View From The Away End - Tranmere Rovers (a)
In what is going to become a new feature on Vital Orient, I will be interviewing away fans of the twenty-three nPower League One clubs and asking them about their campaign, their opinion on the division as a whole, their opinion on Orient and anything else that is relevant.
I am open to taking requests by Orient fans about what questions they'd like answers to so if anyone has a question they'd like to put to a fan of another League One side then please send your question via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Robinson, is an 18 year-old Tranmere Rovers fan from The Wirral and has been following Rovers since around the age of 11 and since then Sam has followed the club both home and away. Sam is hoping to have secured a place at the University of Central Lancashire to study Sports Journalism and we at Vital Orient would like to wish Sam the best of luck with his A-Level results.
Sam wishes Orient the best of luck throughout the season apart from when Orient face his beloved Rovers.
The questions and responses were as follows;
Q: You had a mixed season last year; one win in twenty under Les Parry and then Ronnie Moore came in and led you to a top-half finish. Were you happy with last season?
A: In the end, I was happy to avoid relegation and a top-half finish was, frankly, outrageous given that we were one point above the relegation zone when Moore took charge. That we stuck with Parry for so long was depressing. His tactics were turgid - a 4-5-1 disguised as a 4-3-3 and he refused to experiment or change the line-up. Substitutions would be like-for-like rather than looking to change the way games would go. If we went behind, that was it: game over. I don't think we came from behind to win a game under his management.
We actually started well last season and were 6th near the end of October but that run of one win in twenty did for any hopes of making the top six that we had. The only bright side was that our home form remained strong throughout the season despite the poor form; we lost only three league games at home all season. Under Ronnie things improved drastically which gives us great hope and optimism for the forthcoming campaign.
Q: How have you got on during pre-season this summer?
A: Pre-season began with four games against local non-league opposition; two wins, 3-0 against Cammell Laird and 4-0 against Heswall, and two draws, 1-1 against Vauxhall Motors and 2-2 against Marine, were satisfactory, our profligacy in front of goal not so. It is obvious that we need a goalscorer as well as a targetman after the surprise and slightly disappointing retirement of Ben Burgess, who only joined the club in June. A 2-1 win over an Everton XI which included first-teamers such as Seamus Coleman, Jack Rodwell (now of Manchester City) and Apostolos Vellios gave us a boost in confidence before a 3-3 draw away at Fleetwood and a 3-1 loss at home to a strong Bolton side. We rounded off pre-season with a pointless 1-1 draw with Port Vale. Hopefully we will have won our League Cup tie at Chesterfield by the time you read this! (They did, 2-1 after extra time).
Q: Realistically, what is the aim this season for Tranmere?
A: For the last three seasons we've been involved in the relegation battle so it'd be nice to have a year off from that! Other than that I think a top half finish would be realistic with a play-off push not out of the question given how open the league will be this year. Our home form is generally strong; we've not lost in our last 25 home league games under Ronnie Moore so hopefully that will continue this year to give ourselves a platform upon which to build.
As ever, a cup run would be nice to boost funds. A tonking at Old Trafford in the League Cup, FA Cup, or both would be worth it for the money we'd get. It sounds laughable but taking the Johnstone's Paint Trophy seriously would be nice, too.
Q: Are you happy with the club's transfer activity over the summer, in terms of both ins and outs?
A: Starting with who we've lost, I wasn't too disappointed to see former captain John Welsh, who is as average a midfielder as you will find in League One, go to Preston. On the other hand, I was extremely disappointed to see our player of the year, David Buchanan, follow Welsh to Deepdale. After him being so close to signing a new deal, seeing him leave was a bitter pill to swallow. We also lost Enoch Showunmi and Joss Labadie to Notts County though, after poor campaigns from both last time around it wasn't that big a loss to the squad.
Lucas Akins was the subject of interest from Stevenage and made his intentions clear that he wanted to leave. He did so for a fee, which was used to pay for the arrivals of winger Joe Thompson from Rochdale and James Wallace, our new captain in the centre of midfield, from Everton.
