Archives for category: Football



The 1931-32 season became a significant moment in the history of Tranmere Rovers as they announced themselves as a football team with ambition and the squad to match.

In 1921-22 Tranmere had joined the Football League as a founding member of the Third Division North and spent much of the 1920s looking like a team not quite sure of themselves. By the end of the 20s and into the early 1930s Tranmere Rover’s name was being mentioned more and more at the top table of English football.

The most notable quality that saw Tranmere draw national attention was their ability to find and develop good young players. Ellis Rimmer, Thomas ‘Pongo’ Warring and of course Dixie Dean made their first Football League debuts at Prenton Park before moving to First Division clubs and ultimately England.

By 1931 Tranmere had yet to display their own brand of football to a national audience only playing against their opponents in the Third Division North. However the luck of the FA Cup draw saw an opportunity for Tranmere to enter the national football scene.

After confidentially dispatching West Stanley 3-0 in the First Round of the FA Cup and then Bristol Rovers 2-0 in the Second Round Rovers now had the chance of being drawn against a top club from the First Division. As football fans across Birkenhead flicked to the sport pages of the local press they would have discovered Tranmere had be draw at home against Chelsea.

Chelsea who had just been promoted to back to the First Division in 1930 were looking to make a name for themselves taking on some of the great teams of the age including Huddersfield, Arsenal and Everton. Their first move upon returning the First Division was to sign three Scots Hughie Gallacher, Alex Jackson and Alec Cheyne.

These names may not mean a great deal to many today but these three were some of the most successful players of the 1920s and 30s. All had been part of the Scotland team who had beaten England 5-1 in 1928, Gallacher had captained Newcastle to First Division champions in 1926-27 and Jackson led Huddersfield to two FA Cup finals and won several league medal with the club.

The 1931-32 season had not got off to the best of starts for the Londoners however with some humiliating defeats most notably losing 7-2 to Everton in October. However by January Chelsea had won four out of their five games and were brimming with confidence for their FA Cup tie against ‘Little Tranmere.’

The Chelsea team arrived on the Wirral after their game against Bolton and decided to take in some of the sights. The teams were pictured taking in several holes at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course and were seen by many locals at West Kirby promenade as they stayed at the Royal Hotel. Although it was not all fun as the team were seen training along Hoylake shore, yet not all the players took the sessions seriously such as Hughie Gallacher who smoked cigars whilst rest of the team trained.

The Birkenhead News reported that the Chelsea team seemed quite relaxed in their training for Saturday’s game taking in a round of golf every morning. After light training the team would eat the championship winning meal of Beef and Chips with beer to wash it down with.

A reporter from the Liverpool Echo managed to catch up with Alex Jackson who proclaimed ‘I can’t see Tranmere having a chance!’ Others writing into the paper poured scorn on Tranmere’s chances against their First Division opposition.

However was this over confidence justified? In the modern game clubs at the top flight spend hours pouring over DVDs of their opponents recent games to ensure they are ready for anything. Obvious in 1932 this would have been impossible yet it seems Chelsea hadn’t even checked the results of this Third Division North team.

Out of the last nine games Tranmere had played prior to Chelsea they had won seven and drawn two. During that run they managed to play Rochdale twice beating them 9-0 at Prenton Park and away 6-3. Much of this success had been the goal scoring ability of both Ernie Dixon and Fred Watts who the previous season alongside Jack Kennedy had score a total of 96 goals.

Unlike the Chelsea team the Tranmere players under the trainer Jimmy Morten spent several hours a day running, sprinting, going through physical and dumb-bell exercises. However it wasn’t all hard work, the team were invited to the Birkenhead Hippodrome the Wednesday before the game to see the Pantomime of Robinson Cruseo.

The game though did catch the attention of the national media as the Pathe News Company sent down a film crew to record the game. Prenton Park was looking its best for its first film debut as the new five span roof stand had been built at the start of the season along Park Road West. The stands distinctive roof had been constructed by a company more used to building barns and this design saw the fans nickname the structure the Cowshed .

On the day crowds packed into a cold Prenton Park to see their local heroes take on the Goliath’s of the First Division hoping Chelsea’s over confidence would be their undoing.

