David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Tranmere Rovers’ Category

Relegation Fears

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Tranmere are entering a crucial period on and off the pitch as relegation becomes a genuine prospect and the question of club ownership continues to go unanswered.

Ronnie Moore started the 2012/13 season a hero, Tranmere led the league mainly until February 2013 which saw an unbelievable collapse to see the team finish 12th overall. Most fans could were prepared to forgive the collapse due to injuries to such a small and financially restricted squad however.

2014 has started with similar frustrations and the same tactical approaches from Ronnie Moore who consistently shows a lack of intuition. A good example of this would be our record to Peterborough this season, so far its 13-0 to Peterborough on aggregate after 3 matches (League & FA Cup). Before the match Moore said: ““The last two times we’ve played them we’ve gone 4-4-2 and we haven’t threatened, so maybe that’s something we have to look at”

This sums Ronnie up well, despite having lost 5-0 twice to Peterborough, the idea of changing the approach to a team who have lost to Kidderminster in the cup (no offence to Kidderminster fans intended) and had lost their last 4 league matches was still a troubling prospect to him. Ronnie did change from 442 to 451 for the latest Peterborough match, but the effect was minimal and Rovers were largely outplayed for the entire 90 minutes. So even after 3 matches, Ronnie was still clueless as how to take on Peterborough.

Apart from Moore’s continued poor tactical approaches, he is also clearly becoming incapable at finding suitable players. So far this season, Tranmere have used 38 players and at the time of writing we are not even in February. I don’t know what the rules are on the total amount of loan players that can be signed, but we can’t be far off? Whilst I can appreciate financial restrictions Moore has, the fact that Les Parry seemed more in control of his signings than him says a great deal.

The other major issue for Tranmere at the moment is ownership. Long standing owner Peter Johnson has finally waved the white flag and decided to give the club away for free, after years of trying to flog a dead horse for 6 million pounds. The supporters trust bid for ownership appears to have failed, the uptake from local north-west supporters was concerning, only 650 donations in total. It would appear that the nonchalant attitude of the club over recent years has now spread to the support and many are prepared for the club to be given away to someone who could in theory sell off the surprisingly large amount of land we own and then do a runner. Fingers crossed this does not happen.

Despite the supporters trust saying that Peter Johnson wanted to have sold the club by 31st December, we are yet to hear any news of sale and sadly the supporters trust are subjected to a non-disclosure agreement, so the only person who can comment is Peter Johnson and he is unlikely to change his usual ‘wall of silence’ approach to PR.

For Tranmere to progress in the short term, I would like to see a new manager with no previous connection to the club and to try and get a consistent and balanced squad.  Not an easy task many will say, but it is being done by teams like Walsall and Leyton Orient, so there is no reason why Tranmere cannot aim for such high standards. The amount of loan players on month long deals is becoming a signifier of what is wrong with Tranmere Rovers, short term fixes for long standing problems.

With regards to Ronnie Moore, I don’t like to be so negative towards a club legend, but the time for him to leave has come. I imagine most supporters don’t want to get to a stage were the usual chants and abuse have to start. I’d much prefer if he walked away with some dignity and enabled us to have a fighting chance of staying in League One for next season.

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

Supporter Ownership at Tranmere?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

It’s been an unexpected start to the season for Tranmere on and off the pitch for the 2013/14 season, unexpectedly I am going to be talking more about off the field issues. After the dismal end to 2012/13 it was a chance for the squad to start afresh and hopefully begin the campaign in a similar style as 2013. Predictably, the exact opposite happened and our opening game against Walsall was a defensive disaster.

Defeats soon piled up and by the end of September Tranmere had won one league match and two cup matches. Understandably and in my opinion, it was justified that Ronnie Moore’s position was being questioned by many supporters. It was obvious to many that the defence was short of talent as well as confidence, something which Ronnie was slow to re-build, but with the loan signings of Liam Ridehalgh and Jim McNulty this now appears to have been stabilized.

Frustratingly, for the second year running Ronnie has also managed to sign a player who has forced to retire due to injury, this season we had Stephen Foster. Foster, on paper looked a very astute signing, but Tranmere failed to see even one average performance from him. By the end of August he had “agreed that it was in the best interests of both parties to part company”. Although no official retirement has been announced, Foster is yet to sign for a new club and I’ll eat my hat and yours if he signs for another professional club.

