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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.

5.4.14 001

For many the 1990s was the golden age at Prenton Park with promotion battles and Wembley appearance a regular occurrence during the decade. With the financial backing of Peter Johnson the club became a power house in English football.

However before the arrival of Peter Johnson and the success of the 1990s, the 1930s saw Tranmere’s most successful time in the club’s history.

Unlike the 1990s, Tranmere’s budget was far smaller and attendance had been falling since the mid 1920s. On a shoe string budget the board and trainer Bert Cooke created some of the best teams Tranmere ever put out during the 1930s.

The late 1920s had seen Tranmere produce some of the biggest names in football to come out of Wirral. Dixie Dean made is professional debut for Tranmere before moving to Everton, Ellis Rimmer too began his career at Prenton Park before heading to Sheffield Wednesday and Thomas Pongo Waring left Tranmere for Aston Villa.

By the 1930-31 season Tranmere had lost some of their big name players to the upper divisions and so recruited players who would try to fill such big boots. One of these players was Ernie Dixon who came to Prenton Park from Nelson. Dixon had spent the 1920s playing for Bradford City, Halifax, Burnley, Huddersfield and Nelson making him an experienced addition to the Tranmere team.

Another crucial addition to the Tranmere team was the inside forward Jack Kennedy from Sheffield United.

The 1930-31 season for Tranmere would come to be dominated by Dixon and Kennedy especially when they linked up with Farewell Watts who had joined Tranmere in 1929. The three players would go on to score an astonishing ninety six goals in all competition between them in the 1931-30 season.

The season got off to a wonderful start with Tranmere securing wins against Southport, Carlisle United and Barrow. All eight goals in the three games scored by Tranmere were from Dixon, Watts and Kennedy however they had not all scored in the same game at the same time.

The first game in which the three men all scored in was against Rochdale on 20th September. In front of the home crowd at Prenton Park Watt put two past Rochdale, Dixon scored once and Kennedy got a hand trick. Add on a Rochdale own goal and Tranmere beat their North West rivals 7-3.

By November Tranmere had notched up nine wins with the goals from the trio and their next opponent was Nelson. Although this was Dixon’s old team no quarter was given as he put two past his former club. Kennedy and Watt added two each to the score and Meston added the seventh.

Through December the three players added sixteen more goals to their tally with big wins against Hull City, Rotherham United and Barrow. With goal tallies such as this some must have thought Tranmere a shoe in for promotion and may be even the title.

However although Watts, Kennedy and Dixon were knocking goals in left, right and centre the rest of the team lacked the consistency needed to win the title. With a 6-0 defeat against Doncaster Rovers in early December, the first game none of the three men scored in, questions were raised as to whether Tranmere could go all the way.

The second half of the season saw any kind of consistence for Tranmere go out the window. With a big 8-0 win against Accrington Stanley (Kennedy 4, Dixon 3 and Watts 1) being closely followed by a 0-0 draw against Crewe meant promotion was chances where slipping.

However by March some were still optimistic that promotion was on the cards especially after beating Wigan Borough 5-1. However this game would be the start of the slide in form of the Tranmere team and the last time Dixon, Watt and Kennedy would score in the same game.

The Wigan game however had another significance as Tranmere’s Hundredth goals of the season was scored, making Tranmere the first club in the Third Division North to do so.

But the goals which had flown in up to this point dried up as Tranmere would only score eleven more goals that season. After the Wigan game Tranmere went on to lose five of their final nine games.

After losing 3-0 to Carlisle on the last game of the season Tranmere finished fourth only four points behind the title winners Chesterfield.

For the next eight season Tranmere pushed for the Third Division title and eventually won their first league trophy in the 1937-38 season. The club may have lacked funds but building on good local players and bringing in experience where needed saw Tranmere dominate the 1930s Third Division.

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.

Tranmere

Tranmere has had many local heroes from the Merseyside area throughout its history but for one season the heroes of the club were men from North of border as they put right the wrong of Tranmere Fourth Division place.

The 1960-61 season had been one of the worst seasons in the club’s history with 115 goals being conceded and some shocking defeats such as the 9-2 hammering Tranmere received from Queens Park Rangers. Not surprisingly Tranmere were relegated in the Fourth Division for the first time in the club’s history after 34 seasons in the Third Division.

For the next five seasons Tranmere attempt to gain promotion back into the Third Division under the watchful eye of Dave Russell. Over the five seasons Tranmere came close to achieving their goal of promotion coming fifth twice in the 1964-65 and 1965-66 seasons.

