A season of two halves

Prenton Park
It’s been a surprising, exciting but ultimately disappointing season for Tranmere in their 2012/13 campaign. From topping the table for the best part of two thirds of the season, Rovers finally finished a surprising 11th place. Rewind back to 19th January at 5pm when Rovers had just beaten Brentford 2-1 away at Griffin Park, the play-offs looked to be a minimum.

For me, there are several reasons why Rovers season fell so massively off the rails. The big assumption has been the failure to re-sign Jake Cassidy on loan, the striker who kick started our campaign in free scoring form returned to Wolves for assessment but never came back as expected. As the season went on, it became more abundant how dearly he was missed.

One aspect I will remember this campaign for is injuries. I cannot remember an injury ridden season like this in all my years supporting Tranmere. For me, the biggest impact on our slide down the table was the injury of James Wallace in the FA Cup 2nd round. At first Wallace was supposed to be out for “4-6 weeks”, then “3 months”. Eventually in turned out that Wallace’s season was over and a second operation was required. Wallace was our engine room, creative force and clearly gave belief to the rest of the side. When he was on song early on this season, we usually won, a perfect example would be the 3-2 win against Yeovil after being 2-0 down inside 29 minutes. His drive and determination majorly helped turn us into statistically the best team in the football league at coming back from losing positions by November, by the end of this season this record had well and truly vanished.

Wallace’s creative play early this season was a joy to behold at times, the best Tranmere fans have seen since Jason Koumas. Thankfully, Wallace signed a 2 year deal, so we still have him for 2013/14. Young Max Power (yes that really is his name) was left with the unenviable task of filling Wallace’s role, but for me was too inexperienced and raw for the role. Looking back, I think this is one decision Ronnie Moore may rue over summer. On a positive note, it’s good to see a youth player come through the ranks and be given faith and time to progress. He did also score two beauties this season, the winner against Crewe on Boxing day being the pick of the bunch, with Colchester away being a close second. Hopefully Max has learned a great deal from this season and will progress further.

Other injuries came to hamper Rovers’ resolve. French forward Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro suffered a rib injury against Notts County leaving him on the treatment table for 3 months, Ben Gibson was left out for 3 months in December with an abductor problem and Andy Robinson for 4 weeks in February. So many crucial players injured for long periods in such a small squad were bound to take its affect.

The other reason I see for Rovers taking the big slide down the table is Ronnie Moore. Credit to the Rovers legend for taking us to the top, but blimey, did he get it wrong after February. Once we hit the bad run after Brentford, Ronnie reverted to his type-cast ‘hoof ball’ tactics which with a predominantly small squad (height wise), was not a good idea. It’s hard to see Rovers getting a better chance at promotion for a long time, which no doubt added to the frustration during the season run in. Loan signings Mamady Sidibe and Sean McGinty failed to hault a slide down the table which was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

One annoying aspect to the end of season run in was a call by a small section of Rovers fans calling for the sacking of Ronnie Moore. A genuinely baffling logic which was stupid as well as embarrassing. Especially when we have recently endured John Barnes and Les Parry, sometimes it’s better the devil you know with a setup like Tranmere’s. Yes Ronnie did make errors, but this has been the best season we’ve had in a long time.

Looking ahead to next season, Rovers have offered new deals to keeper Owain Fon Williams and left back Zoumana “Zoom” Bakayogo, but it is likely we could lose at least one of them as interest has been high in both players. Andy Robinson is expected to sign a new deal despite being offered the chance of moving to America. Also, 40 year old Ian Goodison signed a year long extension and now is officially Tranmere’s oldest player. It’s obvious that he is slowing but I don’t think I was ready to say goodbye just yet. The run in of this season proved he still has plenty to offer. Plus, I want to see a Tranmere vs Jamaica testimonial for the big man at the end of the season, preferably away as well

The released list did not spring too many surprises apart from Adam McGurk who had his best season in 12/13, the season long scape goat for everything and anything might have finally have had enough of being booed week in, week out. Little was said by Moore about his departure, so perhaps he already had offers before the end of the season? Michael Kay was unfortunate in my eyes to be released, but thankfully Danny Harrison, Paul Black and David Amoo were shown the door and will not be missed by anyone.

In terms of new signings, we clearly need a new centre-back, defensive midfielder, winger and striker. Potentially we may need a goalkeeper and left back too. What I am hoping though is that Ronnie does not lose faith in the playing style that we started last season with. Tranmere were one of the few teams that saw a rise in average attendance’s last season and I’m sure our passing style helped bring people back back through the turnstiles. Yet again Rovers will be relying on the loan market for key signings, hopefully we are able to find another Jake Cassidy.

Next season see’s a new sponsor, the national chain ‘Home Bargains’ have paid over £100,000 for a 3 year deal. This unfortunately means an end to the deal with the local Wirral council which has been on our shirts since 1990 which was the longest sponsorship deal in English football history. It is sad to see this long standing relationship finally come to an end, but after a couple of bad PR incidents whereh the deal was highlighted in the national press, it was bound to come to end sooner rather than later.

I am looking forward to the new season for the first time in a while, hopefully Ronnie can dig out a few more rough diamonds and we can do a Yeovil in 2013/14.

Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger

Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl

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