defeated in the previous play off final.
If Rovers do manage to pick up three points, they may be rewarded with a play-off place. Thus, this league encounter should be very interesting and one that spectators should be looking forward to.
In his pre match meeting with the press, Hill reported that there are no new injury problems. This is great news as it means that there is a fully fit squad to choose from with the exception of forward Stefan Payne who is recovering from an operation on a groin injury.
The game this weekend will be played at St James Park, which has a capacity of 8,696. The ground’s record attendance being 20,984 who witnessed a 4-2 defeat to Sunderland in an FA Cup sixth round replay in 1931.
It is here where Matt Taylor’s dugout can be found, it has been his since he was appointed by the club for his first managerial role in 2018.
When the Chorley born man was a footballer, he was a centre-half and was a product of Everton’s youth system. At the Merseyside club he was a goalkeeper.
It was in 2006 that he moved up the pitch, catching the eye of the Team Bath manager whilst in this role for Sheffield University. He would soon play for Exeter City, having an important role in the season that the club won promotion from the Conference with a play off final win.
He would earn his coaching badges when becoming a player-coach upon his return to Bath City. He has since impressed as manager of the ‘Grecians’, missing out on the playoffs in his first season by a single point. Last season, they would get to the play off final but lose heavily to Northampton Town.
In pre-season, Exeter aimed to bolster their defensive ranks. Full backs Jake Caprice and Lewis Page were brought in from Tranmere Rovers and Charlton Athletic. Centre half Rory McArdle being brought in from Scunthorpe United. Young Icelandic goalkeeper Jokull Andresson signed on a short term loan deal from Reading, in October.
Nine players would exit the Devonshire club gates on a permanent basis, an evident clear-out.
The squad changes have seemed to work as Taylor’s side are currently placed 5th in the league two table, with seven victories from sixteen games.
In the FA Cup they are through to the third round. The ‘Grecians’ have beaten Fylde and Gillingham leaving them with a televised upcoming tie against Sheffield Wednesday to play in January.
However, they have been knocked out of the EFL Cup and the EFL Trophy being defeated against Bristol City and Northampton Town. They seem to have no luck against the ‘Cobblers’.
Matt Jay is the hosts leading goalscorer, with nine goals in sixteen games. The 24-year old striker is an academy product of the club where he is currently excelling. He was snapped up by the club’s youth system when he was just seven years old, thus he has been at the club for seventeen years.
He has had to show his quality through having three different loan spells all at Southern non league clubs: Weston-super-Mare, Hayes and Yeading United and Truro City. This is certainly his best campaign so far, meaning he is this weekend’s ‘one to watch’.
Kevin Johnson is the ‘man in the middle’ of St James Park this Saturday afternoon. This season, he has officiated thirteen games. Two being in league two, where he has awarded three yellow cards and one penalty kick. The experienced referee will be helped by his assistants, Adam Ricketts and Robert Dabbs.
DID YOU KNOW?
One of Johnny King’s greatest games as Tranmere manager was against Exeter City. This game was to be the start of the club’s greatest of successes.
Gary Williams would be the player to score the goal that would see Rovers keep their football league status, five seasons later the club was in the second division.
HEAD TO HEAD:
Tranmere have competed against the ‘Grecians’ on 36 different occasions.
Wins – 19
Draws – 5
Losses – 12
The two clubs first met, in the 1961/62 season, it was in the September of 1961 that they first competed against each other. A seven goal thriller at Prenton Park, meant Exeter City took all three points back to Devonshire. The game finished 3-4.
I believe Tranmere will win on Saturday afternoon, it will be an incredibly difficult but interesting occasion and it will be a great test of defensive qualities.
Score prediction – Exeter City 1 Tranmere Rovers 2
If you enjoyed this match preview, why not read my Q+A with a supporter of the ‘Grecians’.
He tells readers how he started to love the Devonshire club, his thoughts of how their season has gone so far and his thoughts going into Saturday’s league encounter against a team he describes to have a ‘great and very loud away support’.