By the 1966-67 season Tranmere were ready to make that final push that would hopefully see them promoted back to their rightful place in the Third Division.

The season didn’t get off to the best of starts with a 0-0 draw against local rivals Chester and the following game saw Tranmere lose Bradford 0-1. However Tranmere picked up their form and beat Bradford Park Avenue 3-2 and then Hartlepool 2-0.

The season ploughed on seeing Tranmere picking up points here and there but big wins against Crewe (5-0) in October showed Tranmere were still on course to achieve the promotion position they so desperately wanted.

After going through February undefeated after winning four games in a row and conceding one draw Tranmere looked like a shoe in for promotion but a drop in form meant it came down to the wire and by the second to last game of the season Tranmere still hadn’t secured fourth place.

On Friday the 12th May Tranmere would entertain Rochdale at Prenton Park in a must win game if they didn’t want another fifth place finish. Even if Tranmere managed to beat Rochdale promotion wasn’t guarantee and it was likely it would come down to the last game of the season.

For many the game was somewhat of a forgone conclusion as Rochdale’s season had not been successful as they languished near the foot of the table but as the teams came out of the tunnel to 12,000 fans cool heads were needed to ensure this game was win.

The cool heads seemed to prevail as Tranmere took the lead after Stevens managed to fire in a shot from a Johnny King cross. Tranmere ramped up the pressure on Rochdale and eventually it paid off as Hudson managed to score a second for Rovers on the 42 minute.

After the half time team talk Russell sent Tranmere out feeling optimistic that the win was now a given. However the cool heads of the first half seemed to vanish as Storeton push Rochdale player Calder in the penalty area. Six minutes into the second half Rochdale were made the score 2-1 bringing the win for Tranmere suddenly into question.

With Tranmere dominating the first half it was now Rochdale’s turn to dominate as they pressured the Rovers goal. Not long after scoring the penalty Jenkins for Rochdale sent the ball flying into the box with Calder only needing a touch to equalise but he failed to reach the ball.

On the sixtieth minute though the game was finally put to bed as Williams managed to put the ball in the back of the Rochdale net from a Hill throw in. From this point on Tranmere dominated the game again but failed to add anymore goals to their tally.

The 3-1 win for Tranmere meant that after five seasons of Fourth Division football Tranmere would be returning back to the Third Division. Luckily for Tranmere results went their way meaning the Rochdale game secured their promotion.

With promotion secured –only for the second time in the club’s history- the crowd invaded the pitch to cheer on the home team and the celebrations could now begin. In the changing rooms the champagne was popping and the celebrations were being led by the club’s Scottish contingent Bill Bothwell the acting Chairman, the Manager Dave Russell, team captain Eddie Robertson and the Tranmere legend George Yardley who even put his kilt on.

The success of that season had been in part down to the youth programme that the club’s Scottish contingent had built with the likes of Roy McFarland –who would later play of England- ensuring Tranmere could compete not only in the Fourth but also the Third Division. Unfortunately for McFarland he watched Tranmere win promotion as he was six weeks into an injury which saw him miss the final games of the season.

These Scots had taken Tranmere back to their ancestral home of the Third Division, a division they help form in 1921 and even managed to win it in 1938.

The death of Sir Tom Finney has brought many memories and stories of the great 1950s footballers. The 1950s saw footballers with clean cut haircuts, jobs and a pride to play for England.

The 1950s saw the rise of great names such as Stanley Mathews, Stan Mortensen, Billy Wright and Nat Lofthouse who have all been described as some of the best players to ever grace the game.

Football in England by the 1950s was held up as the pinnacle and a model which should be followed across the world. However the rest of world was not following the English model and this was made clear in the first World Cup England attended in 1950. The England team which included some of the great names were humiliated after being knocked out early by the USA.

The flaws of English football were again put on full display as in 1953 Puskas and the Hungry team defeated England 6-1 at Wembley. Yet such humiliating defeats did not dampen the faith fans had in these giants of 1950s football.

At Prenton Park one player who perhaps isn’t listed among the usual suspects of great 1950s footballers is Harold Bell. This legend of Prenton Park was a one man club who was with Tranmere from 1939 until 1960.

A young Harold Bell joined Tranmere as the country prepared for war at the age of just fifteen. With the out break of war the Football League suspended all leagues until hostilities ended. Alongside this players from the first and reserve teams were draft into the war effort whether at home or abroad.

For the fifteen year old bell this lack of players gave him a rare opportunity to play first team football even if it was against weakened sides. The then coach Jimmy Moreton saw the potential of young players such as Bell and spent much of his time coaching the youngsters.

