Archive for the ‘Tranmere Rovers FC’ Category

In last Monday’s blog post I had a look at the recent form table for my beloved Reds. But tomorrow I’m off on one of my occasional visits to Tranmere, who also hold a place in my heart, so let’s have a look at their recent form now. The first table shows the form through the dark days of winter, from 1st November right through to 1st March.

P W D L CS FtS F A GD Pt PPG
1 Sheffield United 16 12 0 4 8 2 30 11 +19 36 2.25
2 Charlton Athletic 17 11 5 1 8 1 29 11 +18 38 2.24
3 Milton Keynes Dons 16 9 4 3 5 1 35 19 +16 31 1.94
4 Stevenage 15 7 5 3 5 6 24 13 +11 26 1.73
5 Sheffield Wednesday 17 8 4 5 5 4 24 18 +6 28 1.65
6 Bournemouth 17 8 4 5 7 6 19 13 +6 28 1.65
7 Carlisle United 15 6 6 3 3 5 22 23 -1 24 1.60
8 Huddersfield Town 16 6 7 3 4 3 27 19 +8 25 1.56
9 Leyton Orient 15 6 4 5 5 4 16 17 -1 22 1.47
10 Yeovil Town 16 6 4 6 3 2 25 29 -4 22 1.38
11 Notts County 17 6 4 7 5 3 19 22 -3 22 1.29
12 Bury 17 6 4 7 2 3 24 29 -5 22 1.29
13 Brentford 15 4 7 4 4 5 23 19 +4 19 1.27
14 Colchester United 15 5 4 6 5 4 17 22 -5 19 1.27
15 Hartlepool United 18 6 4 8 7 7 20 20 0 22 1.22
16 Oldham Athletic 14 4 5 5 3 7 14 19 -5 17 1.21
17 Walsall 16 3 9 4 6 5 15 16 -1 18 1.12
18 Preston North End 16 4 5 7 6 7 14 21 -7 17 1.06
19 Exeter City 17 4 6 7 6 9 15 21 -6 18 1.06
20 Wycombe Wanderers 17 5 2 10 2 6 28 37 -9 17 1.00
21 Chesterfield 17 3 6 8 2 5 17 28 -11 15 0.88
22 Rochdale 17 3 6 8 7 9 10 22 -12 15 0.88
23 Scunthorpe United 16 3 5 8 3 5 16 24 -8 14 0.88
24 Tranmere Rovers 16 1 6 9 4 6 12 22 -10 9 0.56

Pretty depressing stuff for the Prenton Park faithful.

But now let’s have a  look at the springtime form, since Rovers legend Ronnie Moore at long last returned to replace Les Parry as manager. The table shows games for the 4 weeks from 1st March (yes I know that means I’ve conveniently cut out last Saturday’s defeat at Bury):

1 Sheffield Wednesday 5 4 1 0 2 0 12 4 +8 13 2.60
2 Tranmere Rovers 6 4 2 0 3 0 10 3 +7 14 2.33
3 Wycombe Wanderers 5 3 2 0 1 1 12 5 +7 11 2.20
4 Huddersfield Town 5 3 2 0 3 0 7 3 +4 11 2.20
5 Carlisle United 6 3 3 0 1 1 10 5 +5 12 2.00
6 Sheffield United 6 3 2 1 1 0 15 8 +7 11 1.83
7 Yeovil Town 6 3 1 2 1 2 7 8 -1 10 1.67
8 Walsall 6 2 3 1 1 1 10 8 +2 9 1.50
9 Brentford 6 3 0 3 2 3 7 6 +1 9 1.50
10 Milton Keynes Dons 6 2 2 2 1 1 10 6 +4 8 1.33
11 Stevenage 6 1 5 0 3 2 6 5 +1 8 1.33
12 Scunthorpe United 6 1 5 0 3 3 5 4 +1 8 1.33
13 Colchester United 7 1 5 1 3 2 6 6 0 8 1.14
14 Hartlepool United 5 1 2 2 3 4 1 2 -1 5 1.00
15 Preston North End 7 1 4 2 3 3 5 7 -2 7 1.00
16 Notts County 5 1 2 2 1 1 8 10 -2 5 1.00
17 Bournemouth 5 1 2 2 1 2 4 7 -3 5 1.00
18 Leyton Orient 6 2 0 4 2 2 6 11 -5 6 1.00
19 Oldham Athletic 7 2 0 5 2 2 6 9 -3 6 0.86
20 Charlton Athletic 5 1 1 3 1 2 6 8 -2 4 0.80
21 Rochdale 5 1 1 3 0 2 6 10 -4 4 0.80
22 Chesterfield 5 0 3 2 1 2 4 9 -5 3 0.60
23 Bury 5 0 2 3 1 1 4 13 -9 2 0.40
24 Exeter City 5 0 0 5 0 3 2 12 -10 0 0.00