The crowd didn’t have to wait long after kick off for the first bout of excitement as Fred Urmson for Tranmere fired a power shot into the back of the next after ten minutes. However the celebrations were short lived as E. V Gough the referee deemed Meston was in an offside position before Urmson took the shot. The Tranmere players protested he was not interfering with play but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Chelsea responded to the Tranmere onslaught going 0-1 up after 28 minutes and as the play got underway in the second half Fred Watts equalised bringing Tranmere back into the game. Soon after Ernie Dixon raced down the ground and powered the ball into the back of the net from twenty five yards giving Tranmere the lead.

A famous victory was now in the sight for Tranmere however referee Gough hadn’t finished playing his part on the result. Johnson for Chelsea put the ball into the Tranmere box where Pearson headed in the equaliser even though he was in an offside position.

The Tranmere players once again found themselves at the mercy of the Gough who again made a controversial decision to let the goal stand. The game finish 2-2 which was a frustrating disappointment for all at Prenton Park even Chelsea who now had to look forward to an unwelcome replay.

The gate attendance for the game was around 13,000 which was far below expected numbers however the turnout still produced £1250 from the gate.

Ultimately Tranmere’s trip to Stamford Bridge was more clear cut as Chelsea won the day 5-3 ending Rover’s cup run dreams. By the end of the season Tranmere managed a very respectful fourth position finish in the league whereas Chelsea only finished 12th in the First Division.

Although Tranmere’s moment in the spotlight was short lived they had managed to raise the profile of the club and their ambition. The game against Chelsea and subsequent games in following season against Leeds, Barnsley and Liverpool showed that this little club from the Wirral were not mire minnows in the game happy just to be in the Football League, but a team with the drive and skills to push on to the highest levels.


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…

Ron Yeats

Throughout Tranmere’s history they have been overshadowed by their larger neighbours across the River Mersey. Over the decades the biggest names in football have been draw in by the opportunity to play football at the top of the game.

However Tranmere have seen the benefits of having two large clubs on their doorstep as players have moved from Liverpool and Everton to Prenton Park. Some of the big names include the likes of Dave Hickson, John Aldridge, Archie Clarke and Pat Nevin.

Although there has been a steady flow of players from Everton and Liverpool over the years they have usually been one or two at a time. Yet in the 1970s the Tranmere team had a distinctly Liverpool feel to it as ex-Liverpool players fielded for Rovers.

The new Anfield feel to Tranmere Rovers was due mostly to the new captain who signed for Tranmere in 1971, Big Ron.

Ron Yeats had been described as the Colossus of Anfield and in his time for the club he made 358 appearances wining the First Division twice and the FA Cup under the stewardship of the great Bill Shankly.

Jackie Wright the then Tranmere Mangers signed Yeats in December 1971 as a player-assistant manager. At 34 his best days were behind him but Wright saw that he could make a real impact at Prenton Park.

Alongside the signing of Yeats Wright had also brought in Tommy Lawrence and Kit Fagan from Liverpool that season.

Less than four months later Wright was sacked as Tranmere finished just above the relegation spot in 1971-72 season. Seeing the wealth of experience Yeats had from working under Shankly he was given Wright’s job at Prenton Park to bring a little Anfield magic to the Wirral.

With the ink still drying on his contract Yeats was already moving to strength the Tranmere team and looked to George Heslop as a the new captain at Prenton Park. Although this £5,000 deal fell through it showed the ambitious thinking Yeats could bring to the club.

The summer however did not go without any signings as Frank D’Arcy (from Everton), Eddie Loyden, Tommy Veitch and Tommy Young joining the club before the start of the season.

Alongside the new signings Tranmere youth players made their debuts at the start of the season in Eddie Flood (originally from the Liverpool youth system)and Les Parry.

The additions to the club however had little impact at the start of the season as Tranmere lost four of their first five games and by the end of September they had only notched up five wins.

Seeing that Tranmere were not performing at the level he wanted Yeats looked to his former club Liverpool to strength his side. The first major signing Yeats made was the Liverpool legend Ian St John who had made over 300 appearances for the club scoring 95 goals.

The second came in the loan signing of Bobby Graham from Coventry City but he had made his name playing for Liverpool alongside Yeats.

With such experience and skill in the Tranmere team one would expect there to be some improvement on field. Yet Tranmere still seemed to struggle especially after key players left the squad in some cases only months after joining.

As the end of 1972-73 season drew closer Yeat’s key players began to leave the club with Ian St John, Bobby Graham, Roy Sinclair and Frank D’Arcy playing their football else where.