Gary Williams celebrates scoring the winning goal at Prenton Park against Exeter City in 1987.
On Saturday afternoon, Tranmere Rovers will travel 245 miles south to face Exeter City in league two action at St James Park. With that in mind, I placed questions towards aspiring sports journalist @Jamiedecfc who supports the ‘Grecians’. I thought it would be interesting to see the thoughts of a fan who’s club will soon face Rovers, to get his opinions of Tranmere as well as his thoughts on the state of the Devonshire club at the moment; amongst other subjects.
How long have you been a supporter of Exeter and how did you discover the club?
I’ve been a ‘city’ supporter for 10 years. I first went with a group of friends and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Where did Exeter finish last season?
We finished 5th and reached the playoff final as well for the 3rd time in 4 years, our home form being the key to our success. Unfortunately, we would lose heavily to Northampton Town. Our luck really isn’t the best at Wembley.
What are your thoughts on your current manager, Matt Taylor?
Matt Taylor has worked wonders since his arrival in 2018. His playing style is physical but attacking. He is also brutally honest in interviews which is something that we lacked in the Tisdale years but most importantly I’m proud of the way he’s built on the previous manager’s success. He has made the team his own and is keen to go far with the club.
What are your expectations for this season? What are your thoughts on the start of Exeter’s season?
I really can’t complain with our start. We’ve been excellent and considering the circumstances this year we’re perhaps over achieving but our youngsters have adjusted well and have stepped up when needed. Joel Randell and our attacking play in general is a joy to watch at the moment but if we’re being really picky I’d have liked to see some of the draws turn into wins. The defensive issues have been a massive problem, I think we’ve conceded the most goals in the current top 6 but if we iron out the errors and keep our attacking form up then I fancy us to get that elusive promotion.
Which one player is your danger man, why?
It’s really difficult to pinpoint one player especially at the moment as our attacking play is so good but I’d say Joel Randell and Matt Jay are our ‘danger men’. They are both the top scorers so far this season. They are both natural finishers and have very fancy footwork and the pair are also very pacey. They’ll be one to keep an eye on and I’m glad they’re taking their chances thus far.
What is your score prediction for the game against Tranmere?
I’d predict a 1-1 draw due to our home from being very good this season and of course Tranmere carry a massive attacking threat with the likes of Morgan Ferrier and James Vaughan, Blackett-Taylor as well. It should be a good test for both sides.
Random fact about Exeter?
One of our famous fans is Chris Martin, the lead singer of the popular music band ‘Coldplay’.
Do you support/like any other clubs other than Exeter, why?
I guess I look out for the results of Yeovil Town because it’s always a good ‘away day’ and I have a few friends who support them.
Proudest moment as a supporter of Exeter?
It’s not always easy to support Exeter I’ll admit but that’s part of the ‘ride’. During my ten years as a ‘City’ supporter I’d say both play off semi finals and wins against the ‘scum’ (Argyle). They are all games and days that stand out.
What is your opinion of this weekend’s visitors, Tranmere Rovers?
Tramere have always ‘liked’ playing against us but in honesty they have some of the best fans I’ve seen particularly at this level. They are very well drilled and are simply too big for league two so I’m backing the ‘SWA’ for an instant return to league one.
I would like to thank Jamie Dyer for his time answering the questions that I placed towards him, this league encounter should be an interesting occasion and I hope that readers enjoyed this Q+A.
This Tuesday, Tranmere Rovers head to Greater Manchester for a league encounter against the in-form Oldham Athletic. This will be Keith Hill’s first away game as manager of the ‘whites’ and his aim will be to add another victory to the current amazing run of seven consecutive wins. If Rovers manage to add three points to their current total, they could see themselves placed in the playoffs. Thus, this is certainly a must win encounter against a good opposition.
Stefan Payne will remain unavailable for this league encounter as the forward continues his recovery from a relevantly recent groin operation.
There is also a doubt of the Celtic loanee full-back being available. Lee O’Connor missed Friday night’s FA Cup tie with a slight knock and will be assessed ahead of the midweek trip to Greater Manchester.