Results of late have started to pick up, the 0-1 result away at Bradford showed desire and determination, especially from Ian Goodison, who at 41 is still showing League 1 how it’s done. At the time of writing (21st November), Rovers are unbeaten in five matches but go into a tough run of matches against Wolves, Coventry and Peterborough in the FA Cup all of which are away. Long term injury victim James Wallace looks to have finally turned a corner with his recovery and recently played in two reserve matches. His influence and potential are huge, so the sooner we see him back, the better.

On the 1st November it was announced by the club that winger Joe Thompson had been diagnosed with cancer. Obviously shocking and sad for everyone involved with the club. Joe is due to begin treatment this week, fingers crossed for a speedy recovery for him.

The other big issue at Tranmere lately is the future ownership of the club. Long standing chairman, Peter Johnson, who bought the club in 1987 and saved us from extinction lead us to the brink of the Premiership three seasons running in the 90’s, but sadly Rovers choked each time the chance was given. Fast forward to 2013, he is now 73 and I imagine wants some form of retirement. Tranmere have been officially for sale since 1997, but no potential buyers have ever come close (to my knowledge) to sealing a deal with Johnson as he originally wanted £5,000,000.

Rovers are in the unusual but enviable position of being land rich, which has obvious benefits to the club under the right ownership. That ownership will hopefully be The Tranmere Rovers Trust who are attempting a takeover of the club, funded by Tranmere supporters. Johnson has pledged to leave all assets to the supporters trust, IF they are able to raise £500,000 by the end of 2013. £135,000 has already been raised but there is obviously still a lot to raise. The club has a huge potential to thrive under supporter ownership, something I believe every football supporter in the country should be striving for if their club comes up for sale.

If Tranmere are not sold to supporters, myself (and many others) worry that the club will be used for a quick buck by someone else to sell what land the club owns and to keep the money all for themselves. Then we could be left with nothing and in a far worse position. So, for Tranmere supporters, the time to act is now, or the future becomes very uncertain and risky. The trust are currently offering three types of buy-in for supporters which can be found here: http://goo.gl/3BH4B3

The only way for Tranmere supporters to guarantee their club is in the right hands is by buying into the trusts plans and if you are a Tranmere fan reading this and are yet to do so, I implore you to do so. The cheapest option is £50 which I believe is in reach of most people. More information on the trust can be found here: http://www.tranmereroverstrust.co.uk and https://twitter.com/Tranmere_Trust

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

Can Rovers Go One Step Further?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

RM

Last season was a lesson learned for Tranmere’s young squad. For the most part, they lead the league until mid-February, and then capitulated with 10 games to go. At the time there were various opinions on why Rovers had such a dramatic downturn in form. Although there is never one sole reason for these occurrences, I think Rovers young squad struggled to cope with the pressure of maintaining such a long run and apart from Andy Robinson and Ian Goodison, they lacked experience in key areas. Also, with such heavy reliance upon short term loans we experienced the good (Jake Cassidy), the bad (Donervorn Daniels) and the ugly (Mamady Sidibe).

Over the summer Ronnie Moore has re-addressed the age balance by signing players like Ryan Lowe, Stephen Foster and Akpo Sodje which will certainly up the average age of the squad as well as experience levels. The other stand out change is the lack of loans brought in this summer. Only one so far, Chris Atkinson who did well on loan at Chesterfield last season joins Rovers for 6 months.

The loan system is one of the depressing sides of modern football in my eyes. Small league clubs become testing grounds for premier league clubs and still have to usually pay for the privilege. Undoubtedly it benefited Rovers last seasons and might well again this season, but I think any football league supporter would rather see a youth player (admittedly this isn’t always going to be the right answer though). Plus I have always wondered how a younger fan relates to seeing his/her team made up by players who are only there short term?

League One last season was probably the easiest it has been for a long time, however this season I would argue is the hardest it has ever been for Tranmere. To repeat something along the lines of last season will be very hard. I can see all the relegated teams from the championship being in the mix for the top 6 come the end of the season and on top of this you have the likes of MK Dons *spit*, Preston, Sheffield United and Brentford. Plus there is always a promoted side from League 2 whose momentum continues into the new season, can Bradford or Rotherham do it again? Potentially. So looking at how strong the league is, has Ronnie Moore made a rod for his own back with last season’s success? Hopefully he hasn’t, but from getting very close to going up last season and fighting over 14th this season won’t be half as fun.

