SHANKS AND YEATS AT TRANMEREx520In November 1974 the country was gripped by the sudden disappearance of Lord Luncan, the Birmingham Six are charge with the bombing of two pubs and the world marvels at the Muhammad Ali’s most famous victory against George Foreman in The Rumble in Jungle. Top of the charts stood the 70s icon David Essex with the song ‘Gonna Make You A Star.’

Wirral that month saw strike action at Cammell Lairds and the famous 19th century Birkenhead Market burns down.

At Prenton Park the 1974-75 season was a season which saw heroes of the game step out into the Tranmere arena and celebrities watching from the stands.

The season began like many for Tranmere with the only consistency at Prenton Park being the team’s inconsistency. By the end of October Tranmere had only won five games and relegation was already a likely prospect at this early stage in the season.

The then Manager and former Liverpool captain Ron Yeats needed to take drastic decisions if he was to save Tranmere from relegation. Yeats enlisted help from former team mates such as Tommy Lawrence, Ian St John and Bobby Graham to instil Liverpool training techniques into the Tranmere team. The club even went as far as introducing an all red second strip.

However even the experienced hands of Liverpool greats could not change the fortunes of a struggling Tranmere. Yeats by November still couldn’t seem to find any consistency in his team’s performances and even with star players like the young Steve Coppell could not save Tranmere season it appeared.

Yeats turned to the one man who had taken an average Liverpool team and turned it into a club which dominated football in the late 1960s and 70s, Bill Shankly. Shankly had shocked the world by announcing his retirement from football that summer. On the 15th November the Birkenhead News announced that Shankly was coming to Prenton Park on a consultancy basis. Shankly said ‘I’ll do anything I can to help anybody in the game…’

Tranmere needed all the assistance they could get after a 2-1 defeat at home to Brighton & Hove who had the worst away record in the entire Football League. Shankly’s first game with Tranmere was a home tie against Preston North End. The game attracted the largest crowd of the season with Shankly and the then Preston North End manager Bobby Charlton being in attendance to ground.

The fans in the stands were not disappointed as Tranmere won 3-1 with Flood, Coppell and Crossley scoring for the whites. Shankly said ‘… I had about half an hour with them before the game. I just told them to do things simply. To play the simple ball all the time.’ Whether these words are what led to the victory it’s difficult to know and Yeat’s input should not be over looked.

Away from Prenton Park Tranmere again won against Farsley Celtic in the FA Cup first round.
The next test was against Hereford United at Prenton Park. With two wins on the trot Tranmere went into the game confident. This confidence was realised as Tranmere hammered Hereford United 6-1 with Crossely scoring two. The Birkenhead News reported ‘Paul Crossely with a little help from his friends and a few words from Bill Shankly butchered the latest bunch of promotion hopefuls to come to violent grief at Prenton Park…’

With Tranmere and Yeats finally finding form with a little help from Shankly, thoughts of relegation faded. Shankly even said ‘Relegation? No no! Tranmere are too good for that. Tranmere should be fighting for Promotion…’ However Shankly was already hinting that he would be heading back into retirement and Tranmere’s form slipped again.

By January Shankly efforts were no longer having the same effect and after the 2-2 draw against Watford thoughts of relegation were firmly back on the table. That game though saw another celebrity arrive at Prenton Park as avid Watford fan Elton John was spotted in the stands.

As the season progress things continued to get worse at Prenton Park as Steve Coppell was sold to Manchester United for £60,000 and Tranmere’s form continued to slip. By April Yeats was sacked and replaced by Johnny King.

The Team finished third from bottom and were sadly relegated but for a few months in 1974 and 5 Tranmere was graced by one of the greatest managers in football history whose impacted gave Tranmere three wins and the hopes of staying up.