Comment: Stop telling Tranmere fans to calm down

I have been watching Tranmere since the 1995/96 season. My first game was a 1-0 win over Luton, with John Aldridge scoring the only goal pretty early on.

To be honest, that is about as much as I remember of the game. But in the 21 or so years since, I have seen and reported on hundreds of fixtures, home and away.

In that two decade period, there has been very, very little to cheer.

Thankfully I managed to live through the John Aldridge years and made the trip to Wembley in 2000 for the League Cup final.

Regardless of the result, that is still one of my finest memories, and I am sure many fans would say the same.

Obviously, I could not quite understand the magnitude of the game back then, and what it meant to a club like Tranmere. I was only nine.

But I look back at it now with enormous pride; especially when thinking of David Kelly’s superb equaliser or the noise that the Super White Army made in the shadow of the twin towers.

Around the same time, Rovers were also, famously, giant killers in the FA Cup.

The likes of West Ham and Sunderland were sent home empty handed, losing 1-0 at Prenton Park thanks to goals from Nick Henry and Wayne Allison respectively.

Then there was “St Yates Day”, arguably the great win in the club’s history.

I can still vividly remember the commentary from Alan Irwin on Radio City for the first goal. It used to be my ring tone. “Long ball down field for Andy Parkinson to get on the end of” he excitedly reported.

Moments later, Steve Yates was jumping at the back post, floating high above the defender to loop a brilliant header over Thomas Myhre.

If that was good, and it was, then what happened in the next round was utterly remarkable.

Tranmere were paired with Southampton. They drew 0-0 in the initial game, in what turned out to be the final FA Cup tie at The Dell, before producing “that comeback” in the game.

“Oh my word! Barlow! They’ve got a fourth!” The eternal words of Martin Tyler on commentary that night as Aldo masterminded a brilliant turnaround as Rovers came from 3-0 down at half time to win 4-3.

Seven Premier League teams were beaten over a two years period.

Honorable mentions must also go to a similar win over Leeds, Andy Parkinson this time the hero as Tranmere came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against the Champions League semi-finalists.

A year earlier, the striker had been on target with my all time favourite goal as Rovers toppled Middlesbrough in the League Cup, recording a 2-1 victory on home soil.

To round up, earlier on in the competition, a hat-trick from Kelly helped the Super Whites on their way to a 5-1 battering of top flight side Coventry.

It really was a quite remarkable time for the club. Teams genuinely hated coming here.

With Dave Challinor’s long throw, the skill of Alan Mahon and Jason Koumas, the brilliance of John Achterberg and aggression of Clint Hill, this is a side who were genuinely horrible to play.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that form was not transferred to the league. In the same season as some of those famous victories, Rovers were relegated from what is now the Championship, and they have never recovered.

From a personal point of view, you can probably count the “highs” since then on one hand.

Yes, I have plenty of amazing memories from following the team all across the country since then.

A 2-0 win over Leeds at Elland Road under Ronnie Moore, with Ian Moore (on his second debut) and Jennison Myrie-Williams on target, is one of the games that stick out.

I also fondly recall a brilliant 2-1 victory at Southend earlier that season, with the three points putting Tranmere top of the league.

One of my favourite memories from Prenton Park is a 1-0 victory over Bristol City a year earlier than that, with John Mullin’s late goal leaving the Kop absolutely bouncing.

As you can tell, these three matches are all from roughly the same period of time. But there are others too – and I will briefly mention a 2-1 FA Cup success against Swansea under Brian Little, last year’s 4-3 comeback against Barrow and a 2-0 win away to Hartlepool when Les Parry was in charge.

All of these are good memories, but can they genuinely be classed as a high?

Not really. In fact, you could ask if the club have had any real stand out moments over the last 15 years?

I suppose beating Bolton at the Reebok was one of them on the way to reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals under Brian Little, as well as getting to the play-offs a year later.

To an extent, you could argue that beating Stockport 3-0 to stay up on the final day of the 2009/10 campaign was also a moment of note, given how the season had started under John Barnes.

The fact remains though that if you are a Tranmere fan slightly younger than myself, you have never seen any real success.

At 26, I am yet to witness Rovers getting promoted. In fact, the heart-breaking shoot out defeat to Hartlepool in 2005 is the only play-off game I have managed to get to.

Since John King’s time in charge of the club, only Brian Little has led the club to a top five finish. A remarkable and daunting record.

For reasons like this, I often think to myself that it is no wonder the fanbase is dwindling.

Time and again Rovers have come close to something exciting and wonderful, but they have failed to deliver.

Even the Millwall defeat in 2004 was a huge disappointment, given they had brought the Championship club back to Prenton Park and pretty much matched them stride for stride.

Do not even get me started on the Macclesfield loss in the FA Trophy earlier this season either. I think everybody associated with the club knows that is a game they should have won and that a return to Wembley should have been booked.

I also look back with deep regret at a defeat to Scunthorpe in 2008/09 which knocked Ronnie Moore’s side out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy when they were just one round away from the final.

In my time, I have seen three relegations.

The second hurt the most. I was too young to understand what 2001 meant, but with Micky Adams in charge in 2015, I accepted that they had little chance of staying up after losing to Macclesfield. That is how bad things were.

Under John McMahon, though, things were different. The club shot themselves in the foot a few times that season, but had more than enough talent on the pitch to beat the drop.

So why would you stick with Tranmere? What is the point putting yourself through the same pain and misery year after year.

Well, it is for seasons like this.

You are probably wondering what I am wittering on about here and why I have penned over 1,000 words without making a point. I am getting on to it now, promise!

There is still a chance Rovers will cock up this campaign. At the time of writing, a 1-0 win over Wrexham has seen them keep pace with Lincoln at the top of the National League, although the Imps still have a game in hand.

With Micky Mellon, though, you feel confident that, given his past experience and ability of getting teams promoted, he can get the job done. As it stands, the play-offs are a near on certainty.

Given that, and that there has been so little to cheer over the past 15 years, I find it more than slightly annoying (and patronising) seeing people tell fans to “calm down” and “not get carried away”.

Why should they? There has been nothing to get excited about recently. People have every right to be thinking “wow what could happen come the end of the season?”

I am sure I do not speak just for myself when I say I had an extra spring in my step after the 1-0 win over Dover that left Tranmere level with Lincoln.

Personally, and I am not just blowing my own trumpet here, I have always felt Rovers have a great chance of promotion this year.

But that was the night when things really started to fall into place. You could feel it in the atmosphere, which was better than I can remember for many a year. People left Prenton Park thinking “it’s on”.

And it is. And for that reason, let people enjoy their moment. Let them dream about what could happen.

If, as a football fan, you cannot get excited about what is going on this year, then what is the point? You may as well just give up and take up another hobby.

Because it is moments like this that we live for. Yes, it is “only” the National League. But that does not make a promotion any less enjoyable.

Maidstone away on the final day of the season has the potential to be quite remarkable occasion. I truly hope it is.

Because, at the moment, I can only imagine what it is going to be like celebrating the team that I support enjoying some success at last. Hopefully I do not have to dream any more come May.


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