Rovers also need to improve their home form if they are serious about mounting a promotion challenge, last season was mixed at best. Our away form, excluding the end of season collapse was the best I can remember for a long time, probably since the mid 90s! Big wins at Crawley (2-5) and Colchester (1-5) were particular highlights. Perhaps last season the pressure to perform in front of home fans when top of the table started to take its toll and might explain the more confident play when away. As any travelling fan will testify, its great to see your team play with confidence away from home and not just set up for the 0-0 or cheeky 0-1. Fingers crossed the approach continues in 2013/14.

One talking point for Rovers fans over the summer was the potential return of Jason Koumas (yeah remember him?). Sold by Tranmere for 2.5 million in 2002 to Gary Megson’s West Brom and went on to become a fan favourite there and then at Wigan who he was sold to for 5.3 million (earning Tranmere more money in a sell on percentage). At the end of the 2010/11 season he was released, moved to Cardiff and then was released by them 2011. Two years after this he has decided to come full circle and re-join Rovers on trial this summer. Exciting? Yes.

Jason was always one of those players who could pick out a pass, the type of thing you can’t teach. According to Ronnie Moore he still has that in abundance and is in decent physical shape. One nagging feeling though is a sense of déjà vu. Back in 2009 we signed Alan Mahon (former Rovers youth player who did well) re-join us on a 3 year deal, his injury plagued career surprisingly did not let up and we only saw him in 16 matches. So despite the 2 years out of the game, I still think Jason Koumas has a lot to offer Tranmere in League One as do many other supporters and with James Wallace suffering yet another injury setback, class in midfield is needed or I fear the Prenton Park School of Hoofing will return, last year’s star graduates include Ash Taylor and Danny Holmes.

As far as predictions go, this season is hard. I have already stated the high standard of the competition but I hope Rovers will get some luck with injuries this season. Last season was a joke, at times I wondered whether we had a curse hanging over us with the amount of injuries we sustained. I would be surprised if Rovers were 15th or lower and if we were top 6 or above for much of this season. Heart and head are levelling out on this one, so mid table is my bet. Heart is leaning towards mid table to last day play-off spot taken with a Jason Koumas 25 yard strike in the 93rd minute though….

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

A Season of Two Halves

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Its been a surprising, exciting but ultimately disappointing season for Tranmere in their 2012/13 campaign. From topping the table for the best part of two thirds of the season, Rovers finally finished a surprising 11th place. Rewind back to 19th January at 5pm when Rovers had just beaten Brentford 2-1 away at Griffin Park, the play-offs looked to be a minimum.

For me, there are several reasons why Rovers season fell so massively off the rails. The big assumption has been the failure to re-sign Jake Cassidy on loan, the striker who kick started our campaign in free scoring form returned to Wolves for assessment but never came back as expected. As the season went on, it became more abundant how dearly he was missed.

One aspect I will remember this campaign for is injuries. I cannot remember an injury ridden season like this in all my years supporting Tranmere. For me, the biggest impact on our slide down the table was the injury of James Wallace in the FA Cup 2nd round. At first Wallace was supposed to be out for “4-6 weeks”, then “3 months”. Eventually in turned out that Wallace’s season was over and a second operation was required. Wallace was our engine room, creative force and clearly gave belief to the rest of the side. When he was on song early on this season, we usually won, a perfect example would be the 3-2 win against Yeovil after being 2-0 down inside 29 minutes. His drive and determination majorly helped turn us into statistically the best team in the football league at coming back from losing positions by November, by the end of this season this record had well and truly vanished.

Wallace’s creative play early this season was a joy to behold at times, the best Tranmere fans have seen since Jason Koumas. Thankfully, Wallace signed a 2 year deal, so we still have him for 2013/14. Young Max Power (yes that really is his name) was left with the unenviable task of filling Wallace’s role, but for me was too inexperienced and raw for the role. Looking back, I think this is one decision Ronnie Moore may rue over summer. On a positive note, it’s good to see a youth player come through the ranks and be given faith and time to progress. He did also score two beauties this season, the winner against Crewe on Boxing day being the pick of the bunch, with Colchester away being a close second. Hopefully Max has learned a great deal from this season and will progress further.

Other injuries came to hamper Rovers’ resolve. French forward Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro suffered a rib injury against Notts County leaving him on the treatment table for 3 months, Ben Gibson was left out for 3 months in December with an abductor problem and Andy Robinson for 4 weeks in February. So many crucial players injured for long periods in such a small squad were bound to take its affect.

