bergamo-atalanta

The summer of 1994 had been a disappointing one for millions of football fans across the country as the USA World Cup took place without England. Having failed to qualify for the World Cup England fans had a summer without any Football.

For one Tranmere player though the summer had not been spent watching the World Cup at home as they went over to the States with his national team. John Aldridge had joined the Ireland team to play in the 1994 Cup but his time in the Cup was marred by events on the touchline.

By August normal league football was soon to be back on the menu for fans across the land but for Aldo and the Tranmere team international football was still on the cards.

Having failed to qualify for the knock stages in the 1992-93 Anglo Italian Cup Tranmere were given a second chance to show their wares on an international stage in the 1994-95 tournament.

Over the two years since Tranmere fell out of the Anglo Italian Cup the club had successfully made the First Division Play offs only to be knocked out by Swindon and Leicester City. However these setbacks did not dampen the optimism that encased the club who were in touching distance of the Premier League.

With Premier League football being the main aim, to Tranmere and its fans the Anglo Italian Club was seen as a side show with few people being interested. But the club and players wanting to take the rare opportunity of European football readied themselves.

The first game was against Venezia from Venice which as away games go wasn’t too bad as fans could take in one Europe’s most historic cities. However the game was drawn at home and so the Italian used to splendour of Venice came to slightly less impressive Birkenhead.

In front of the small 3,012 attendance Tranmere took the lead after an Aldo goal which was soon followed by a second by Malkins. However in the 66th minute Cerbone scored from the penalty spot and in the dying moments Bonaldi equalised. Just like in the 1992-93 tournament Tranmere had started on the wrong foot.

In 1992-93 the flight carrying players had been paid for by fans wanting to travel with the team but with so few fans interested in the tournament this time round Frank Corfe had to pay for the flights to the first away game.

The away game was against Atalanta in Bergamo which was just outside Milan. The few Tranmere fans travelling to game stopped off at the San Siro to see one of football’s most legendary grounds before being wedged in a corner of the 32,000 capacity Stadio Communale.

Just like the fans Tranmere were not prioritising the away games as much as they had done in the 1992-93 season as mostly youth player took to the field in Bergamo. One of the youngsters to make his debut for Tranmere was a young Ian Thomas-Moore.
This young team lost 2-0 with Montero and Saurini scoring for Atalanta in the one sided game.

The next game was at home and fans hoped to try save face in the competition before they were knocked out of the competition. Ascoli were the next and last Italian team to play at Prenton Park in the Anglo-Italian Cup.

Ascoli were one of the favourite of the tournament especially with their German international star who opened the scoring after fourteen minute. Oliver Bierhoff had already been capped by the time he came to Prenton Park but his career was only really just getting started. He best remembered for scoring the two winning goals in the Euro 96 final against the Czech Republic.

With the Ascoli game finishing 1-0 to the away team Tranmere’s fate was sealed even before they board the plane to their final game against Lecce. Only 286 fans travelled to see Tranmere lose 3-0 at the 55,000 Stadio Commuila. The trip however did have its moments as fans mingled with some of their heroes at the Hotel and on the flight.

The rest of the season went well for Tranmere who again made it to the play offs of the First Division but were knocked out by Reading. The 1994-95 season was the last time Tranmere would make the First Division play offs.

As the price of Premier League football slipped further and further from the grasp of Tranmere many still looked back on the Anglo Italian Cups as time when the sky was the limit for the club and have fond memories of flights and hotel stays with the team.

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