So yes, most people who go on radio phone-in shows to demand a manager’s head may well be knee-jerk divvies, and yes many chairmen who sack managers at this time of year may well be needy, deluded jerks (step forward Ken Bates and Steve Morgan in particular), but they do very often have a point. It did  seem that Les Parry, Tranmere’s loveable former physio, was out of his depth, and Rovers Chairman Peter “Agent” Johnson  has realised how wrong he was to dismiss Moore in summer ’09 and replace him with John Barnes – a nice bloke, sure enough, but long since proven to be even worse as a football manager than he is as a TV presenter. Barnes’ tenure lasted a few short months,  and somehow Les Parry’s stand-in stint dragged on till this year.

Four League Division One clubs  changed their manager at the end of February or beginning of March, and you can see that three of those four (Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield as well as Tranmere) have significantly improved their form from that winter table to that one for  last month. In fact those clubs comprise three of the top four in the March form table.

The revival of rejuvenated Rovers has verged on the miraculous. Tranmere had looked doomed, but within 10 days of Moore’s re-appointment they had gathered more points than in the previous 4 months. I’m looking forward to seeing the “Ronnie Revival” in action myself at Friday’s match at Prenton Park – and it’s only a fiver to get in!

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I’ve still got a few remaining footballing dreams to fulfil – one of them is to play some proper football in Brazil and Argentina, which should happen next January with any luck, when we’re heading out there with our friends from the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls on their next incredible tour.  But one of my big ambitions was finally ticked off the list yesterday, when I actually managed to be back on the Wirral on a Friday afternoon, and so I at long last got to play in the famous Birkenhead Park all-comers’ match.

I used to walk through Birkenhead’s Park on my way home from school most days, but don’t think I’ve ever previously kicked a ball on the luscious greensward of this, one of Britain’s most influential and historic public spaces.    This informal, some would say anarchic, gathering of Merseyside’s musical football veterans and assorted non-rat-racers has gone on every Friday for over 18 years. I first heard about it in Kevin Sampson’s  1998 book ‘Extra Time’ , which was kind of a ‘Fever Pitch for Liverpool fans’ type of thing – not that I’m sure Kevin would thank me for that comparison!

Kevin himself has pretty much hung up his boots now, and so it seems has the legendary Jegsy Dodd. Pity. Meanwhile, Peter Hooton of The Farm still attends most weeks, but recently he’s been too busy organising loads of important stuff, so I didn’t get to see him in action this time. Other members of The Farm and their friends were in attendance, as of course was the ever-present Nigel Blackwell of Half Man Half Biscuit.  ‘Nippy Nige’, I could call him. The days when opposing defenders used to say that about me are long gone, but this other Nigel, you see, keeps himself in a lot better shape than I’ve been doing lately, and is still a definite force to be reckoned with anywhere in the opposition’s half – particularly anywhere where his legendary “restless” left leg can leather a low lasher, or perhaps loft a lethal little looping lacer.  And he’s six weeks younger than me, you see, so no wonder he ran rings round me all afternoon.

Apparently this game used to be divided into Scousers v. Wirralians, but the sides today were decided roughly according to the colour of the shirts we happened to turn up in. That’s how the two best attackers ended up on the same side, with yours truly a lumbering defender on the other.  Nigel B. was aided and abetted in attack by a tricky Bosnian exile called Nico, a former semi-pro – he “played a few games for TNS”, I was warned. The two of them shared most of the goals, and athough I kept  a clean sheet when it was my turn to go in, beating aside a couple of stinging drives from Blackwell,  I conveniently lost count of the overall score well before the end. Good laugh though.

In other news, our post-match pints in The Shrew took me back to the sixth form days when it was a regular under-age haunt, and by sheer coincidence Peter “Agent” Johnson, Chairman of the mighty Rovers, was holding court in there in there when we went in. Get a grip Johnson and get Ronnie Moore back ASAP.

