The defensive doctor

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Les Parry, Tranmere’s current manager, took over from the woeful John Barnes after nine losses in eleven games. He made the step up from the team physio to manager in the 09/10 season and managed to resurrect a doomed team which looked certain for relegation. Fans rejoiced, happy that a boyhood Tranmere fan had saved their team from the shadows of League 2 in a 3-0 victory over Stockport on the last day of the season.

Despite this, I was shocked and disappointed when he got a full time contract last season, as I thought that the chairman would employ a manager with actual managerial experience. Someone with links to the club like Jimmy Harvey was the choice of a lot of fans who, like me, didn’t feel comfortable with their clubs in the hands of, with no disrespect towards Les, an amateur.

For the first half of last season, Tranmere were mostly awful to watch. The manager’s negative ‘hoof-ball’ tactics stank of ‘if they don’t score then they can’t win’ and it showed; there was no urgency when we came across a lacklustre team at home, often throwing away easy points in favour of changing the tactics. Losing 1-0 to a woeful Hartlepool side could be one of the worst games I’ve seen and if we ever conceded first, then there was no hope of salvaging even a point.

There were some surprises though; beating an MK Dons side who were targeting promotion 4-2 with the help of Dale Jennings, who is now on the way to Bayern Munich as well as beating Posh and Southampton at home. Also, luckily, there were some good team performances at the end of the season that managed to keep us up. Players like Joss Labadie and John Welsh battled in midfield, newcomer centre-back Mark McChrystal won everything and striker Enoch Showunmi closed down even the hopeless of balls.

The last few games of the season showed promise, and hopefully Les Parry will continue that into the start of this season. Having lost brilliant young talents like left-back Aaron Cresswell  and Dale Jennings, however, I think that the manager will have to bring in some fresh faces this season to replace these players and to make sure that we’re not hovering around the bottom four, like last season and the season before.

It’s not all about the youngsters though. Veterans Andy Robinson (now on his third stint at Tranmere) and Ian Goodison, the 39 year old centre-back-cult-hero, can be the players to make the difference, as long as they stay uninjured, as their wealth of experience can aid other players. The loss of Tony Warner to Blackburn, the goalkeeper who when brought in during January commanded the defence with assured ease, could cause problems, and an experienced goalkeeper should be the manager’s priority.

Although, for me the big question this season will be if the manager sticks with his trusty, rigid 4-3-3 formation. Many, when I tell them that Tranmere play 4-3-3, expect a Barcelona-like all-out attack. This couldn’t be further from reality. The aim of this formation is to defend from the top; something that can be forgiven when away from home, but at our own ground, the team needs to entertain the paying public.

Last season, despite one of the smallest budgets in the league, the manager had assembled a squad capable of challenging in the top-half of the table. The tactics are what hindered the team and allowed us to finish 18th. With the budget reportedly being slashed yet again by Chairman Peter Johnson, this season Dr. Les Parry may need to detach himself from the tactics he’s stood by for the past couple of years if he has any hope of giving Tranmere fans a comfortable season.

Written by George Powell, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

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