But even with the lose of such key players Yeats led Tranmere to a successful tenth position finish.

The following season Yeats looked to take Tranmere further than tenth but struggled to attract the big names he had been able to secure the previous season. But as the 1973-74 season started well as Tranmere went on a four game winning streak in September 1973.

The biggest game of Yeat’s premiership at Tranmere Rover was an away game against Arsenal in the League Cup in November in 1973. Yeats led Tranmere past the likes of Alan Ball, Bob Wilson and Ray Kennedy to win 1-0 making Tranmere the only club in the country to have a 100% success rate at Highbury.

However the early success of season faded as Tranmere finished sixteenth making Yeats’ position look in doubt. The 1974-75 season Yeats struggled and by November Big Ron asked his old mentor Bill Shankly to assist him at Prenton Park.

Shankly helped Tranmere to three straight wins but his stay at the club was short lived and his affects did not last. By April Tranmere were fighting a relegation battle and Yeats was sacked.

But for a short period Tranmere had seen some of the biggest names from Liverpool Football Club pull on a white shirt and play for their little neighbour.

Soccer - Barclays League Division Three - Playoffs - Final - Bolton Wanderers v Tranmere Rovers - Wembley Stadium

The 1989-90 season had been one of heart break and jubilation as Tranmere made two appearances at Wembley that season. After being on the brink of extinction only a few years early Tranmere had turned itself around into a rising star in English football.

Victory over Bristol Rovers in the Leyland DAF Cup had been the club’s first major trophy in almost 60 years. With this huge win under their belts Tranmere went to Wembley again that month hoping for the double in the Third Division Playoff Final however Notts County were the victors that day.

The 1990-91 season began fairly mixed notching up at win against Bradford, a draw against Middlesbrough and a loss at home to Stoke. By November the club had only managed to pull together six wins and hope was slipping that Tranmere would reach the automatic promotion spots.

One loss however was perhaps a little bitter than most as Tranmere began there campaign to defend their Leyland DAF trophy. In the preliminary round Tranmere had be drawn away against their rivals Bolton Wanderers. Unfortunately Bolton were the only team to hit the net that day but Tranmere could still progress in the Cup if they won their next game.

The next opponents for Tranmere came from just up the coast as Blackpool came to Prenton Park. Tranmere taking the competition very seriously did not want a repeat of the game against Bolton and smashed Blackpool 4-0 with Morrissey, Steel and Muir (2) get the goals for Tranmere.

Blackpool went on to beat Bolton in their final preliminary game 3-0 which saw Tranmere’s rival fall out of the competition but Tranmere would see them again that season…

Tranmere’s performance in the league was still fairly inconsistent with results being mixed. Back in the Leyland DAF Cup Tranmere were to face Rotherham at home in front of over six thousand fans. Rotherham had been struggling in the Third Division but had managed that season to hold Tranmere to draw earlier in the year.

This second meeting of the two teams was not as evenly matched however as Morrissey and Steel (2) put three past Rotherham. Tranmere cruised through to the next round where they would play Fourth Division Blackpool again.

The Rotherham was game was a turning point in Tranmere inconsistent season as Rovers found their form. Over the coming months Tranmere began notching up more and more wins and hopes of making the playoffs were now a distinct possibility.

In the Leyland DAF Cup Tranmere progress well beating Blackpool and Wigan Athletic without conceding a goal. By March Tranmere had made to the Semi Finals again and only Preston North End stood in their way of third visit to Wembley in two seasons.

March would be one of Tranmere’s most successful months that season as the club won seven games. The first leg of the Semi Final was at Prenton Park and Tranmere were clinical putting four past Preston with goals from Harvey and Muir (3).

However on the away leg in early April Tranmere’s form slumped and they travelled to Deepdale after drawing with Bolton in the League. The game didn’t get off to the best of starts as Preston scored first, was this the end of Tranmere’ cup run? Fortunately Preston’s goal was the only one of the game and Tranmere had made to Wembley again.

In the League Tranmere’s performance picked up again and by the end of the season Tranmere finished fifth securing a place in the play offs. After seeing of Brentford 3-2 on aggregate Tranmere were once again booking their tickets for London.

In May 1991 45,000 fans packed into Wembley to see Tranmere play their first Wembley game of the month. Birmingham took control of the game early on and Sturridge put the blues head after twenty minutes and just before the half time Gayle made it 2-0 to Birmingham.