The other reason I see for Rovers taking the big slide down the table is Ronnie Moore. Credit to the Rovers legend for taking us to the top, but blimey, did he get it wrong after February. Once we hit the bad run after Brentford, Ronnie reverted to his type-cast ‘hoof ball’ tactics which with a predominantly small squad (height wise), was not a good idea. It’s hard to see Rovers getting a better chance at promotion for a long time, which no doubt added to the frustration during the season run in. Loan signings Mamady Sidibe and Sean McGinty failed to hault a slide down the table which was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

One annoying aspect to the end of season run in was a call by a small section of Rovers fans calling for the sacking of Ronnie Moore. A genuinely baffling logic which was stupid as well as embarrassing. Especially when we have recently endured John Barnes and Les Parry, sometimes it’s better the devil you know with a setup like Tranmere’s. Yes Ronnie did make errors, but this has been the best season we’ve had in a long time.

Looking ahead to next season, Rovers have offered new deals to keeper Owain Fon Williams and left back Zoumana “Zoom” Bakayogo, but it is likely we could lose at least one of them as interest has been high in both players. Andy Robinson is expected to sign a new deal despite being offered the chance of moving to America. Also, 40 year old Ian Goodison signed a year long extension and now is officially Tranmere’s oldest player. It’s obvious that he is slowing but I don’t think I was ready to say goodbye just yet. The run in of this season proved he still has plenty to offer. Plus, I want to see a Tranmere vs Jamaica testimonial for the big man at the end of the season, preferably away as well

The released list did not spring too many surprises apart from Adam McGurk who had his best season in 12/13, the season long scape goat for everything and anything might have finally have had enough of being booed week in, week out. Little was said by Moore about his departure, so perhaps he already had offers before the end of the season? Michael Kay was unfortunate in my eyes to be released, but thankfully Danny Harrison, Paul Black and David Amoo were shown the door and will not be missed by anyone.

In terms of new signings, we clearly need a new centre-back, defensive midfielder, winger and striker. Potentially we may need a goalkeeper and left back too. What I am hoping though is that Ronnie does not lose faith in the playing style that we started last season with. Tranmere were one of the few teams that saw a rise in average attendance’s last season and I’m sure our passing style helped bring people back back through the turnstiles. Yet again Rovers will be relying on the loan market for key signings, hopefully we are able to find another Jake Cassidy.

Next season see’s a new sponsor, the national chain ‘Home Bargains’ have paid over £100,000 for a 3 year deal. This unfortunately means an end to the deal with the local Wirral council which has been on our shirts since 1990 which was the longest sponsorship deal in English football history. It is sad to see this long standing relationship finally come to an end, but after a couple of bad PR incidents whereh the deal was highlighted in the national press, it was bound to come to end sooner rather than later.

I am looking forward to the new season for the first time in a while, hopefully Ronnie can dig out a few more rough diamonds and we can do a Yeovil in 2013/14.

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

50 points, not out

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Well, when I came back to write my second update for Tranmere’s season, the last thing I expected was us to still be top, but there we are.

Since October Tranmere have come back down to earth with a few bumps, but the squad is showing plenty of resolve and desire to stay at the top of the league. The Christmas campaign got off to a bad start on the 19th December with a 5-0 thumping by Swindon, but this was then followed up with 3 wins on the bounce to Crewe, Scunthorpe and Bury.

Refreshingly we have also enjoyed cup success with a live game on ITV4 (which should have been on ITV1, sadly called off due to the weather). The 0-3 away win at Braintree looked surprisingly calm and clinical and included 2 goals from youth players Cole Stockton and Max Power (yes, that really is his name) which is something I love to see. Another live TV match was followed up against MK Dons 4 days later, but this resulted in a poor performance and 0-1 loss.(It had to be the TV game didn’t it?) However, it was nice to see a 10,000+ home support turn out.

Long term injuries to James Wallace and Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro are due to make their returns in the next couple of weeks, if they can stay injury free and maintain their early season form, I now believe we can get the promotion we deserve. Abdulai Bell-Baggie, our tricky midget of a winger has also been out of action for some time, but is expected back in February. I’m unsure whether his game will be affected by wet, boggy pitches now that we are well into Winter, but time will tell. Considering he was playing for Sailsbury last year, its been a great success for both clubs so far. Everyone loves a tricky winger don’t they?

A noticeable impact will be the loss of Jake Cassidy who has netted 11 times in the league this season. Wolves have decided to recall him for 2 weeks for “assessment” (having played his last match against Bury on New Years Day). As much as I can appreciate that he is their player, I fail to see the positivity for either party from this action. Their player was playing in a table topping league side week-in, week-out. But now, this could mean him sitting in the reserves for the rest of the season.

