The last game of the season can be the most important game in a club’s year as success can bring new found triumph and lose can lead to disaster. Days like today can make or break a club.
Tranmere are no stranger to the possibility of relegation and have diced with death on many occasion throughout the club’s history. When the Third Division North and South merged for the start of the 1958-59 season relegation was introduced into the new Fourth Division.
In Tranmere’s second season in the new Third Division they barely escaped relegation but after two wins against Bury and Mansfield in the final two games of the season Tranmere stayed up.
Unfortunately they were not so luck the following seasonas they lost to Notts County 4-1 on the last day and Tranmere were relegated to the Fourth Division. For the next six seasons Tranmere battled for their rightful place in the Third Division and in 1966-67 they regained that place.
But the fairy tale of promotion was almost destroyed within a season as Tranmere struggled back in the Third Division and only a last game of the season win against Orient saved Tranmere from the drop.
The 1970s and 1980s saw Tranmere yo-yo between the Third and Fourth Division but in the 1986-87 saw Tranmere nearly fall out of the Football League altogether.
Financial problems and back room battles saw Tranmere enter a relegation fight which may have decided the fate of the club. Frank Worthington has struggled to string wins together to keep Tranmere up and by February Ronnie Moore was installed as Player-Manager.
However his lack of managerial experience meant that the drop was still calling the failing Tranmere Rovers. With only seven games to go Tranmere appointed the club’s greatest legend, Johnny King.
King pulled together as many points as he could but the fate of the club’s very survival was going to come down to the last game of the season. Tranmere were face Exeter City at Prenton Park and only a win would secure their survival.
This last game of the season was the most important in the club’s history and the people of Wirral knew it as Prenton Park struggled to hold the throngs of supporters on the day of the match. The number of spectators was so great the game was delayed by 15 minute to allow everyone time to get in.
The crowds watched with baited breath as a nervous Tranmere team tried to overcome the enormity of the game. By the end of the first half the score stood at 0-0 which at the time would not have been enough to secure Tranmere’s place in the Football League.
Johnny King took his side back to the dressing room and said something that inspired his players as they came out to the second half full of confidence. But Exeter still held Tranmere, until the final 15 minutes when Gary Williams found the back of the net for Tranmere.
As the final whistle blew Prenton Park could no longer hold back the hoards of supporters as they invaded the pitch to celebrate the survival of their club. Johnny King and Peter Johnson then took Tranmere from the bottom of the Football League to the doors of the Premier League in just six seasons.
However after over a decade of success never before seen at Prenton Park Tranmere found themselves back in the Third Division at the start of the 2001-02 season.
Over the decade Tranmere moved up and down the table but had never looked like getting relegated until the 2009-10 season. John Barnes had been brought in at the start of the 2009-10 season but failed to grasp the style of lower league football and was sacked. Tranmere’s position was dire and another Rovers legend stepped into the fold to save the club from relegation….Les Parry.
The long standing Physio most notably recognised for wearing his famous shorts in all weathers stepped up to the plate to stop Tranmere from being relegated. Tranmere battled on for the rest of season but struggling to find form after the Barnes Premiership.
Tranmere’s survival in League One would come down to the final game of the season away to Stockport County. The travelling 3,000 Tranmere fans packed their small corner of the ground cheering on the Super White Army. Luckily for Tranmere Stockport where having an even more torrid season and Rovers won comfortably 3-0 with goals from Ian Goodison, Joss Labadie and Ian Thomas Moore, securing their place in League One.
Tranmere Rovers are well versed in last game of the season do or die matches and today’s meeting with Bradford will not be last. But whether we win or lose Tranmere will go on…