However Tranmere came out in the second half a changed team and after few substitutions found themselves level with Birmingham after Steel and Cooper put the ball past the keeper. At 2-2 and the second half coming to a close the next goal would win it. But it wasn’t to be Tranmere’s day as Gayle put a third past Nixon.

After losing the Leyland DAF Trophy attentions turned to the Play Off Final against none other than Bolton Wanderers.

On 1st June Tranmere ran out onto Wembley hallowed ground hoping that they would walk back down the tunnel as a Second Division team. The game was hard fought and Bolton dominated early on but Tranmere’s biggest blow was losing Steel after 14 minutes to injury, he was replaced by Chris Malkin.

The two teams both came close to opening the scoring but by the 70th minute the game still stood at 0-0. The final whistle blew at 0-0….extra time would now decide Tranmere’s fate. Tranmere fate was sealed by a single goal in the 8th minute by Chris Malkin whose goal saw Tranmere return to the second tier football after a fifty three year absence.

Soccer - Leyland Daf Cup Final - Wembley - Tranmere Rovers v Bristol Rovers

The 1980s for Tranmere Rovers saw the club go from near extinction to Wembley in a matter of years. Tranmere went from administration to a club with the money to match their ambition of being a First Division club.

By the mid point of the 80s Tranmere were languishing in the lower part of the Four Division and by 1987 it looked like their sixty five years in the Football League would come to end as relegation seemed almost certain. However by beating Exeter on the last game of the season Tranmere stayed up and from that point began to climb back up the tables.

The 1988-89 season saw Tranmere not only return back to the Third Division but through the automatic promotion spot.

When looking down the team sheet of the Tranmere team of the 1988-89 some of the club’s biggest names litter the page. With the likes of Dave Higgins, Eddie Bishop, Jim Steel, Ian Muir, Chris Malkin, John Morrissey and Steve Vickers to name a few, the team in 1989-90 looked its strongest since the 1930s.

The start of the season for Tranmere couldn’t have been better notching up four wins in a row in all competitions. By November had already pulled together twelve wins including a 6-0 hammering of Bristol City.

One game dominated November however which was the visit of Tottenham to Prenton Park in the League Cup. One game that month however at the time had little significance other than to settle old scores with a local rival.

On November 7th Chester came to Prenton Park in preliminary round of the Leyland DAF Cup a competition few showed much interested in. However as Chester were a local rival over ten thousand fans packed the old stands at Prenton Park to see Muir score the only goal in the game.

This victory may have seemed small in the grand scheme of things but it set in motion the wheels which would see Tranmere reach Wembley.

After seeing of Rochdale 1-0 in the final Preliminary game Tranmere’s next opponent was Scunthorpe United at home. Rovers overcame United 2-1 with McCarrick and Malkin scoring for the home side.

With the competition hotting up Tranmere must have been relieved to see their next hurdle was Chester City again. Perhaps it was the home advantage but Tranmere were clinical, beating their local rivals 3-0 with McNab, Morrissey and Muir scoring.

Tranmere’s next opponents were a team for whom Rovers would develop a deep rivalry with over the next few years, Bolton Wanderers. Rover had already lost to the promotion contenders earlier in the season 3-1 at Prenton Park and no one wanted a repeat of that game.

With over nine thousand fans cheering on Tranmere at Prenton Park the home side overturned the earlier season defeat beating Wanderers 2-1 with Steel and Muir scoring the important goals.

After seeing off Bolton Tranmere had made it all the way to the Semi Final and only had to see off the weak Doncaster Rovers team who were propping up the lower end of the Fourth Division.

Tranmere cruised past Doncaster 3-0 over two legs and secured their second ever visit to Wembley.

By the time Tranmere team arrived at Wembley on the 20th May Rovers had secured a place in the Third Division Playoff Final which would see them at Wembley again just a week later. But on that day the team’s focus was on winning the club’s first silverware since 1938.

Facing Tranmere that day was Third Division title winners Bristol Rovers who were looking for the double. Bristol had already beat Tranmere twice that season and some may have thought the game a forgone conclusion…expect for Tranmere and it’s fans of course.

In front of nearly 50,000 supporters Bristol took control of the game nearly taking the lead after four minutes only to be denied by a double save from Nixon. Soon after the save though Tranmere showed they meant business as Ian Muir scored from a Chris Malkin header.