Ronnie Moore has spoken of his unwillingness to wait for Wolves to make a decision, as there are plenty of other strikers out there. Meanwhile, Wolves currently languish in 18th place (at the time of writing) in the league and are struggling for form. So, I would predict, unlikely to start fielding youth in times of low confidence. So what’s the point? Rumours are suggesting that James Vardy, Matt Derbyshire or Jose Baxter could be on Ronnie’s list.

Usually the transfer window means nothing to a Tranmere supporter, but this season might be different. A few of our players are bound to be catching the eye. Sheffield Wednesday have already expressed an interest in left back Zoumana “Zoom” Bakayogo who’s contract runs out in June. Other high performers who’s contract’s expire this season are Owain Fon Williams, Adam McGurk & Cole Stockton. So to avoid any distractions to players midsets, I’d love to see some new contracts dished out, but I think I’m probably getting too hopeful there.

One player I would like to single out for praise is Adam McGurk. I have long been critical of Adam, his occasional moments of skill were too far apart and inbetween we had to put up with injury after injury. I started to believe he was made of porcelain.  This season started like every other, a 4 week injury, however since then he has slowly worked his way onto the team sheet and has had some great performances, most lately at Crewe. The Prenton Park crowd has always liked a scapegoat and Adam is that player . I would like to see this end as he is very obviously a confidence player, but one with great potential.

Wednesday 2nd January saw Liam Palmer re-sign on loan until the end of the season from Sheffield Wednesday (great choice of day to do the deal guys). Liam has been an unsung hero of our form lately, he does the job of box-to-box very effectively. Makes no daft errors and isn’t scared to put in a hard challenge. If I had to choose one of our loan players to stay, it would have been him. He helped Sheffield Wednesday to promotion last season, fingers crossed he does it again this season for us.

Other loanee’s Michael O’Halloran (Striker – Bolton) and Donervorn Daniels (WBA) are starting to settle into the side well and are tipped to be re-signing for longer. Credit goes to Ronnie and his back team for finding these talent young players who so easily fit into the side currently.

I would probably take 6th place if offered to me now, but as the games go by, Tranmere fans have to start believing that promotion is a possibility.  Even if we don’t finish in the playoff’s, we have had the most enjoyable since Ronnie Moore left back in 2009.

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

Still top of the league…

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Apologies its been a while since you’ve had a Tranmere related blog update, its just that I haven’t been able to take my eyes off the league table, through fear of not making enough of “the moment”. Tranmere Rovers are now living proof of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, allow me to explain…

Tranmere fans, since the end of the 2008/09 season, have been put through the mill several times over. Ronnie Moore, a long club servant was sacked suddenly after a gallant attempt at promotion failed on the final day of the season at Scunthorpe United with two minutes remaining thanks to a header from Cliff Byrne. Although supporters were disappointed, we left Glanford Park proud that day.

A couple of weeks later that summer, the chaos well and truly began. Our long standing chairman, Peter Johnson sacked Ronnie Moore and replaced him with John Barnes and Jason McAteer. Unsurprisingly, the experiment failed spectacularly, and after only 11 league games and resulted in some of the most dire Tranmere performances I have ever witnessed.

Then the job was then given to our physio, Les Parry. The less said about Les’s rein, the better. Les was happy to setup for 1-0’s at home 0-0’s away. If it’s an essential game, you can understand that approach, but not for the best part of three seasons. After 141 games, 40 wins and a run of 1 win in 20 he was gladly booted out of Prenton Park. Ronnie Moore was welcomed back in March 2012 with 12 games left to save the club from another relegation in which he succeeded and was rewarded with a years contract.

This season, our financial budget has been stricter than ever, and is supposedly the lowest in the football league (if the rumours are true). A lack of a cup run or a large transfer has hit us hard. This is exasperated by a chairman desperate to sell us for 6 million pounds, making the Tranmere hot seat a very tough task. Our current squad is only made up of 24 players, including loans and first year pro’s.

Two loan signings made a huge contribution, Liam Palmer (Sheff Weds), Jake Cassidy (Wolves) are only contracted till January, the question over whether they will be retained for the rest of the season remains. But at the moment, it is seen as priority number 1.

Ben Burgess (ex Hull and Blackpool) was signed over the summer but decided to retire after 3 games of pre-season due to an prolonged knee injury. I believe this has been crucial to Tranmere’s form this season. Ben was seen as our target man, with his exit days before the season started, we were left with Jake Cassidy and Jean-Louis Akpa-Apkro up front.

