Brabin sacking leaves Tranmere at another cornerstone in their history

It is amazing how much of a revolving door the Tranmere Rovers’ management office has become in recent years.

I am now in my third season covering the club. Gary Brabin’s departure today means whoever inherits his position will be the sixth person I have dealt with since first interviewing Ronnie Moore back in 2013.

In between, John McMahon failed to keep the club up in an unsuccessful stint at caretaker manager, whilst Rob Edwards and Micky Adams the following year oversaw another tumble, this time out of the Football League.

Regrettably, it was not too much of a surprise to see Brabin lose his job this morning, coming on the back of a 1-0 defeat at Sutton United less than 24 hours earlier.

The pressure has been on right from the start; the expectations are incredibly high. Everybody thinks, whether rightly or wrongly, that Tranmere should be the best team in the division.

Gary has always tried to downplay that, of course. It is “not a god given right” he would say. And that is true. But some supporters will feel the minimum requirements were never met.

Indeed, a blistering start to this season and last was probably the worst thing that could have happened in that sense – it only left fans assuming that their team would win every game. But neither run could be sustained for a telling enough period.

Brabin’s sacking completed a remarkable fall from grace for the former Southport boss, who just 16 days earlier had been named the National League’s “Manager Of The Month” for August after guiding his side into top spot.

For many a yea, earning such a title has been thought of as a poisoned chalice. And so it proved once again as a run of four without a win followed, scoring just once in the process, and Tranmere slumped from pace setters to stumbling chasers.

Many supporters would claim this had been coming. After all, and with the greatest respect, the teams they had beaten at the start of the season were hardly those you would expect to be challenging for a promotion spot come April.

Sides like Guiseley and Boreham Wood were just about dismissed, and when Rovers came up with their first real test, they lost their unbeaten run against Aldershot before limping to defeat against Lincoln.

From the outside looking in, it may look harsh. A knee-jerk reaction to another defeat to a team that Tranmere ‘should’ be beating.

But some fans just did not take to him. Upset remained over the failure to nail down a top five spot last year, with particular disappointment over the sheer number of home games Brabin’s side lost last season.

Time and again, lowly teams would make the trip to Prenton Park and leave with three points against a whimpering side who squirmed in front of the pressure of an expectant home crowd.

For other supporters, last year was a steady one, used for rebuilding. Successive relegations had sucked a lot of out of club, a bit of stabilisation was desperately called for.

That is what they got, even if it meant narrowly missing out on a top five spot. But at least the rot had been stopped.

However, Gary was already on an extremely short leash going in to this year, again mainly down to the failure to finish in a play-off position. The sacking could have happened in May.

In fact, it could have happened months ago. The remarkable turn around at Barrow in January, when Tranmere were 3-1 down heading into the 89th minute only to win 4-3, was probably a game changer.

Lose that, and the manager could have been relieved of his duties. As it was, the victory in Cumbria was the first of four in a row.

And just like that run bought some time, so did the seven games without defeat at the start of this season. Neither, though, could be sustained.

Performances, unfortunately, have mirrored results. There has been a lack of width, and minimal chances have been created for the likes of James Norwood, too often stuck out wide, and Andy Cook.

These are players capable of brilliance. But they need a bit of support to make that happen. Otherwise, they end up stranded and isolated, casting frustrated figures across the field as another imaginative run amounts to nothing.

Fans like to be excited, too. They want to be left on the edge of their seats by what is happening on the field.

At times they have been begging to see the likes of Adam Mekki this year, a winger capable of beating his man and whipping a dangerous ball into the box. Sadly, he just did not fit into the system Brabin wanted to play.

Even with the team flying at the top of the table in the early stages, goals were hard to come by. Only eleven were scored in the first seven games, whilst at this stage the total of twelve is fewer than only one team outside the relegation zone.

But there is a fine line. Gary played the percentages with his formation and selection. The football played ought to be effective and contained, as opposed to emphatic and more open.

More often than not, it worked. That is why Rovers were the sixth best team in the National League last year. But it just was not quite enough.

And so the axe was wielded, and Tranmere for the fifth time in two and a half years are on the lookout for a new boss.

Personally, I think what happened last time with Micky Adams may have accelerated Mark Palios’ decision making.

Back in 2015, Rovers were grinding to a halt as they desperately looked to avoid relegation out of the Football League.

Performances got worse and worse, and the relationship between the fans and the team was at an all time low.

Adams should have been capable of keeping them up. He had the pedigree and the experience, and was given plenty of money to sort things out. For whatever reason, it did not work.

I suspect Palios did not want lightning to strike twice. When a change could have been made back in March 2015, it was not, and Rovers went down.

On this occasion, action has been taken before the horse has bolted. Tranmere still have a major chance of finishing in the top five – and ending the season as champions is within their grasp as well.

And so we get to another cornerstone in the history of this fantastic club.

It has been said many a time, but this is another crucial appointment. Rovers cannot afford to linger around this division for too long.

They need to act fast and they need to get things right. One mistake could spell another couple of seasons outside of the Football League. But making a bold, bright decision will hopefully open up the huge potential there is to build on. The club could go far.

It is just a huge shame that Gary Brabin, a fantastic person to deal with how genuinely had the club at heart, could not be that man.


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