At times I thought I’d never be able to say this, but now I finally can… ‘Tranmere have new owners’. The last 18 months have been embarrassing and at it’s peak, shambolic on and off the field. With the recent addition of Rob Edwards as manager over the summer, we now have fresh impetus in the board room of an extremely high standard. Whilst the appointment of Edwards is big, our recent takeover is even more important.
Most people will remember Mark Palios from his short stint as FA Chairman in 2003 when he steered away the FA from financial ruin caused by the massive over budget spend on the new Wembley. He was unfairly shown the door after personal allegations were then leaked to the press in 2004. For Tramere fans, the association goes back much further to 1973 when Palios played for us as a hard working midfielder. He played for Tranmere 249 times (and 118 for Crewe) over two spells including the famous 0-1 away win at Highbury (making Rovers the only team in the UK to have a 100% record at Highbury). Whilst playing for Tranmere, Palios was given permission to study accountancy and after his playing career ended, he went onto work for the likes of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Arthur Young accountancy. In finance, he specialised in business turnarounds which undoubtedly will be useful as he has a tough task with Tranmere. Naturally as a result of all this work in finance, you would expect that he has excellent contacts for potential funding in future. Aside from Marks achievements, his wife Nicola is on board too as Vice Chairman. She has an exceptional career as a business lawyer. As well as this she has a sporting background in rowing and is a non-executive director of British Rowing.
Peter Johnson stopped his large scale investment into Tranmere back in 1997, ever since then Rovers have financially struggled to compete and the inevitable regression has happened. In more recent years Rovers have been pushed towards a break even model on minimum spending which you could argue has lead us to declining back into League Two, with the potential to slip further. When you combine Mark Palios’s passion, financial expertise, business experience, football experience and ability to attract funding in future, it’s blown my expectations completely. I think 90% of clubs in the UK would kill to be in this situation in terms of ownership.
Tranmere, for a League Two club are land rich. We own our own stadium and have two training pitches (which total nine acres). With previous takeovers, there was a huge concern about land grabbing and individual’s riding off into the sunset once they had made a quick buck. With the Palios’s, I have no concerns whatsoever. They have stated that they would only take over Tranmere, no one else. Mark has sensibly stated that this season is about consolidation and staying in League 2 first and foremost and has warned the small minority of fans who expected millions to be splashed that he does not have huge scale funds to start making unrealistic transfers, etc etc.
In the interviews the Palios’s have made, there is a realistic and intelligent approach to what they want to do to the club. There is likely to be investment made into youth coaching and sports science. As well as this our women’s team is going to see noticeable improvements. Tranmere have always had a good record with promoting and selling on youth team prospects, most recently Aaron Cresswell has made the step up to the Premier League from Ipswich this summer. EPPP has threatened to kill this for us and many other league clubs (as well as B-Teams). For a club like Tranmere to survive and progress, youth teams seem crucial and I’m pleased that the Palios’s think the same.
Back to on the pitch matters, Rob Edwards has been making all the right noises this summer talking about the playing style he wants to achieve and that he wants to be able to promote youth team players into the side. Finances were obviously restricted over the summer and Edwards has taken a noticeably cautious approach to recruitment. I’ve been impressed with Marcus Holness, Marc Laird and Eliot Richards signing but I remain skeptical about Kayode Odejayi. I’m constantly told that players like him are essential in League Two, I hope to be proved wrong.
In the first game against York we were clearly very nervous and it was a poor showing all around (the crowd included). A minority of Tranmere ‘supporters’ still feel the need to abuse the team at any given opportunity and within 50 minutes of our first home game, it had begun. To be blunt, it was our managers first game, with a new squad and new tactics. So why did it come as such a huge shock to the minority that we weren’t 4-0 up against a side that are tipped for automatic promotion? Call me old fashioned, but slinging abuse at people doesn’t usually tend to end in a positive reaction. Just because we have dropped to League 2 doesn’t mean we are instantly one of the best in the league. At best, we are an average team with a modest budget.
Rob Edwards and his squad need time and support, I hope supporters start doing what they’re supposed to do and get behind the side. We have a fresh start for the first time since 1988 when Peter Johnson took over the club, fingers crossed this is a huge turning point in the clubs history.
Written by Kenny Orr, We Are Going Up’s Tranmere Rovers Blogger
Kenny tweets at @That_Bald_Owl