As they are relatively small compared to Burgess, we have been forced to play a passing game, rather than relying on a more direct approach. Obviously, this has paid dividends as clearly the players are fully capable of doing this and we are playing a quick passing game.

It has also been nice to see existing squad players make the step up in performance. Andy Robinson, Birkenhead born is leading by example with 7 goals from midfield. The former Swansea and Leeds attacking midfielder had struggled with consistency previously, but this year he has been unstoppable. He got his first hattrick against Carlisle away early on this season.

Other players worthy of mention are goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams and centre-back Ash Taylor, now Welsh internationals (senior and U21′s). Both have contributed greatly to the water-tight defence and two players I would have as a priority in contract negotiations this coming season.

Our last game on Tuesday saw us come full circle and beat Scunthorpe 1-3 after going behind. We are still top of the league on 24 points and it is officially the clubs greatest start to a season. Its just a shame we didn’t beat them by that score line back in 2009, then we would have missed what has largely been a tedious and testing 3 years.

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

 

Ronnie Moore returns to stop the rot

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

After a run of 11 games without a win, collecting just five points out of a possible 33, Tranmere Rovers finally parted company with Les Parry on Sunday. The ex-physio hadn’t won a game in 2012 and it was perhaps the stale league performances that made his tenure insecure.

His last match in charge of the club, who now sit nineteenth in the league after a promising start, was against 22nd placed Chesterfield. Tranmere lost this game which even at this point of the season Rovers needed to win to ease the tensions for the players and of course, fans.

This loss added to the number of games that we failed to win against sides that we should be beating routinely in order to avoid the drop. Playing well against the top sides (drawing against Huddersfield and Charlton) is negligible when we can’t impose dominance over the lesser teams in the league.

Perhaps it was Les Parry’s persistent use of a restricted 4-5-1 cum 4-3-3 that allowed dogged performances to frustrate opponents with more quality, yet lacked any edge against teams we should be scoring against. This would explain Rovers’ solid defensive record, only conceding 39 in the league, yet their meagre scoring record of 31.

The man brought in to stop the rot and help Tranmere avoid League Two is a Tranmere favourite. Ronnie Moore has previously taken charge of Tranmere and his management of the team in the 2008/09 season took the side to within two minutes of the play-offs before – bizarrely – he was given the boot in favour of John Barnes, the failure of which resulted in Les Parry’s caretaker and resultant full management position.

In a statement, Chairman Peter Johnson – criticised by many fans for sticking with Parry – said “Parting company with Les was a very difficult decision to make but we have had to act in the best interests of the Club.” His position is understandable, with Les being keeping us in League 1 for two years despite a very limited playing budget.

Ronnie Moore’s first task will be trying to overcome Notts County who are 2 points clear in 6th spot having played two games more than 7th placed Stevenage. Home advantage could help Tranmere, as fans will no doubt get behind the manager in order to lift the team and results.

Many fans have aired their sympathies towards Les Parry, yet understand that he needed to go in order to bring change and a fresh face to the club. Fan @aussierover said “I do feel sympathy for the service he has given but after 3 years of a club in limbo, we needed stability and we have Ronnie Moore.” However @ninabeano claimed that we should be looking forward, not backwards, and said “Les [was] tactically naïve, and Ronnie tends to play football that sends me to sleep. Should have gone with a new man.” Both views are understandable. Ronnie’s style of play is tiring, but reliable. Playing pretty football isn’t easy in League 1, as John Barnes found out to his – and Tranmere’s – cost.

Tonight will show us a lot that we are merely speculating about presently. How will Ronnie Moore adapt his style of play to the players Parry brought in, will they adapt effectively, and is Ronnie Moore Prenton Park’s new messiah? Peter Johnson brought in Moore as he expects him to hit the ground running, given his experience at this level and with the club, but he may need time to bring in his own players and they in turn may need time to adapt as well. However patience isn’t a virtue that a team 19th in League One can afford.

It was a bold move by the chairman to replace a manager this close to the end of the season and replace him with a manager he sacked previously but his hand was pushed by poor results. Tranmere fans will be hoping for an obvious change in direction in the 13 games left, and Ronnie Moore and his team have that pressure to work with.

Written by George Powell, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

George tweets at @george_powell

Doctor Defensive reaps rewards

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Fifteen games into the season and my beloved Tranmere Rovers are in sixth place. It’s clear my doubt in Les Parry – this season anyway – was unfounded and I should be beaten for ever thinking bad of the man. I should have let him put his case forward through his team’s performances.