Squad players who were released like Andy Coughlin, David Raven, Robbie Weir, Martin Devaney and Mustafa Tiryaki freed up wages to bring in the likes of Paul Black, a left-back from Oldham; Danny Harrison; Liam Palmer, a midfielder on a 6-month loan from Sheffield Wednesday; Jason Mooney, a 6 foot 9 monster of a goalkeeper; Jake Cassidy, a striker, on a 6-month loan from Wolves; Abdulai Bell-Baggie from Salisbury City and the brilliantly named Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro from Rochdale.
Overall, the squad is stronger than it was last year in my opinion but we do lack depth at centre-back as well as on the wings and up front. The surprise retirement of Ben Burgess after only signing him in June was disappointing and leaves us without a targetman heading into the new season. There is still work to be done on the squad but I'm happy with who we've brought in and who we've flogged. I'm quietly confident that we will do well this season.
Q: You've had ex-O Jonathan Téhoué on trial this summer, how did he do and is their any chance you'll sign him?
A: He impressed in the few games he had and most fans wanted him to sign. This may not sound like the Téhoué that Orient fans know but he was strong in the air and won a lot, something we aren't used to seeing at Prenton Park. He scored a good goal at Fleetwood as well as getting himself another at Marine so he was a player we wanted to sign. However, having offered him a contract it appears that he, or his agent, is holding out for more money which we, quite simply, haven't got. It seems unlikely at this stage that he will sign for us but I hope that something can be done.
Q: What's your opinion of Orient. How do you think we'll get on this season?
A: You've become a lot more likeable since ditching Sean Thornton, that's for sure! I feel for Orient because they're arguably in a worse situation than we are geographically. Whereas we have Liverpool and Everton to compete with for fans, as well as the Manchester clubs to an extent, you have Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, QPR, Spurs, West Ham to compete with and that's just from the Premier League. Like us, you will, no doubt, have had to cut your cloth accordingly in recent seasons and I think the fact that you are still a League One club is a good achievement given the circumstances. Hopefully West Ham don't get the Olympic Stadium as their new home; it would be a shame for a club with owners such as theirs to put a club like Orient out of business.
Q: Who's the Tranmere player for Orient fans to look out for?
A: Probably James Wallace, who arrived from Everton for an undisclosed fee following his loan spell last season and has immediately been made captain by Ronnie Moore, suggesting that the management has great faith in him. He turned down offers from Nottingham Forest and Portsmouth to join us and is a real quality player in the middle of the park. Wallace is the classic box-to-box midfielder who, I would say, is too good for this level. Signing a two-year contract should see us get a fee if he moves on next summer, which I think is very likely. In years gone by we have not had many goals from midfield but I feel that Wallace has at least 10 goals in him for the forthcoming season and I hope to be proved right.
Q: And who's the Orient player you Tranmere fans will be looking out for?
A: In terms of past players, you might start Ryan Brunt, a former loanee of ours, up front but the main threat, in my eyes, has to be Dean Cox. He's been fairly consistent at this level for a good number of years now and, in all honesty and with great respect to your club, I'm surprised that he's not yet moved on. If he plays as well as he did in 2010/11 then he has the capability to be one of the best players in the division and we will have a lot to worry about. Hopefully he has one of his quieter afternoons.
Q: The 65% rule has come in to place this summer, how does this effect Tranmere?
A: I don't think it will effect us too much as we've been working on a tiny budget for a good few years now. This may even give us an advantage as we are used to working under harsh financial restraint whereas other sides may struggle with the new rules. We hardly spend money as it is so we should be alright.
Q: Who's your prediction for promotion and relegation for the season?
A: I think MK Dons are well-set for a tilt at promotion this year. All of the big guns have gone and the league is fairly wide-open. They have a few goalscorers amongst their ranks like Lowe and Bowditch and they won't want to go into the play-offs again. They've got the squad and the know-how and they're my tip to win the league. I think Swindon, Bournemouth, Brentford, Notts County and Coventry will make up the rest of the top six though I remain hopeful that we could usurp one of them!
For relegation, I'd have to say Crewe, Oldham, Bury and, sadly, yourselves, though I hope not as it would be a shame to lose three North West sides and a team I like! I'm hoping for Preston to have a bad season as well as Scunthorpe; those two going down would make for a pretty good season.
We'd like to thank Sam for taking the time to complete the questions and hope that when we speak again, that Sam is at the University of his choice living off a staple diet of Super Noodles and Jaegerbombs.