Claire & me with players from the “Arsenal Nigeria” supporters’ team at WORLDET 2011 in Leeds

As I lumber through the crepuscular years of my footballing career, my 11-a-side opportunities get fewer. So I’m anyone’s,  within reason, especially if they only need me for the odd half an hour at a tournament.

I’ve posted elsewhere on here about how brilliant the annual Worldnet supporters’ teams tournament is, but this year my St. Pauli UK Supporters’ XI didn’t enter a team, and my days of babysitting a Liverpool supporters’ team for this tournament are behind me. The event takes place just up the road from me in Leeds, so I went along anyway, drank a few beers with old mates, and ended up being asked to turn out for the Tranmere Rovers supporters XI in the knock-out tournament today, after they picked up some injuries in yesterday’s group stage matches.

After Southampton knocked us of the tournament out in a close-fought encounter, we then arranged a really enjoyable, laid-back friendly match with Dundee United, with my partner Claire even making a cameo for Rovers in goal. Thanks Rovers!

Saturday 6th March 2010

A nostalgic day in Birkenhead.  Or it would be if there was much left to recognise:  gone are the Spillers flour mills where my mum used to work, gone are the ships from the docks where my dad sometimes worked, like his granddad before him.  Cammell  Lairds is still there , but its business isn’t;  all gone are the shop where I used to lust after subbuteo teams,  the favourite little bookshop, and of course that great little shop Skeleton Records, which moved between different premises around the town centre so many times, but has now gone to sell tickets for the great gig in the sky.

At least Prenton Park is still there; but because I only get there about once a season these days it’s still weird to me that it’s an all-seater stadium , it’s still weird to me that the away end is where the home end used to be, and it’s still weird to me that the only dog ever seen on the pitch these days is a dodgy character is a “Rover the mascot” suit.

Yes, things feel different these days at Prenton Park. Rovers even take an unaccustomed early lead when Gareth Edds meets Paul McLaren’s free-kick and Marlon Broomes nods home from close range. But Southampton soon restore my natural old-school pessimism, when Lee Barnard follows up to find the bottom corner, after Lallana’s shot is parried.

But, as I say, at least the place is still here, kept going, just about, by attendances of four to five thousand.  That must be about double what they were when I was coming regularly, every other Friday night, about a third of a century ago. Of course, a substantial number of this crowd are exactly the kind of people who the shiny all-seater  stadium and its “family atmosphere” were meant to attract – the middle class couples with the two young boys. The people in the seats right behind me in fact.

“Mmm, this green tea is delicious,” comments the bloke as he enjoys a sip from the family flask.  I hope the kids got to drink something nicer at half-time. And I assume those slices of organic vegetable quiche didn’t come from the kiosk downstairs.

Later on, as the match stays a tense 1-1 for an hour and a half, and a classic “handbags” scene erupts on the touchline in front of us, the youngest boy asks “Daddy, why are the men fighting?” The reply is a classic West Wirral middle-class interpretation:  “Because they want to win so much that they’ve forgotten to be nice to each other.”

‘What are they chanting, daddy?’  asks the older brother, trying to interpret the home crowd’s droning chant of ‘Superwhite Army!’

‘I’m not sure,’ replies the dad.  ‘Blue and white army, I think.’

Sniggers from our row. ‘Superwhite barm cakes,’ mutters a mischief-maker alongside me, audibly. More sniggers.

‘Is that it daddy, are they singing “super white barm cakes”?’  The kid actually seems to be helping us take the piss.

But before daddy has a chance to answer, the crowd roars as Ian Thomas-Moore falls theatrically in the box in front of us. The hotly-disputed late penalty seals a 2-1 victory and the crowd gleefully sings “staying up, staying up, staying up”. Some things haven’t changed.

If the shirt doesn’t quite fit…

I was first asked to write a version of this piece for the Tranmere Rovers match-day programme, for their pre-season friendly with Liverpool in July 2008. I’m putting it here to explain why I might be writing on this blog about the occasional Tranmere match as well as Liverpool, but it’s also for my own football team-mates (in Leeds, where I live), because I’m tired of decades spent justifying why I sometimes turn up to our weekly  training in my Rovers shirt, though mostly they are used to seeing me in a Liverpool one. Their poor brains don’t seem to get it if you just give them a few sentences in the changing room or the pub. No matter how well I think I’ve justified myself, I still always get “You can’t support two teams!”, or “You must be a glory hunter ! I reckon you only come in that shirt when Liverpool have been losing!”