It’s not always been pretty this season, but the defence has been outstanding. Tranmere have conceded the joint least goals in the league with twelve, along with table-toppers Charlton.

Rovers’ attack hasn’t always been the most potent this season, but with Lucas Akins getting a brace last night to help the club win 2-0 away at Hartlepool, perhaps luck could change. Last night also saw the brilliant veteran Andy Robinson come on as a substitute, perhaps signalling that he’s almost ready to make a first team return. Although he can’t expect to walk-in the side, with players like Robbie Weir doing brilliantly in the former Swansea man’s absence.

Jose Baxter, the young loanee from Everton also looks set to extend his loan by a month this week which, based on his performances so far in his spell, is a real coup. Parry has been hit and miss with loanees in the past, the last couple of seasons saw players come and go on loan and it is hard to not feel that Tranmere’s consistent full-time squad has helped the club reach the play-off places this season.

One of the better players Parry managed to get on a six-month deal last season was veteran goalkeeper Tony Warner, who is now appearing for Wellington Phoenix in the Australian A-League. His performances towards the end of the season were brilliant. This season Rovers needed a good replacement and signed Owain Fon-Williams on a two year deal following his release by Rochdale. Williams has been sublime this season, with the goals against column evidence of that.

Not all praise can be put on the goalkeeper however, as the back four have also proved that they can play at this end of the League One table. Ash Taylor has improved vastly since conceding a penalty in an overall worrying and nervous performance against Carlisle in September, partnering Ian Goodison will do wonders for his development.

These players are playing this way under the leadership of Les Parry, an ex-physio and servant of the club for the last twenty years. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what he’s done this season but something is different. I no longer feel ill at 14:55 on a Saturday afternoon and I now enjoy looking at the table! As a former detractor of the manager I know the negatives of his reign and style of play but, if you’ll forgive the platitude, football is a results business, and being 6th in a table that the club have finished 18th in two years on the run is a huge positive. The only negative is the lack of credit Dr. Parry has received from the media or the league itself. One certainly could not argue if he was voted manager of the month for October, considering the job he’s done since last year.

On Saturday Tranmere face sixteenth placed Scunthorpe, the club that beat Rovers to the League One playoff spots in the 2008/09 campaign through an 88th minute equaliser on the final day of the season. They’re back in out league now and Parry, Tranmere physio at the time will remember and will no doubt want to go there and come back with three points. Not to say his side won’t be cautious as that is the Les Parry way and it’s hard to argue with his approach. The side are unbeaten so far in October and hopefully will overpower Scunthorpe to enter November with fourteen points from eighteen this month.

It’s exciting times at Tranmere. I don’t mean excitement like the last day of the 09/10 season when they beat Stockport to remain in League One either, this time I’m looking up the table, not down.

Written by George Powell, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

George tweets at @george_powell

I wish it was only a game of second halves

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

It’s difficult to predict anything from the first game of the season, but after Tranmere’s game against Chesterfield on Saturday I can expect a slightly less nervy season. I hope.

Before kick-off, Tranmere’s first 11 were practising their pass-and-move in a box cordoned off by those little cones. As they were warming up I thought that they looked sharp, quick and maybe naively thought that perhaps this season would see an introduction of an entertaining passing game after 2 years of hoof-and-trudge.

The first half started, and ended, without Tranmere completing a string of more than about 5 passes. I was wrong.  Most of the chances went Tranmere’s way yet came about mainly by poor clearances from Chesterfield or a loose 2nd ball. I was disappointed, as at some points Chesterfield looked like the home side, with their 800 fans at one point chanting “Ole!” as they were passing the ball around with ease. It was a tad embarrassing, although the away side didn’t challenge the new signing Owain Fôn Williams except for a couple of well-held catches from crosses and corners.

The second half kicked off and I hoped for an improved performance. For the first 20 minutes it was pretty much the same as the first half and if anything, the team looked nervous. Unable to control the midfield and mini games of head-tennis were breaking out as both teams found it hard to get the ball down and play. On about 70 minutes though Tranmere seemed to get a hold of the game finally and were looking threatening, especially down the wings with fullbacks Zoumana Bakayogo and Michael Kay getting forward. Robbie broke the tension on 74 minutes after he poked a shot past Tommy Lee after Adam McGurk’s quick throw-in.

After the goal it seemed as though the Tranmere players gained confidence and brushed off the dust that had gathered during the summer months. They played with purpose and attempted to score a second and looked genuinely threatening. However, throughout, the stand-out player seemed to be centre-back Mark McChrystal. I mentioned him in my previous blog as a player who won everything in the air and he did just that. His distribution on occasion was superb as well, with a couple of 60-yard passes finding their man perfectly.