Although Hughes, Garnett and Thomas defending was outstanding Bristol pulled one back at the start of the second half. The pressure was on for Tranmere but in the 71st minute Jim Steel headed in the winner from a Muir cross.

Tranmere had won their first major piece of silverware in over fifty years and a week later it was hoped the playoff trophy would be added to the collection. However Neil Lennon’s Notts County proved too strong for Rovers as County won 2-0.

The Leyland DAF Cup may not stand as one of the great cup competitions in the world but this win saw Tranmere become a regular at Wembley over the next decade as they fought to play in the highest league in the country.

Borough Road Stand

In September 1939 the outbreak of the Second World War meant an end of normal life for millions of Britons throughout the country. Factories went from making cars to tanks and the workers traded in their overalls for khaki uniforms. Footballers were no different as thousands put down their boots and picked up rifles.

Big names in football such as Joe Mercer and Tommy Lawton enlisted to do their bit in the war effort. Some Tranmere players enlisted and other worked in the protected industries such as Cammell Lairds building the ships of the Atlantic convoys.

Unlike in the First World War the FA judge the severity of the situation well and suspended League football until the war ended, even though the 1939-40 season was already underway. This decision would see no competitive Football League matches take place for over six years in England.

However every Football Club in the country was also a business and simply shutting up shop for the duration of the war was not an option. With heavy demands on transport from the military, travelling to distant clubs was difficult and so local leagues were established.

Clubs like Tranmere also looked at new ways to get fans through the turnstile by starting a baseball team. Friendly were also arranged against Army teams and Tranmere most famous played Czechoslovakia during the war.

But with some many players either being in service or working in protected industries putting a team out suddenly became a challenge. Before the war the players in most teams would have been in their mid 20s to 30s with every few youth players breaking through to the first team.

The Tranmere trainers during the Jimmy Moreton and Billy Gaskell however saw that the potential of using their youth players during the War and so endeavoured to use them in the first team. Alongside the youth players guest players were also a regular fixture at many clubs. Players who were on leave or in services based at home like the RAF would regularly turn out for teams in the war time leagues.

But the attendance to war time games was fairly low with so few people being available due to the war effort. Added to this the competitive nature of the local teams was lost as the players changed from match to match making results inconsistent.

In May 1945 victory was declared in Europe shortly followed by victory in the Far East. For the people of Britain the pre war normality could return and in turn so could the Football League.

However the six years of the Second World War had left Britain in a dire situation. The country was heavily in debt, all its major industries had been heavily damaged from bombing and everything was in short supply.

Football too had the scars of the war which needed to be mended before football could be played again. Many grounds had received damage from Germany bombs with Old Trafford, in the heart land of the Salford docks being almost totally destroyed. Even Prenton Park was down to three stands as the Borough Road stand had been damage.

As well as grounds, players who had left to join the war effort in 1939 six years later had lost most of their form due to lack of fitness and general age. This meant club’s needed to build completely new teams from scratch. Clubs like Tranmere however, who had worked with their youth team, had a new generation of players to put out.

With such difficulties to over come the Football Association decided not to restart the Football League until the following year (1946-47 season) meaning football fans across the country had to wait one more year.

The FA did however start the FA Cup again to at least give some air of normality back to the countries football fans. Unfortunately for Tranmere they only made it to second round before being knocked by Rochdale. The FA Cup was suspended in 1939 which meant Portsmouth held on to the trophy for six years but they had to pass it on to Derby County in 1946 who beat Charlton 4-1 in the first post war final.

By the summer of 1946 the country had spent seven years without any competitive League football. By late August of 1946 the wait would be over as once again teams from across the country took to their fields of play to entertain the thronging crowds.

For Tranmere their ground still only had three sides, the team looked nothing like the team of 1939 and some of the great statesmen of the club could no longer be found in the changing rooms or executive seats. It was a new dawn not just for Tranmere but for every club in the land.


The late 1920s saw Tranmere produce some of the club’s greatest players such as Dixie Dean, Ellis Rimmer, Thomas ‘Pongo’ Waring and Bill Ridding. All of these players are greats of the game and held up in high regard within football history.

However one accolade that all of these greats missed out on was the chance to play in the World Cup. In 1930 when FIFA put together the first World Cup the FA still believed that England were the best team in the world and we didn’t need to prove it so declined to join the World Cup.

