As many of you will be aware we are staunch supporters of Tranmere Rovers here at Jammy Toast. For the last couple of years we have followed the club’s fight to return to the Football League, culminating in last season’s promotion back into Division Two. We have followed the club through thick and thin. We started attending matches at Prenton Park back in the 1980s when the club was in the old Fourth Division. We were there the night we had to play for our very survival needing to win against Exeter City at the end of the 1986/87 season. Gary Williams turned himself into a club legend by scoring the goal that kept Tranmere in the Football League. In the 1-0 win, he headed a goal in the 84th minute from an Ian Muir cross in front of Tranmere’s biggest home crowd for many years – 6,983. This ensured Tranmere’s survival against relegation into the then GM Vauxhall Conference, a fate which could have resulted in the end of Tranmere Rovers.
In 1987 the club went into administration, before local businessman Peter Johnson stepped in and took over control and ownership. This proved to be a turning point in Tranmere’s history, the club under his ownership enjoyed by far their most successful period in its history. Manager John King took the team from the bottom of Division Four to the brink of the Premier League.
The first full season (1987–88) of King’s second managerial spell in charge saw Tranmere make their first appearance at Wembley Stadium when a good mid-season run of form saw them qualify for the Football League Centenary Tournament. Tranmere were the surprise stars of the event, beating top-flight Wimbledon and Newcastle United before losing on penalties to eventual winners Nottingham Forest. The following season, King guided Tranmere to promotion as Division Four runners-up. Their final game played to clinch promotion was against Crewe Alexandra, and was notable for the fact that both teams needed just a point to gain promotion. The first half was contested as usual, but the second half, with the score at 1–1, both teams failed to attack each other’s goals, leading to combined celebrations at the final whistle.
In the same season, they achieved a string of cup successes including beating Middlesbrough.
Promotion was almost achieved in their first season in Division Three, losing 2–0 in the Play-off Final to Notts County, a week after I went to Wembley Stadium for the first time in my life to see Tranmere’s 2–1 victory over Bristol Rovers in the final of the Leyland DAF Trophy.
The club had clinched their first ever trophy.
A key element in Tranmere’s success during this period was the form of striker Ian Muir. He joined the club in 1985 and scored 180 goals in eleven seasons. He is the club’s record scorer, and the first inductee to their Hall of Fame. Fellow hall of fame member John Morrissey joined the club in 1986. The winger spent 14 seasons at the club, making 585 appearances.
In the 1990–91 season, Tranmere won promotion to Division Two for the first time since the 1930s, with a 1–0 play-off win over local rivals Bolton Wanderers. I can still see Sam Allardyce’s face when “Kingy” went over to shake his hand at the end of the match – my second ever visit to Wembley.
Once again, Rovers made an appearance in the Leyland DAF Trophy final, this time losing 3–2 to Birmingham City. This made the play-off victory over Bolton Tranmere’s fourth appearance in a Wembley final in just over a year. We re-christened the old Wembley Stadium, Prenton Park South.
Former Liverpool player John Aldridge joined the club in summer of 1991, signing from Spain’s Real Sociedad for £250,000; he would remain at the club for the next ten years, scoring 170 times to put him behind only Ian Muir in the all-time scoring charts. Aldridge also received 30 caps for the Republic of Ireland, and was the first Tranmere player to score at a World Cup Finals. In 1993, Scotland international Pat Nevin joined the club, forming a four-man attack alongside Aldridge, Malkin and Morrissey. Tranmere reached the play-offs in three successive seasons missing out on promotion to the newly formed Premier League through defeat to Swindon Town in 1993, Leicester City in 1994 and Reading in 1995. 1994 also saw Tranmere progress to the League Cup semi-final, where they faced Aston Villa over two legs. The home leg was won 3–1 by Tranmere, with Villa scoring their only goal in the 94th minute. The away leg was 2–1 to Villa until the 88th minute with Villa finally winning 3–1, so the match went to extra time and penalties. Tranmere went 3–1 up in the shoot-out, but eventually lost 4–3.
A reconstructed Prenton Park was opened in March 1995, with the all seater stadium now holding just under 17,000 supporters. One year later, John Aldridge was appointed player/manager and held that position for five years; he retired from playing in 1999.
In the 1999–2000 season, despite severe financial constraints, victories over a succession of Premiership sides led not only to a place in the sixth round of the FA Cup but a place in the 2000 Football League Cup Final against Leicester City – the first time Rovers had ever reached a major final. Matt Elliott scored Leicester’s opening goal, before Tranmere’s Clint Hill was sent off for a second bookable offence. Despite being reduced to ten men, David Kelly equalised; but Elliot soon netted Leicester’s second goal and Tranmere lost the match 2–1.