However, there is good news in the defensive ranks as Liam Ridehalgh returned to action in the game that O’Connor was unavailable for. He should be fit to start.
Oldham are managed by former Leeds and Liverpool star Harry Kewell, the Australian was appointed in August becoming the club’s fifth manager in the past twelve months replacing Dino Maamria.
Last season, the ‘latics’ finished 19th and their hopeful aim must now be to mount a playoff push.
In the summer, the Greater Manchester club had a great change of squad members. The defensive ranks was boosted by the signings of former Tranmere full-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and the experienced centre half Carl Piergianni.
Up front, Conor McAleny was signed from Fleetwood Town on a free transfer and he has certainly shown his quality so far as he is the current top goalscorer with eight in thirteen appearances. He is certainly one to keep an eye on this week if he is named on the team sheet, which I’m sure he will be.
However, his team’s start to the season hasn’t been as impressive as his start at a new club. They see themselves placed seventeenth after fourteen games with five victories and two draws. They will be hopeful of adding to this on Tuesday night.
My predictions prior to this fixture, my hopes are high but realistic:
Line up; Davies, O’Connor, Clarke, Monthe, Macdonald, Spearing, Morris, Khan, Feeney, Vaughan, Blackett-Taylor
Scoreline; Oldham 1 Tranmere 2
Did you know –
It was in Tranmere’s second recorded meeting with Oldham Athletic, that a name would enter Rovers folklore. This match took place on boxing day 1935.
Birkenhead-born forward Bunny Bell netted nine times in the ‘whites’ 13-4 win against their visitors. He even had the chance to make this a tenth, but unfortunately missed a penalty.
The goalscorer would eventually leave Tranmere for Everton, after scoring 102 in 114 appearances. However, the outbreak of the second world war effectively ended his career.
Bell is remembered by Tranmere with a bar inside their Prenton Park stadium named after him.
This game will start at 7pm and spectators can watch this exciting encounter via IFollow.
If you enjoyed this match preview and would like to read more, below is a link to my Q+A with an Oldham Athletic supporter. Find out his thoughts on his club at the moment as well as his opinions on Tranmere, amongst other subjects, here …
On Tuesday night, Oldham Athletic will host Tranmere in a league two encounter. With that in mind, I placed questions towards ‘latics’ fan @1rhysparsons. I thought it would be interesting to see the thoughts of a fan who’s club will soon face Keith Hill’s ‘superwhites’, to see their opinions of Tranmere and their opinion on the state of their club at the moment; amongst other subjects.
How long have you been a supporter of Oldham and how did you discover the club?
I first discovered the club whilst playing for my local Saturday team as we had the opportunity to go on the pitch at half-time during the Oldham vs Carlisle match in 2011. I loved every bit about it and since then have been a Latic! My first season ticket however was in the 13/14 season.
Where did Oldham finish last season?
It was a poor campaign last season as we finished 19th in League Two.
What are your thoughts on your current manager?
At first I wasn’t a fan of the appointment but recently the team seems to have gelled and Kewell is finally getting us to winning ways. We’re 6 points off the play-offs at the moment so I’m hoping Kewell can carry on the team’s top form.
What are your expectations for this season?
At first I honestly thought it was our time to delve into Non-League but I’m hoping that we push on now and aim high, I’ll certainly take the play-offs!
Which one player is your danger man, why?
Danny Rowe has shown recently his pure class scoring from all over the place in recent fixtures including a 35 yard cross goal screamer in the cup and an absolute rocket of a freekick against Exeter from about 45 yards. I’m hoping he can start scoring the ‘easy’ chances and we’ll have the top goalscorer in the league come the end of the season.
What is your score prediction for the game against Tranmere?
I think it’ll be a good game, both teams are on great form. However, we’ve not really hit the ground running at home. I’ll take a point and go 1-1!
Random fact about Oldham ? (Famous fans, something about the town etc)
Oldham have gone the longest in the 92 without something to celebrate e.g Winning the cup, promotion or winning the league.