This decision saw some of the greatest names in English football failing to ever get the chance to show the world just how good they were. England wouldn’t play in a World Cup the 1950.

The World Cup went ahead without England and many other European teams with only Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia representing Europe. In the original World Cup teams didn’t qualify they were invited but many nations turned down the offer due the competition being held in Uruguay which even the 1930s was not an easy place to get to.

With so few European teams the competition had a very American feel with the majority of the teams coming from the South America unsurprisingly. One team not from South America however was the United States team who only 18 days sail away from Uruguay took up the offer to compete in the World Cup.

The US team was fairly inexperienced only playing eleven international games before the competition. The team was a mix of American and foreign born players including several from England. However of the English players only one had played at a professional level, George Moorhouse.

George Moorhouse was from Liverpool and after the First World War thought he’s try hand at a footballing career and signed with Leeds United. However struggling to make it into the first team Moorhouse signed for Tranmere Rovers in 1921.

To say Moorhouse’s time at Tranmere was uneventful would be understatement as he only made two appearances for the first team and spent most of time playing for the reserve team.

photo (7)

In 1923 Moorhouse emigrated to the Canada where he continued to play football for Montreal before moving south of the border to America. His time in the new American leagues would be his most prosperous as a footballer.

Originally Moorhouse moved to the Brooklyn Wanderers but after a couple of months he transferred to the New York Giants where he’d spend the next seven seasons scoring 45 goals and making 250 appearances.

Moorhouse made his first international appearance in 1926 when America beat Canada 6-1. In 1930 he was selected to represent the USA in the first World Cup making him the first professional English player to do so.
On the opening day of the World Cup the USA team and Moorhouse took on Belgium in front of 15,000 supporters at the Central Park Stadium in Montevideo and won 3-0. The USA team then beat Paraguay 3-0 which took them to the Semi Finals were they would meet Argentina.

Moorhouse who must have only ever played in front of small crowds at Prenton Park and in the American league now found himself preparing to run out to a staging 112,000 supporters in the Centenario Stadium. The game was a flop for Moorhouse and the team as injuries led to the Argentineans hammering the USA team 6-1.

The USA team finished third in the first World Cup after Yugoslavia refused to play America after losing their semi final. No other USA team has finished higher than Moorhouse and the rest of the 1930 team.

In 1934 the USA team was again asked to compete in the World Cup in Italy and this time George Moorhouse would captain the team. This made Moorhouse the first Englishman to captain a World Cup team.

Unfortunately the American team’s first round game was against the hosts Italy who beat Moorhouse and his team 7-1 knocking them out of the tournament. Italy went on to win the second World Cup.

After his footballing career he moved to Longbeach California and became a postmaster. Sadly though in 1943 he suffered a hear attack whilst driving with his wife. Both were killed in the accident, Moorhouse was only 41 years old.

Although his time at Tranmere was brief and uneventful we should remember this other great 1930s football and perhaps his achievements should be recognised at the English Hall of Fame.

Every Saturday whether in the Kop or a distant away stand somewhere in the country Tranmere fans can be heard cheering on the Rovers team usually to the chant of the Super White Army. The white that Tranmere play in has now become most recognised aspect of the club.

But as many may already know Tranmere have only been the Super White Army for fifty years of the club’s hundred and twenty nine year history. Way back in 1884 the Tranmere players wore blue shirts and white shorts. Why they chose blue is unclear but for nearly eighty years Tranmere were the blue army.

There was an early attempt to change Tranmere colours to a somewhat bizarre kit combination. In 1889 Tranmere played in maroon and orange shirts, navy shorts and white socks. Although Tranmere won their first silverware in the kit (Wirral Senior Cup) the design never really caught on and Tranmere reverted back to blue and white combination.

The blue shirts of Tranmere Rovers became an important symbol at the beginning of the 20th Century as their biggest rivals of the day Birkenhead FC played in red. For a decade the battle between the red and blue sides of the area took place with Tranmere being the victor in 1910 as Birkenhead FC folded.

Some of the biggest moments in the club’s history took place in blue shirts. In 1921 Tranmere played their first Football League game in the newly created Third Division in blue, their first filmed game against Chelsea in the 1930s was in blue and their only league title was won in blue.

Tranmere however were not the only team to play in blue and white in the Merseyside area. Everton had played in the same kit for even longer than Tranmere had and the two kits were identical in black and white. Even Liverpool who played in red shirts and white shorts looked the same as Tranmere in black and white.