Out of the other new signings, Mustafa Tiryaki and Martin Devaney, winger Devaney was more influential.  Aside from a couple of poor passes, he seemed to have a spark about him and could develop into a useful player. Tyriaki was replacing the superb Enoch Showunmi spearheading the attack and seemed anonymous throughout, but did show strength and it seemed like his apparent lack of fitness could be what was hindering his performance. If he gains fitness, he could prove to be an ample replacement for the currently injured Showunmi.

Based on today’s performance, I’m really looking forward to seeing the partnership between Mark McChrystal and Ian Goodison in defence developing into a solid defensive unit. Players like Robbie Weir, Andy Robinson and Adam McGurk seem to want to play the game on the floor and pass it, so it’ll also be interesting to see how they influence how the rest of the team play.

It’s hard to predict how the rest of the season will pan out based on one game. However, as long as we can really put the poorer teams to the sword like we managed to today and beat the teams that in theory we should beat (something we failed to do last season), then it should be a much easier season to endure from a fan’s perspective.

The game ended 1-0 to Tranmere and sees Tranmere in 7th place, although I suspect that we won’t be there for long, and it could be the highest place we’ll situate for the rest of the season…

Written by George Powell, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

George tweets at @george_powell

The Defensive Doctor

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Les Parry, Tranmere’s current manager, took over from the woeful John Barnes after 9 losses in 11 games. He made the step up from the team physio (yes, physio) to manager in the 09/10 season and managed to resurrect a doomed team which looked certain for relegation. Fans rejoiced; happy that a boyhood Tranmere fan had saved their team from the shadows of League 2 in a 3-0 victory over Stockport on the last day of the season.

Despite this, I was shocked and disappointed when he got a full time contract last season, as I thought that the chairman would employ a manager with actual managerial experience. Someone with links to the club like Jimmy Harvey was the choice of a lot of fans who, like me, didn’t feel comfortable with their clubs in the hands of, with no disrespect towards Les, an amateur.

For the first half of last season, Tranmere were mostly awful to watch. The manager’s negative ‘hoof-ball’ tactics stank of “If they don’t score then they can’t win” and it showed; there was no urgency when we came across a lacklustre team at home, often throwing away easy points in favour of changing the tactics. Losing 1-0 to a woeful Hartlepool side could be one of the worst games I’ve seen and if we ever conceded first, then there was no hope of salvaging even a point.

There were some surprises though; beating an MK Dons side who were targeting promotion 4-2 with the help of Dale Jennings, who is now on the way to Bayern Munich as well as beating Posh and Southampton at home. Also, luckily, there were some good team performances at the end of the season that managed to keep us up. Players like Joss Labadie and John Welsh battled in midfield, newcomer centre-back Mark McChrystal won everything and striker Enoch Showunmi closed down even the hopeless of balls.

The last few games of the season showed promise, and hopefully Les Parry will continue that into the start of this season. Having lost brilliant young talents like left-back Aaron Cresswell  and Dale Jennings, however, I think that the manager will have to bring in some fresh faces this season to replace these players and to make sure that we’re not hovering around the bottom four, like last season and the season before.

It’s not all about the youngsters though. Veterans Andy Robinson (now on his 3rd stint at Tranmere) and Ian Goodison, the 39 year old centre-back-cult-hero, can be the players to make the difference, as long as they stay uninjured, as their wealth of experience can aid other players. The loss of Tony Warner to Blackburn, the goalkeeper who when brought in during January commanded the defence with assured ease, could cause problems, and an experienced goalkeeper should be the manager’s priority.

Although, for me the big question this season will be if the manager sticks with his trusty, rigid 4-3-3 formation. Many, when I tell them that Tranmere play 4-3-3, expect a Barcelona-like all-out attack. This couldn’t be further from reality. The aim of this formation is to defend from the top; something that can be forgiven when away from home, but at our own ground, the team needs to entertain the paying public.

Last season, despite one of the smallest budgets in the league, the manager had assembled a squad capable of challenging in the top-half of the table. The tactics are what hindered the team and allowed us to finish 18th. With the budget reportedly being slashed yet again by Chairman Peter Johnson, this season Dr. Les Parry may need to detach himself from the tactics he’s stood by for the past couple of years if he has any hope of giving Tranmere fans a comfortable season.

Written by George Powell, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

George tweets at @george_powell