It was the last League Cup game to be played at the original Wembley stadium.
In 2000 they enjoyed yet another run in Cup competitions beating local Premier League rivals Everton 3–0 at Goodison Park, then Southampton 4–3 (after being 0–3 down), before finally bowing out to Liverpool. They nevertheless struggled in League matches; Aldridge quit before Tranmere’s relegation to Division Two ended a spell of ten years in Division One.
The writing was on the wall.
Brian Little was appointed as manager in 2003. He took Rovers to a play-off semi-final in 2004–05 and a best ever 6th round replay in the 2004 FA Cup where they lost to eventual finalists, Millwall. At the end of the 2005–06 season, Little left the club and was replaced by former player Ronnie Moore. In Moore’s three seasons in charge, the club finished 9th, 11th and 7th, just missing out the play-offs in the final season. Despite this, he was sacked in 2009 and replaced by former England winger John Barnes, whose only previous domestic managerial experience was with Celtic 10 years earlier. Barnes’ reign didn’t last long, it was a mere five months before long-serving club physiotherapist Les Parry was given temporary charge. Rovers finished the season in 19th place in League One, avoiding relegation on the final day of the season with a 3–0 victory at Stockport County. In June 2010, Parry was given the manager’s job on a permanent basis. He was sacked on 4 March 2012, after a 1–0 defeat by Chesterfield left them only one point above the relegation zone, and replaced by Ronnie Moore for the remainder of the season. Moore won six of his thirteen games in charge at the end of the season, guiding Tranmere to a comfortable mid-table position, as they finished the season in the top half for the first time in several years. Moore then signed a new one-year deal with Tranmere, keeping him at the club until the end of the 2012–13 season.
Towards the end of the 2013–14 season, Moore admitted breaking the Football Association’s betting rules, and was sacked by Tranmere when the club were just outside the relegation zone. Assistant John McMahon took over as caretaker manager, but Tranmere were relegated to League Two on the final game of the season. Rob Edwards was subsequently appointed as new manager.
On 11th August 2014, it was announced that former player and Football Association chief executive Mark Palios and his wife Nicola were taking a controlling interest in the club from outgoing chairman Peter Johnson. Mark Palios would become Executive Chairman of the club, with Johnson becoming Honorary President.
After a poor start to the season, the home loss to Plymouth Argyle on 11th October 2014 saw Tranmere in last place in the Football League for the first time since 1987 after they had lost their first two matches of that season. Edwards was sacked as manager on 13th October. Mickey Adams took over a week later, with the aim of saving the club from relegation to the Conference. However, on 25th April 2015 Tranmere were relegated from the Football League after another defeat to Plymouth Argyle in the reverse fixture.
This was the end of their 94-year stay in the Football League and ended the club’s rise and fall up and down the leagues. The roller-coaster ride was over. We were down and out.
However, this past season has hopefully seen the club start to rise from the ashes again. Although the season got off to a very poor start, just three wins from the first 12 games saw Tranmere slide to 18th in the league, their lowest ever league position. A spectacular winter turnaround saw Tranmere move into the play-offs, where they would found themselves for the remainder of the season. This turnaround included a record breaking run of 9 consecutive home league wins. This record breaking stint was ended in February by a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual title winners Macclesfield Town.
Tranmere responded to this defeat by winning 8 out of their next 9 games, finishing the season as National League runners up for the second time in as many years. A new play-off system was in place for the 2017/18 season, which meant that Tranmere faced a one-legged play-off semi-final at home against Ebbsfleet United. In the semi-final, Tranmere came from behind twice to take the game to extra time, the full time score being 2-2, James Norwood with the first goal and Josh Ginnelly with the second. An extra time free kick from James Norwood, followed by a goal from Larnell Cole saw Tranmere run out 4-2 victors after extra time, sending Tranmere to Wembley for the National League play-off final.
Boreham Wood now stood between Tranmere and a return to the Football League.
On the 12th May, a crowd of 16,306 were at Wembley for the final. Tranmere were 2-1 victors and promoted back to the Football League. Under the chairmanship of Mark Palios and the management of Micky Mellon, Tranmere won their first trophy in 27 years and will be playing in League Two next season.
Who knows maybe this could be the start of a revival to match the team under Johnny King and we would like to be there with the Club to enjoy it. So starting next season, we will have a Tranmere Rovers correspondent to cover the fortunes of the Super White Army.
So, without further ado, we would like to welcome George Bear to the Jammy Toast team as our new Sports Correspondent.