At this time Tranmere lacked their own individual identity to separate themselves from their larger neighbours across the Mersey.

One man saw this lack of identity as a major hurdle to Tranmere becoming a successful team in Merseyside. Dave Russell joined Tranmere as their new manager in December 1961 and he saw great potential in the club. His efforts in the developing a youth policy led to some of Tranmere’s greatest players becoming home grown. The likes of Alan King, Joe Pritchard, Ronnie Moore and Bobby McFarland were all products of his system.

However his most recognisable contribution to the club was the introduction of a new colour scheme for the home kit. Russell wanted Tranmere to stand out against the red of Liverpool and the blue of Everton, so he chose an all white kit with the club badge making its first appearance on the shirt.

This new image would start the rievival of football at Prenton Park as Russell guided Tranmere out of their 1950s slump. With an almost none existent budget Russell managed to secure the quality players such as Barry Dyson, John Manning and George Yardley. He even managed to secure the services of the Everton legend Dave Hickson.

The new players and their new kit made their debut in the 1962-63 season with the hope that success would follow the new identity. However the 62-63 season would be better remembered not for the goals scored or Tranmere 6-1 win over Hartlepool, no instead its remembered for the snow.

In the winter of 1962 and three was one of the worst in recorded history with snow lying on the ground for months. This played havoc with the fixture list for many weeks with few games taking place across the country.

One game it was decided should go ahead in the Third Round of the FA Cup as Prenton Park played host to Chelsea. As this was the only game to take place that weekend the BBC came up to Prenton Park to give the Super White Army their first appearance on Match of the Day (it was called Sportview then). With their new kits and identity Tranmere were going to be given the opportunity play one of the biggest teams in the land on Television.

In their all white kits and on the snow covered pitch at Prenton Park Tranmere held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw and a replay at Stamford bridge.

The new all white identity and the class signings of Russell saw Tranmere spend the next few seasons finishing in the top ten only just missing out on promotion. But in 1967 Tranmere finally rejoined the Third Division and under Russell saw a great period of success for the new Super White Army.

Dixie Dean

The most surprising statistic of Tranmere’s international players is that not one single player in the club’s history has ever played for England seniors team whilst being on the books at Prenton Park.

However two local boys did make it to the top of the game but after they left Tranmere for First Division teams. Their story starts just before the First World War in 1907 on the streets of Birkenhead.

On the 2nd Janauary on Park Road North just off Lairds Street in the North End of Birkenhead a boy was born whose footballing skills would see him become a great. The son of a Butcher Ellis Rimmer would go on play for Tranmere and one day England.

A few days later another boy was born just round the corner on Laird street who would be Rimmer’s rival but also his friend. William Ralph Dean is still one of the great footballers in World history with records he set over 70 years ago still not been broken.

Not as much is known about Rimmer’s early life in Birkenhead but he first came on the radar as a footballer for his school team Upper Brassey Street. Later in life Dean said that Rimmer was the school’s ‘ turn.’ As well as being an accomplished footballer he was an excellent pianist as his mother Edith insisted he practise for two hours a day.

Dean’s early life is far better known with countless books telling the story of his life. He grew up above a chip shop on Laird Street and attended the Albert Memorial School (a borstal school) as they had the best team.

The skills of Dean had been noticed from an early age and in 1920 he was asked to play for the Birkenhead Schoolboys team. Dean received a medal from his school during morning assembly for being picked and was allowed to go home to tell his Mum.

When Dean went to meet the rest of the team one face was very familiar as Ellis Rimmer too had been picked from his school team.

Dean’s skills were soon picked up by Rovers chief scout Jack Lee and Dean joined Tranmere reserves. His first goal in a Rovers side was against Whitehead who team included his friend Rimmer. After the game Rimmer signed for Tranmere and joined Dean once again.

In 1924 Dean made his first senior debut for Tranmere Rovers and would go on to score 27 goals in 30 games. Dean was soon snapped up by Everton in 1925.

Rimmer too made his first senior appearance for Rovers in 1924 but he was not picked up by a bigger club until 1928 when Sheffield Wednesday paid for his skills.

The two would have met on many occasions during their First Division careers but never playing for the same team. However when England called upon them they had one last chance to play together.

