Mellon tasked with ending four years of failure

It is October 6th 2012. Tranmere have just beaten Notts County 1-0, with Joe Thompson scoring the only goal at Meadow Lane.

The scoreline looks narrow, but in truth it could have been so much more. Abdulai Baggie ran the show as Rovers registered 17 shots and remained four points clear of Stevenage at the top of League One.

It had been a scintillating start to the season. Ronnie Moore’s side had already won eight matches and were unbeaten in their opening 11 league games.

In truth, Rovers were all conquering. They did not care who was put in front of them; sweeping aside opposition defences with a menacing strike force that just kept on scoring.

Jake Cassidy had already hammered home seven goals, whilst Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, injured that day at Meadow Lane, and winger Andy Robinson both had six.

Tranmere fans just could not believe it. They were flying. The team Moore had assembled gelled together perfectly, with James Wallace pulling the strings in midfield, Ben Gibson and Ash Taylor providing a solid central defensive partnership, and Owain fon Williams between the sticks.

This was the best it had been for some time. The closest the team had come to the top of the table since Moore’s last spell in charge.

If you had said to a supporter then, that in four years time, the club would have not only fallen into the black hole that is Non League football, but would be suffering their second season in it, they would have laughed at you.

This team was only heading one way, and that was upwards.

Except, it didn’t. Firstly, there was the calamitous end to the 2012/13 season, with the struggle to even finish in the top half.

And then they went down. Twice. It was a shambles. Consecutive seasons of unfulfilled expectation and lowering ambitions.

On the field, last four years have been a car crash. It has not even been a case of treading water, more like an inability to swim, even in the shallow end.

And sadly, it has not matched the fantastic work done behind the scenes, dragging Tranmere from the 1980s to the present day.

There have been a catalogue of errors, and it is the supporters who have suffered, painfully sitting through a string of disappointments that have led to this point.

They have voiced concerns. Many have spoken with their feet; thousands have fallen off the average attendance over the last few years. For some, it just has not been worth it any more.

Many drew the line at Les Parry, embarrassed by a physio leading their club.

Yet since his departure, Rovers have dropped through two divisions and shown little that makes you think a first promotion in 26 years is around the corner.

Some would argue Les started the rot, others that he temporarily halted it. But what cannot be denied is years of underfunding from the previous chairman did not help one iota.

So fast forward to the present day, and here we are. Tranmere are a quarter of the way through a season that promised so much but is spluttering.

They are on the verge of appointing their fourth manager since Moore was sacked in 2014, with Micky Mellon set to replace Gary Brabin.

It actually says something about the pull of Tranmere Rovers that they are able to convince a manager of his calibre to drop down two divisions to take charge.

Granted he was not pulling up any trees at Shrewsbury this season. Indeed, after a run of six games without a win and with the club one point off bottom spot, it was quite clear that they wanted him to leave The New Meadow.

But he comes to Prenton Park having won a hat-trick of promotions, one of them with Shrewsbury, and the other two at Fleetwood, taking them from the division below Tranmere’s current standing to the Football League for the first time.

Mellon’s time at Highbury came to an end in 2012 and after a spell out of the game, he found himself at Barnsley as assistant manager.

He was again unemployed in 2014 when Moore left Tranmere – perhaps it was then when the boat should have been pushed out to bring him back.

Two years down the line, two years lower and the Scot finally returns to a club he knows so well.

The 44-year old enjoyed two spells on the Wirral as a player, both under John Aldridge, his first between 1997 and 1999 before being brought back as the club battled against relegation in 2001.

It is clear that some affection remains after his 205 appearances in the white shirt, and many fans may recall that stunning goal against Luton as Rovers reached the FA Cup quarter-finals under Brian Little.

Rovers, therefore, are getting a mix of experience, passion and ability in the manager they are set to appoint.

He has had success at both his clubs and is yet to be relegated – though that is a word banished, surely, from the vocabulary at the moment.

But the problem for Mellon is he comes to Tranmere under immediate pressure. The margin for error is minimal.

Yes, fans and Mark Palios will give him time to succeed. That is clear and deserved.

Yet the club is used to catastrophic failure and he is still tasked with turning them into National League champions as quickly as possible.

Rovers are desperate to get back into the Football League. Their chances of doing that, whilst still good, have been getting slimmer by the week recently.

Defeat to Gateshead under interim manager Paul Carden sparked an understandable backlash from the club’s fans.

Supporters are rightly fed up. This is not the Tranmere Rovers they are used to; the same team who hit the heights at the top of League One just four years ago, playing some mouth watering, fearless football that had even the neutral drooling at the prospect of watching them in action.

Now, they see a team who have failed to score in five of their last six games, sacked a third manager in two years, and slumped to six points off top spot.

In Mellon, though, they do have one of the best men available for the job. Time might be a factor, but everybody has seen that this current Tranmere squad has ability.

James Norwood and Andy Cook are capable of terrorising any defence in this league, whilst Steve McNulty, Scott Davies (who played under Micky at Fleetwood) and Ritchie Sutton are amongst those to have success in this division before.

The components are there. They just need to be utilised in the right way. Hopefully Mellon is the man who can bring them together.

And, who knows, four years from today, Tranmere might well be back on top of League One? Stranger things have happened.

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