Do you support/like any other clubs other than Oldham, why?
Oldham’s the only team for me! However I do look out for the results of teams that ex Latics players are currently playing for just to see how they’re getting on. I also keep an eye out on Watford due to family supporting them but the only club I support is Oldham Athletic!
Proudest moment as a supporter of Oldham?
My proudest moment has to be beating Premier League side Fulham in the FA Cup round 3. The best day of my life for sure!
What is your opinion of Tranmere Rovers?
Tranmere for sure have a great fan base, I always love the fixtures between us as the atmosphere is always top notch!
I would like to thank Rhys Parsons for his time answering the questions that I placed towards him, this league encounter should be an interesting occasion and I hope that readers enjoyed this Q+A.
I have had the great pleasure of producing aninterview with Enoch Showunmi.
In this piece I speak to former football league striker Enoch Showunmi. The London born forward played for his parents country, Nigeria, on two occasions and has many stories to tell. He once played at Wembley, he has featured alongside current England star Jack Grealish and he has had many unfortunate injuries. All of these are delved into, in great detail. We also spoke about his time in Merseyside playing for Tranmere Rovers and his current work venture as founder and CEO of Global Soccer Pathways. I hope you enjoy the read.
Where were you born and in what year?
Born and raised in London to Nigerian parents in 1982.
What were your first experiences of football?
I recall my first experience was playing in a tournament against older kids. I was eight then and I simply just fell in love with the game. From then on, I continuously played when I could.
What football team did you support as a kid?
Liverpool. It was forced on me from my dad. He probably was a glory hunter but I endured the years of frustration where we didn’t manage to win the title (laughs).
What was the first professional club you played for?
My first professional club was Luton Town FC. I turned pro at 21 years old. I was never at a pro academy in my youth. In fact, I was playing 11th tier football prior to signing my first professional contract so it was a culture shock especially playing over christmas and new years. The training everyday, sometimes twice a day in preseason, took its toll on my body.
Who was your biggest help in the early stages of your career?
The biggest help for me really was my support network, my family and friends that believed in my dream also. I do have to give credit, though, to the manager Mike Newell and the circumstances of the club being in administration that allowed me the time to come to terms with everyday football.
As you said, Luton Town was where you signed your first professional contract, what was the club like at that time?
It was tough. I wasn’t getting paid for the first eight months of my time at Luton and most people were telling me to quit. However, I persevered and I’m glad I did as I earnt my first pro contract after scoring a hat trick in a league one game. The circumstances of the club being in administration that allowed me the time to come to terms with the professional game.
Who was the best player that you played alongside during your time at Luton, Bristol City and Leeds?
I played with some great players from Lee Trundle, Curtis Davies, Steve Howard, Robert Snodgrass, Jermaine Beckford and Jonny Howson at those clubs. Most went on to play premier league and international football.
Whilst at Luton, you made two appearances for your parents country of Nigeria. Do you take the most pride in these games more than any others? Was playing on an international level a dream come true?
Playing international football was a dream. At 18 I used to tell my friends that I’d play pro football, I’d play for Nigeria and that Barcelona would bid for me by the time I was 28. I achieved two out of three in the space of a year. I didn’t make the third but you have to dream big to make anything in life. The games were against Ireland and Jamaica. We won both games. We beat Ireland 3-0 and Jamaica 2-0.
Were there any relatively famous faces in the Nigeria team you were in? Who were the games against? The squad contained Kanu and Okocha who didn’t play but Obafemi Martins made his debut at that time as well. All great players.
You joined Tranmere in 2010, can you remember your first thoughts of the club when you joined? Had you heard about/played against Tranmere before?
I had played against Tranmere quite a few times. I always remember it being a tough place to play. I scored for Leeds United at Prenton Park but we lost 2-1.
What made you sign for Tranmere? What were the facilities like at the club?
The facilities were great and the club gave me a place where I could reastablish my career after having a blood clot on my lungs whilst at Leeds. I went almost a year without playing football regularly. After this big unfortunate break, I played for Falkirk for six months before Tranmere gave me a new lease of life.