In 1930 the first World Cup took place in Uruguay with both Dean and Rimmer hoping to represent England at the highest level. However they never got the chance as the FA decided England didn’t need to take part as we already knew we were the best team in the world. England wouldn’t play in a World Cup until the 1950s.

Both Dean and Rimmer did however receive England Caps over the years and in 1931 the two friends from Birkenhead came together to represent England against Spain. Although neither Dean nor Rimmer scored they both had a hand in setting up two of the seven goals England scored that day at Highbury in front of 55,000 England fans.

As the 1930s went on the records for Dean mounted and in 1937 he scored his 353rd goal in 390 games which broke the record for most goals scored by one player. Both teams cheered this accomplishment but the first man over to shake his hand was none other than is old school boy friend Ellis Rimmer who was playing for the opposition that day.

Like all players their times as footballers came to an end and the two friends went their separate ways in life. In 1965 Rimmer died at age of 58 and Dean died in 1980 at the age of 73.

Their story is a rare and almost unique one which his unlikely to be replicated in football ever again. But these friends from Birkenhead left the town as schoolboys and reached the highest levels in Football making them true legends of Birkenhead.

When we think of great Tranmere games of the past most will bring up the classic 4-3 win over Southampton or St Yates day when Rovers beat Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park. In the pursuit of trophies and promotion Tranmere has played some great games.

One game however was not only one of its greatest but also one of the most important in the club’s history. In 1987 the Tranmere team walked out onto the field at Prenton Park knowing it could be last Football League game the club played.

During the early and mid 1980s the situation at Tranmere was dyer with trouble in the back office and falling attendance. All of this impacted on the team as the best players were sold on to cover the debts and morale around the club being at an all time low.

The club’s very future was on the line as there was no guarantee that Tranmere could fight their way back into the Football League if they were relegated. The 1986-87 season could have been the final nail in the coffin of Tranmere’s most difficult periods.

The previous season Tranmere had fought a long relegation battle but just managed to keep their head above the water even with Osterman trying to wind the club up. The 1986-87 season appeared by Christmas to already feel like a relegation battle with Tranmere only notching up a handful of points.

By March Tranmere were thrown a lifeline as Peter Johnson took over the club and Tranmere legend Johnny King was put in charge. However the legacy of the rest of 80s couldn’t be solved over night and Tranmere still struggled to get the points which would secure their survival.

After drawing with Wrexham on the 4th May it became clear that Tranmere’s survival would be decided on the last game of the season, a home fixture against the mid table side Exeter City.

Going into the game Tranmere did not have a full starting eleven of professional players with the likes of Camden and Edwards both being non contract. Tranmere had lost 1-0 when they visited Exeter and some felt the writing was on the wall for Rovers.

Tranmere were to play their final game on a Friday night which has traditionally always seen a bumper attendance. However this also meant Tranmere would have to wait for the results of the Saturday games involving Burnley, Torquay and Lincoln City to know their fate.

On May 8th as it stood Tranmere needed to win simple as, a draw wouldn’t be enough to save the club. Seeing the peril the Wirral club was in attendance at Prenton Park was its highest all season, with the game being delayed 15 minutes to allow for everyone to get in.

When play finally got under way the crowd’s anxiety was rubbing off on the Tranmere players who clearly were nervous. This led to mistakes allowing Exeter the opportunity to take the lead, however Tranmere just about held them off.
By half time the score stood at 0-0 but Tranmere didn’t seem likely to score on their current performance. It’s not known what Johnny King said to the team at half time but what ever it was it worked as Rovers came out a completely different team.

Full of confidence and fire Tranmere began to create opportunities which saw them test the Exeter keeper. Although Tranmere had increased their attacks they still hadn’t scored.

With less than 15 minutes to play Tranmere were desperate, they had to score! Muir ran the ball down through the Exeter players before crossing the ball into the box. Champen made a run and took his marker with him leaving plenty of room for Gary Williams to head it into the back of the net!!!!

The crowd exploded but soon settled as the clock showed that Tranmere needed to hold this lead for 12 more minutes to stay in the Football League. The Tranmere defence fought hard and kept Exeter out and when the referee blew the final whistle the crowd roared and invaded the pitch. The players headed to the directors box and celebrate with the crowd.

On Saturday due to the results of the teams surrounding Tranmere they would have survived with just a draw. From this season Peter Johnson and Johnny King took Tranmere to promotion out of Division Four and so began Tranmere’s rise.