Birkenhead team photo of their league win in 1903-04 season

Great rivalries have always created great moments in history. For football this is no different with derby games being the highlight of many fans seasons as they hope to gain the bragging rights over their rivals. In 1900-01 season Tranmere Rovers where looking to gain bragging rights over Birkenhead FC, a club who had been born out of disloyal Tranmere players.

The previous season had seen Tranmere in a dyer situation the likes of which could have seen the club disappear to lower league football or even disappear altogether. However by September 1900 Tranmere had rebuilt its squad and even some of the fans who had left for Birkenhead FC were coming back.

With a new squad Tranmere wanted to regain their position as the true Birkenhead club and to give its fans the bragging rights they richly deserved. Tranmere didn’t have to wait longer either as their first game against Birkenhead took place at the end of September.

Birkenhead FC at the start of the season were in a strong position and had spent the summer looking for a new ground. Although the Tranmere players had left for BedfordPark for the better facilities and pitch they couldn’t attract the fans the club needed to stay afloat. They moved to the Engineers Parade Ground on Chester Street in Birkenhead hoping a more central location would attract the fans.

The two teams first meet of the season was at the Chester Street enclosure and the Birkenhead News stated ‘The ‘grate fite’ at the Chester Street enclosure between Birkenhead and Tranmere Rovers was looked upon as quite a Derby day by the contesting clubs.’

A large crowd had amassed at the enclosure and Tranmere felt very much the away team in a ground minutes away from their own. However this did not put a dampener on Rovers performance as they scored in the first half. The two teams were fairly well matched and it was not surprising the score was level again by half time after a Birkenhead penalty.

The second half saw the two teams moving between each others attacks attempting to find the goal which seal the victory. Sadly for Tranmere Rovers Birkenhead hit the back of the net near the end of time. Tranmere Rovers had lost again to biggest rivals and bragging rights stayed with the Birkenhead FC fans.

Tranmere were given the opportunity however to turn the tables on Birkenhead FC as just before Christmas the two would meet at PrentonPark (Steele Field). The Birkenhead News stated ‘Saturday will be a red-letter day to the habitués of Prenton Park, when their great Combination rival Birkenhead pay their first visit to the Rovers’ enclosure.’

Tranmere were on a good run of games and it looked as if Tranmere could retake the mantel of the Birkenhead team. The crowd seemed full of enthusiasm about the game according to reports and it would be one of the largest gates of the season with even notable gentry in attendance at the game.

Just like the previous meet the two teams were fairly well matched with both team’s attacks being absorbed. However Tranmere eventually broke through after Davies ran down the wing, passed the ball to Doyle who scored. The crowd exploded with cheers showing who were the favourites were at PrentonPark. Birkenhead attacked well but could break through leaving the game 1-0 to Rovers.

With bragging rights restored it was possible to think that could be the end of Birkenhead’s reign especially as Tranmere finished above Birkenhead in the league at the end of the season. Birkenhead however were not to underestimated, as their experience grew so did their league position over the seasons building up to the 1903-04 season when Birkenhead won the Combination league and Tranmere in fourth!!

Tranmere at that time had never won the Combination and many must have thought this could spell the end of Tranmere Rovers. But we know this isn’t true as Tranmere are still here and Birkenhead are not. So what happened to Birkenhead FC for them completely disappear of the face of the Wirral?

To be continued….

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