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Career Watson's Tranmere Career


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A Trip to the Moon- Tranmere Rovers Career


"I can't promise anyone success, but I can promise them a trip to the moon"- Johnny King


Prenton Park- home of Tranmere Rovers

Background and 2015/16 Recap


Back to back relegations in 2014 and 2015 saw Tranmere slip from League 1 to the National League, after a 94 year stay in the Football League. They began the 2015/16 season as one of the favourites for promotion. A poor home record and inability to beat part-time teams eventually saw Rovers finish 2 points and 1 place away from the play offs. 


2016/17 Preview


Following their failure to reach the play offs last season, Tranmere chairman Mark Palios took the brave step of sacking manager Gary Brabin and replacing him with the unproven Chris Watson. Tranmere began the season as one of the favourites once again, along with big spenders Eastleigh and Forest Green, as well as former League sides York, Wrexham and Dagenham. 


Tranmere retained the core of their squad from the previous campaign whilst adding several new faces. Connor Jennings, Darren Stephenson and Andy Cook all arrived, before new manager Watson added ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, Norwich City loanee Michee Efete and several former Tranmere players in the shape of Adam Dawson on a season long loan, Jermaine Grandison on a free and Andy Mangan from League 1 Shrewsbury. 


Andy Mangan returned to Tranmere, ending the season as the League's top scorer


2016/17 Season


A solid start to the season saw the Whites maintain a place in the chasing pack for the first half of the season, as York led the way followed by Wrexham for most of the opening months of the campaign. With Cup exits to Dagenham and Mansfield respectively, Rovers could solely focus on the League heading into the new year. Winter signing Dominic Knowles, who had led the scoring charts for Harrogate in the National League North, added yet more options in attack, while a back 3 maintained the best defensive record in the League. An injury crisis at centre back looked to potentially derail Tranmere as they entered the run in, however the loan signing of Ellis Barkworth from Hull bolstered their back line and saw Rovers overtake York at the top of the table. A magnificent run of 9 wins and a draw from the final 10 games saw Rovers claim the title, capped by a superb 6-0 home victory over Southport in the penultimate fixture of the season. 


Steve McNulty brought composure and Cruyff turns to Tranmere's back line


Watson quickly adopted a 3-4-3 formation, picking up on Tranmere's wealth of central defensive and striking options, while mindful of the lack of full backs in the squad. Based on a solid and tight defence led by the dependable Steve McNulty and fielding a front line of James Norwood, Andy Cook and Andy Mangan that was the envy of any team in the National League, Rovers' consistency over 46 games eventually brought them the title. Mangan ended the season as the League's top scorer with 23 goals, while Cook chipped in with 17 goals and the small matter of 17 assists on his way to picking up the League's Player of the Season award. 


National League Player of the Season Andy Cook


Ending the season with a record reading P46 W29 D10 L7 F82 A35 Pts 97, Tranmere had made a return to the Football League in Watson's first season in charge, with League 2 the next obstacle standing in their way. 








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2017/18 Season




Tranmere returned to the Football League after a 2 year stay in non-League football and immediately set about bolstering their squad for the coming season. Forest Green Rovers winger Elliott Frear was signed for £85K along with a number of free transfers, including Tom Beadling, Steven Hewitt and Will Boyle. Former Newcastle and Wigan player Ryan Taylor made a return to the club where it all began for him as a teenager, while the signing of Jack Barmby on a free was seen as something of a coup for the Whites. 

Following a number of friendly matches, featuring a mixture of youth and first team players, Rovers began the new season quietly confident of exceeding their goal of a secure mid table finish. 



Ryan Taylor during his first spell at Tranmere




Tranmere travelled to Mansfield for their first game back in the Football League, however made the worst possible start, finding themselves 3-0 down after only 20 minutes. Andy Cook picked up where he left off last season, pulling a goal back shortly before half time, before Dominic Knowles bagged Rovers' second with just under half an hour to play. Last season's top scorer Andy Mangan popped up to draw Tranmere level, before he sent the travelling fans wild, with a 95th minute winner to get his side off to the perfect start. 


Following a slender 1-0 loss away at Burton in the League Cup, Tranmere hosted Newport County in their second League game of the season. A solid 3-1 victory saw Rovers riding high at the top of the league at this early stage of the season. 

Port Vale brought Tranmere back down to earth with a bump, inflicting a 3-1 reverse on the Wirralians, despite Cook finding the back of the net once again. A 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool kept Tranmere in the play off places, as they made the long trip down to fellow promoted side Eastleigh. Three goals in a 16 minute spell in the first half was enough to inflict a second defeat of the season on the Whites, with former loanee Adam Dawson scoring the third goal. Andy Cook maintained his excellent start to the season, however his fourth goal of the term was a mere consolation, as Tranmere ended the month with a defeat. 



The scoreboard following Tranmere's opening day comeback


Andy Cook began the season in fine goalscoring form




September began with a difficult fixture against a much fancied Doncaster side, who had knocked Premier League Watford out of the League Cup earlier this season. Rovers battled to a 1-0 victory thanks to new signing Jack Barmby's first goal for the club. 

