The second in a series of articles looking at the six “new” sides we’ll be facing again in the 2014/15 season, by Dale Hurman.
Birkenhead can of course be found on the banks of the River Mersey. The earliest records state that the Mersey ferry began operating in 1150 when Benedictine monks built a priory. Agriculture played a crucial role until the 19th century when it became known as a centre for shipbuilding. It became physically linked to the City of Liverpool by an underground railway in 1886.
The town is also the birthplace of actors and performers Glenda Jackson, Patricia Routledge and Paul O'Grady. Presenter and commentator Ray Stubbs was also born in Wallasey whilst the seminal indie band Half Man Half Biscuit also hail from the town and once turned down an appearance on TV music show The Tube due to a clash with a game.
Tranmere Rovers were formed as Belmont F.C. by two groups of cricketers in 1884 and less than a year later they had changed their name to Tranmere Rovers. They joined the newly-created Football League Third Division North in 1921 and spent many decades in the bottom two divisions.
Then-manager Dave Russell decided to ditch the club's traditional colours of blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks in favour of an all-white strip in 1962. The occasional relapse aside they have stuck with it since.
The club's greatest success came under the guidance of Everton fan Peter Johnson, who bought the club out of administration in 1987 and with manager John King they took Rovers from the bottom of the fourth division to the second division play-offs inside five years. They went on to lose in three successful play-off semi-finals in the early 1990s as promotion to land of milk and honey eluded them.
The first meeting between the two clubs came in November 2001 during the post F.A. Cup run glow which still had that Ready Brek feel. An orange-shirted Darren Currie levelled just three minutes after Sean Flynn had put the hosts ahead early in the first half and despite being reduced to ten-men on the hour after midfielder Steve Brown had been sent-off, the visitors held on to earn a 1-1 draw.
The last meeting came in a League 1 clash at Adams Park in February 2012. A frosty afternoon saw the visitors take the lead after only five minutes when striker Adam McGurk’s 25-yard effort looped over goalkeeper Nikki Bull and into the net. The hosts bounced back to level midway through the first half when Stuart Beavon and Gareth Ainsworth combined well to supply a neat cross which loan striker Matty Whichelow headed home from six yards to mark his debut with a goal.
The winner soon followed on the half hour when Ainsworth bundled the ball home from close range after visiting goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams had done well to prevent defender David Buchanan from finding his own net. Rovers twice hit the woodwork in the second half and had an injury-time equaliser ruled out for offside as the Wanderers held on to record a vital 2-1 win.
Last season was one to forget for Rovers as they struggled right from the start. They won just won of their first ten league matches with manager Ronnie Moore’s team conceding more goals than they scored. He tried to change things around and made a number of loan signings but it was to no avail.
Things got worse in February of this year when the club suspended Moore following his F.A. charge for breaching betting rules. His assistant John McMahon was placed in caretaker charge for the rest of the season but they continued to struggle on the pitch, losing six of their last ten matches to finish in 21st place in the League 1 table and fall through the trap door.
Ronnie Moore was sacked for breach of contract in April and the club appointed Rob Edwards as his successor last month as they look to rebuild the club. Edwards spent the previous eight years at Exeter City, with the former Welsh international midfielder signing in 2006 before retiring as a player in 2011. He has been coaching under Paul Tisdale, who described Edwards as his “most important signing” during his reign.
He has already started to the rebuild the Rovers squad, with a number of players leaving the club, including veteran defender Ian Goodison and former Wanderers goalkeeper Jason Mooney, who has signed for York City.
The most notable departure is striker Ryan Lowe, who has re-joined Bury after notching 20 goals last season, making him Rovers' leading goalscorer. Influential midfielder James Wallace has also left to sign for Sheffield United, with undisclosed fees received for both players.
Edwards has brought in experienced midfielder Matt Gill as a player-coach from Exeter City whilst young Welsh striker Eliot Richards has signed a two-year deal after being released by Bristol Rovers, following a loan spell with the Grecians. Central defender Michael Ihiekwe has also arrived from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Veteran midfielder Jason Koumas has penned a new one-year deal and Edwards will be hoping midfielder Steve Jennings will follow suit. The club have also been boosted by the great news that midfielder Joe Thompson had received the all-clear by doctors following a battle with cancer.
We host Rovers at Adams Park on Tuesday 19th August 2014.
We will travel to Prenton Park on Tuesday 3rd March 2015