No I haven’t got “divided loyalties”. Are your loyalties divided if you live in Crosby and support both Marine and Liverpool? If you live in Blackpool and support both AFC Blackpool and Blackpool FC? If you support your child’s school team on a Friday and then your partner’s side on a Saturday? If the politics of FC St. Pauli mean you have to follow them, as well as your local club in England?

I grew up in Wallasey, on the Wirral. Merseyside’s three league grounds were pretty much equidistant from our home, but at school and in family circles it became a social imperative to choose between Red or Blue at around the age of six. I’m so lucky that I didn’t choose my team according to what division they were in, or what trophies they’d won, as so many kids of that sort of age seem to do …an inevitable if regrettable fact of the TV culture we now live under. In fact a great Everton side was winning the title that 1969-70 season when I had to make the choice, and loads of my schoolmates were jumping on the Blue bandwagon, as those Goodison stars like Alan Ball, Brian Labone, Keith Newton and Tommy Wright headed off to Mexico to defend the World Cup.

But no, I was luckier, and I chose the Reds despite Shankly’s old 1960s team having hit the buffers by then, because my granddad, a lifetime employee of the Moores empire, was an Anfield match-goer. He showed me his match programmes with the wonderful pictures of the swaying, seething red Kop, he made me listen to the noise they made on the wireless and he made me hush my childish babbling and listen to the wisdom of Mr. Shankly when the great man came on the radio.

Granddad Shaw treasured his Saturdays with his mates and didn’t want a kid tagging along with him to Anfield. My dad wasn’t interested in commuting across the Mersey more often than he already had to, so I would have to wait till the late seventies when I started going to Liverpool matches on my own. I listened on the radio as the Shankly built a second great side and the Reds won trophy after trophy, but for a live football fix I was taken to Prenton Park on Friday nights with my schoolmate and his dad. They were both committed Blues and they went to Saturday matches at Goodison as well, but I always spurned their invitations to tag along to those.

My first Tranmere match was a chilly 0-0 draw with Swansea or Rotherham in the autumn of 1972. I think my second match was 0-0 too, but that didn’t stop me. Players like Beamish, Crossley, Tynan, Coppell and Peplow became heroes to me on a far more tangible level than my Red idols like Kevin Keegan or Emlyn Hughes. I went to Prenton off and on for 15 years, and I remember especially that 1975-76 glory season when Ronnie Moore was unstoppable. In those days, before Rovers were revived and re-invented as a club and emerged properly from the shadows of the two giants over the river, you really could support both the Rovers and either Everton or Liverpool, and of course many of us did. Let’s face it – why else were nearly all the home games back then scheduled for Friday nights?

I was there in the old Cowsheds of course for that game v. Exeter City in May ’87, hitch-hiking up from London where I was a poverty-stricken student teacher. Because I endured those days of the 4th division and the “Friday Nights when the Gates were Low” (to paraphrase the mighty Half man Half Biscuit), I was surely entitled to enjoy some glory-hunting trips to Wembley with the Rovers on various occasions between 1990 and 2000, even though since 1987 I have probably averaged less than two Tranmere matches per season. And at least that means I’ve don my glory-hunting with the Rovers, as opposed to with Liverpool like some out-of-town bandwagon-jumper!

When all is said and done, my heart is Red. But it was at Prenton Park that I first laid eyes on some of my LFC heroes in the flesh: Bill Shankly, a frequent visitor, as well as Ian St. John, Ron Yeats, Peter Thompson, and many other old Red legends who passed through the ranks at Rovers. I didn’t start going across to Anfield on my own till my pocket money went up in 1977, after which I became a regular Kopite. Then in 1979 my first Liverpool away game was the League Cup tie at Prenton, the first time I ever saw the first teams of these two clubs play each other (though I’d already seen several Liverpool Senior Cup clashes between them). That special edition newspaper-style programme is till one of my most treasured pieces of match memorabilia, despite it being another dull 0-0 result.

I’m happy, for the sake of the Rovers, that there’s no way today that you can maintain credibility if you tell your mates that you support Tranmere and another of the ‘Big Three’ on Merseyside !  But I’m even happier that in my day, I could and did!  And anyway (if my team-mates at football in Leeds still don’t get it), I sometimes just like wearing a shirt with my “WIRRAL” origins proudly emblazoned on the front.