The next assignment was a trip to Hartlepool. Without a win on their travels since the opening day of the season, Tranmere applied good pressure on the hosts' goal, and were rewarded 3 minutes into the second half, when talismanic striker Andy Cook scored his 5th goal of the season. Unfortunately, the Whites had to hang on to their lead instead of searching for a second goal, as goal scorer Cook received a red card. Fortunately for the travelling Super White Army, ten-man Rovers clinched the three points and recorded back to back wins for the first time this season. 

Looking to build on their upturn in form, Rovers got off to the worst possible start at home to Colchester, conceding within 60 seconds of the kick off. Dominic Knowles levelled things up 3 minutes later, before his second goal with 10 minutes to play looked to have given his side all 3 points. Andy Mangan made victory certain, before Knowles rounded off a fine comeback, completing his hat trick in stoppage time and firing Tranmere up to third. 

Tranmere then battled their way to a point away at Luton. Having gone 1-0 down midway through the second half, Andy Mangan continued his impression of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with another goal from the bench. This stretched Rovers' unbeaten run to 4 games and maintained their good form during September. 

Accrington came close to ending Tranmere's unbeaten home record in a game where Rovers never really got going. Elliott Frear rescued a point in the first minute of injury time. 

James Norwood chose a good time to notch his first goal of the season, as Tranmere clinched a 1-0 away win at Barnet. It wasn't all rosy for the Whites, as they lost both Andy Cook and Jack Barmby to injury. 

Tranmere ended September unbeaten, and well placed in the play off places. Consistency would now be needed to maintain this position. 


Dominic Knowles netted his second hat trick for Tranmere, vs Colchester

Edited by chriswtrfc
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2017/18 Season


Tranmere began the month with a goalless draw at home to Bradford in the Checkatrade Trophy. As per the rules of this competition, Rovers won the penalty shootout that followed, and progressed to the next round, with one game of the group stage remaining. 

Carlisle arrived at Fortress Prenton Park and were blown away by an opening 20 minute blitz, as goals from Adam Mekki, Connor Jennings and 2 from Dominic Knowles gave the home team the points. 

Following a well earned 1-1 draw away at Wycombe, Morecambe were brushed aside 3-0, before AFC Wimbledon took a surprise 2-1 lead at Prenton Park. Tranmere turned the game around thanks to goals from Dominic Knowles and James Norwood and maintained their unbeaten run. 



Coventry proved to be a step too far in the FA Cup, as they ran out 3-1 winners. Fleetwood then beat Tranmere on penalties in the Checkatrade Trophy, after an entertaining 2-2 draw at Highbury. 

Two goals in first half stoppage time game Tranmere all three points on their trip down to Somerset. Yeovil were unable to get back into the game as the Whites climbed to second. 


Stupidly, I progressed with the game before writing up the rest of the season, so I will have to just summarize instead. 


Following on from our steady progress, December saw Tranmere hit their first real bump in the road, as only 1 win was achieved in 5 games. A swift change in fortune kept the Whites close to the leaders, before a stunning run of 13 wins in a row propelled them clear at the top, wrapping up the League title with 3 games to spare. 





Andy Cook was runner up in the League Player of the Season awards, having scored 18 goals, second to Dominic Knowles, who registered 19. 

Several Tranmere stalwarts announced their retirements as the season ended, with Steve McNulty and Steve Jennings both hanging up their boots. 


In lieu of a proper season review, I have decided to do a breakdown of the League 2 title winning squad;


Chris Kirkland- GK

Experienced and dependable, Kirkland was the foundation of the League's best defence


Tom Beadling- CB

The Australian international forged a solid back line along side Claude Dielna and Jermaine Grandison


Claude Dielna- CB

The Frenchman was instrumental in tightening Rovers' defence, following his arrival several weeks into the season


Jermaine Grandison- CB

The final part of the watertight last line of defence, injuries plagued the latter part of his season


Lois Maynard- CM

Added strength and athleticism to Rovers' midfield, while also adding goals to his game


Michael Woods- CM

Maynard's partner in crime, kept the team ticking over when in possession


Steven Hewitt- CM

Often brought on to shore up the midfield and close out tight games


Jack Barmby- RM

The marquee signing of the summer didn't disappoint, Barmby was a constant menace down the flanks


Adam Mekki- LM

Provided trickery and guile down the wings


Andy Cook- ST

Began the season in fine form, and finished with a more than respectable 18 goals, however saw red twice during the course of the campaign


Dominic Knowles- ST

Plucked from the relative obscurity of the National League North, Knowles finished his first full season as a Tranmere player the clubs top scorer


Andy Mangan- ST

Last season's top scorer had to make do with a role on the bench, however still contributed vital goals


James Norwood- ST

Took him a while to get going, with injuries also disrupting his season, however he still managed 11 goals and the same number assists


Connor Jennings- ST


The complete team player, he fulfilled various different roles and played several positions when called upon


Thanks for reading this. Apologies for the truncated season review, hopefully I will learn from my mistakes. Any suggestions for presentation, content or layout would be greatly received.

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