You played under Les Parry and Ronnie Moore, what was the biggest difference between the two managers?
Ronnie Moore and Les Parry had different approaches but ultimately the team was young and we would always be towards the lower parts of the table. Whilst Parry was more about being creative in set pieces and video analysis of previous games. Ronnie put his stamp and experience on the team when he came in.
What was your most memorable Tranmere game?
A game I remember, as it was the game we stayed up, is Bournemouth away in my first season. We scored a late winner through Adam Mcgurk and although I was very tired in the last ten minutes I certainly found the energy to celebrate that important goal.
You spent two years at the club, from 2010-2012. However, did you intend to stay for longer? Yes, I wanted to stay at Tranmere as I enjoyed my time at the club. In my first season I was top scorer and won the player of the season as well as the NW player of the year awards. The second season didn’t go as I planned as I cracked my fibula in the same place three times as I was rushed back from injury. I was told, in 2012, that the club couldn’t afford my wages. However, I would’ve probably signed for less if they had offered it to me.
After Tranmere, you played for Notts County while having loan spells at Torquay and Plymouth Argyle. You soon found yourself playing in the non-league for Wealdstone. Did you enjoy playing in the ‘non league’? Did this make you happy or was it upsetting as you edged towards the end of your career?
I didn’t really play in non-league. Wealdstone reached out as they were a local club to me in London but it wasn’t really me. I had fallen out of love for the game due to various reasons and I was just looking to keep fit and ticking over so I wanted some game time. I had offers from pro clubs but turned them down as I didn’t enjoy the game so I eventually left on my own terms.
You retired from football in 2015, are you enjoying ‘retirement’? What are the things that you enjoy doing?
I am enjoying retirement but the transition is difficult, even for me who had been planning since I was told I may never play football again whilst at Leeds United. It is different but there are so many transferable skills. Travelling for leisure is a big part of my life, there is so much of the world to see and there is so much I want to see.
What is your current work role?
I am now the Founder and the CEO of ‘global soccer pathways’.
What is ‘global soccer pathways’ about?
Global Soccer Pathways is a resource for players that are trying to take their game to the next level. Whether that is elite training, education, and combination of both and mindset/performance coaching. It is my own company and I have partners in Leeds United FC and Leeds Beckett University with the Carnegie International Soccer Academy as well as programs and books that I’ve put together for aspiring players. My email address is – firstname.lastname@example.org
What are your goals now as you set out to make a difference in the ‘beautiful game’? My goals are to nurture human potential, to be able to help as many players, not just on the field but off the field. There are certain tools I used to be able to have that longevity in the game, despite the obstacles and the circumstances. Unleash Your Soccer Potential – Triple R Blueprint is the first book I’ve written to nurture this element. The tools however can be used in any sport or business or life to be able to achieve a desired outcome.
General questions: What is the best memory you have in football? Playing for Nigeria and the earning player of the season award at Tranmere
Who was the best player you had a strike partnership with? Phil Jevons at Bristol City. I mostly played up top on my own during my career. Shout out to Ronan Murray at Notts County too.
Who was the best player that you’ve played with? On pure talent Jack Grealish, he came in on loan to Notts County when I was at the club. His quality was evident.
If you could’ve played in any other position, what would it be? I never played as a striker till I turned pro. I exclusively played midfield. During the first 4/5 years of my career, I played all forward and midfield positions.
What’s the best manager you’ve played under? The one who had the biggest impact on me aside from my start in the game was Steven Pressley at Falkirk
If you weren’t a footballer, what profession would you have? I’d be in the finance business
What’s the best stadium you’ve played at? Wembley, what a place that is to play.
What was your biggest achievement (club/international honour) in football? Going from 11 tier football to international football in under a year.
Tranmere Rovers v Brackley Town – The match preview
Friday 27th November 2020
Friday night football returns to Birkenhead as Keith Hill heads into his second game as Tranmere manager. It’s now time to go from league to cup football, the visitors to Merseyside being the National League North club Brackley Town. The two aims of this cup tie will be to bring six wins in a row in all competitions up to seven and progress into the third round of a special competition. This encounter will be televised to a wide audience as it is on the BBC. The ‘whites’ faithful should be excited about this one.
Fortunately for Rovers, they find themselves in a great position with only one player unavailable for match action. Striker Stefan Payne remains on the sidelines as he recovers from a fairly recent groin operation. This news should excite fans of the Merseyside club as there is a lot of quality in Hill’s squad, enough quality and depth to hopefully add to the victories of late. Payne is a long term absentee but he should hopefully be back before the season finishes.
Brackley Town Football Club are the Friday night visitors and they were founded in 1890 and the club moved to their current St James Park stadium in 1974. This stadium holds a capacity of 3,500 and on the touchlines you can find the technical area that Kevin Wilkin manages his sixth tier side.
Wilkin was once a footballer, playing for clubs such as Northampton Town and Rushden and Diamonds across an eighteen year career. After he retired as a player, the Cambridgeshire born striker was appointed manager of Nuneaton Town in 2006. He went on to manage Wrexham before landing his current role in 2015. In his role at Nuneaton, he guided the club from the Southern league division one midlands to the conference premier which was the highest level they had played at for nine years. As manager of the ‘dragons’, Wrexham, he guided his team to the FA trophy final but he was defeated at Wembley against North Ferriby United. He has since left Wrexham for Brackley Town, the club remaining in the same division from when he first managed them to this day.
‘The saints’ star man is striker Lee Ndlovu who has been at the club for four years. He represented Grantham Town and Ilkeston before signing for Wilkin’s team. The forward provides a strong physical presence and is also a great goalscorer. Achieving a goal total of 56 goals in 186 appearances. The 25-year-old scored last time out, in this competition against Bishop’s stortford. He is certainly a player who the defence should target, if his name appears on the teamsheet.
This is the first meeting between Brackley Town and Tranmere Rovers.
Tranmere have progressed from their last 18 FA Cup ties against non league opponents, excluding qualifiers.
Brackley Town are looking to reach the third round of the cup for the first time in their history.
Manager Keith Hill spoke to the press before his second game in the Prenton Park hot seat. He will be looking to add another win to his first victory, this time in a prestigious cup competition.
Excitement for the game – ‘The players are in good spirits and they can’t wait for the upcoming games. We are really looking forward to Friday night’s match’ ‘I hope it is a very good and entertaining game. I hope it shows the values that we have as a football club’
Understanding the difficulties that the opponents will bring – ‘The FA Cup is a special competition. It will be a very tough challenge, psychologically and physically, our opponents will be able to express themselves with no fear and we have to be very similar’ ‘It is going to be a difficult game for the players and we have reminded them of that. We also have trust in the players to see the game through’
The need for a consistent performance level, in quality and professionalism – ‘We need to be as professional as we have been, our energy and performance levels are very high at this moment in time and we have to maintain it’ ‘We have continuity so we will stick to the processes that have served us well’
Squad depth bringing competition for places – ‘We have great competition for places. We want competition, we want the squad to be stimulated by the fact someone is ready to come and play in your place. The players have performed well consistently and relationships are being built both at the training ground and on matchdays’
Affection for the prestigious cup competition – ‘I grew up thinking that the FA Cup was the best competition in the world, that it was the most special. I still believe that remains and it is a special competition for me and the players. We are really looking forward to the game’
A chance to show the nation more about the team Tranmere are – ‘It is a great opportunity for the players and the football club to show how special and unique we are in front of the nation. I want us to perform and have a great spirit which they have already shown’
Quotes taken, as ever, from the club’s official website – https://www.tranmererovers.co.uk/news/2020/november/hill-cant-wait-for-fa-cup-under-prenton-park-floodlights/
I think Tranmere will look to rest players that have started in the past two matches, as the squad’s depth is strong enough to beat sides of a supposed weaker quality and the festive schedule is very busy. Brackley will be a tough side to beat. However, I expect Tranmere to win this cup tie.