The youth programme took a massive blow however as Moreton died in 1942 but he had in his short time been instrumental in the development of players such as Bell. Bell too had great respect for Moreton and he was one of the pole bearers at his well attended funeral.

Bell’s debut for Tranmere seemed to show a career full of goals as the sixteen year old scored a hat trick beating Bradford 6-4 in 1941. However it was felt Bell’s skills would best be severed at centre half and later full back. During his professional career Bell would only manage another eleven goals.

After making around two hundred appearances for Tranmere during the war in 1946 Bell would make his first League appearance as the Football League began again after a seven year absence.

Unfortunately however the game wasn’t the greatest success for Bell as they lost 4-1 to Rotherham at Prenton Park. What Bell did not realise was that day he would embark on a record breaking career.
For nine seasons Bell went on to made 401 league appearances, never missing a game until 1955 when he was finally dropped to the bench. 401 consecutive appearances is still a Football League record and in all Bell would make 633 appearances.

The year bell missed his first game in nine seasons was also his testimonial year and Tranmere welcomed Bolton Wanderers to Prenton Park. The game made the front page of the Brikenhead News who may have been somewhat awestruck that the legendary Nat Lofthouse who was part of the Bolton Team.

Attendance at the testimonial was one of the highest in the club’s history for testimonial as twelve thousands fans packed into the still relatively small Prenton Park. In an age when player’s wagers were capped and many had second jobs the £1,500 raised by for Bell was welcomed gratefully, especially to Bolton who donated £1,000 to the fund.

Bell continued on with Tranmere until 1960 but the aged player could no longer compete in the now fast paced game. After leaving Prenton Park he joined Peter Farrell at Holyhead and even managed the club briefly before returning to his home town of Liverpool.

Back in Liverpool he became the manager of a Littlewoods Social Club and later died in July 1994.

Bell may not be remembered alongside the likes of Finney, Lofthouse or Mathews outside of Prenton Park but he still a true legend of the game.

The late 1980s and 1990s saw one of the most successful periods in Tranmere’s history with the club climbing up the league tables at an unstoppable rate. Along the way the club even picked up its first major trophy since the 1930s in the Leyland Cup.

Promotion to the Premiership to many was a given and the chance to compete against the biggest club’s in the world was no longer a distant dream. The increased success of the club also saw the possibility of competing in Europe one day.

At the end of the 1991-92 season Tranmere had finished 14th in the Second Division but the 1992-93 season had the billing to be one of the club’s most successful seasons. With the addition of the likes of John Aldridge Tranmere were one of the favourites to be promoted to the newly formed Premier League.

But early on in the season the club found itself booking flights to continent to compete in an international cup competition, The Anglo-Italian Cup. Original formed in the 1970s it was a competition between the top teams of the two second division leagues in Italy and England.

The tournament had failed to capture the imagination of the footballing world in the 1970s and the cup was abolished in 1973, however the organisers resurrected the competition in 1992.

To be in with a chance of competing in the Anglo-Italian Cup Tranmere first needed to qualify in a mini league with Wolves and Peterborough. Despite only securing a draw against Peterborough and losing 2-1 to Wolves Tranmere still qualified for their first major European competition.

All the qualifying clubs were then arranged into groups and Tranmere found themselves in Group B alongside Derby, West Ham, Bristol, US Cremonese, Cosenza, Pisa and AC Rggiana.

Tranmere’s first game was against AC Reggiana in Reggio d’Emilia which was a small medieval town just outside Bologna. So on the 10th November the Tranmere team boarded a chartered flight to their first European game.

The flight itself included the team, management, directors and 120 supporters. For everyone else they had to find their own way to this rarely visited Italian town. How fans made it to this somewhat distant outpost were varied but many found ways from cars, trains and hoping off coach tours to reach the Italian town.

The Mireabello Stadium was fairly modern and could hold 13,800 supporters and as the Tranmere fans entered the ground the Ultras called the ‘ghetto boys’ let of flares.

For Tranmere’s first game on foreign soil since the 1970s the game was a major let down as neither side managed to find the back of the net. The players did however receive large Parmesan cheese each as a memento of the time in Reggio d’Emilia.

The next game was at home against US Cremonese, the first foreign visitors to Prenton Park since Victoria Berlin in the 1950s. The Italians play was not entertaining with body checking and hacking being their main tactic for the game.

Tranmere went ahead in the first half through Chris Malkin but early in the second half Florjancic equalised for US. Corrado Verdelli made it 2-1 to US Cremonese and after Aldo missed a penalty the final whistle blew with Tranmere yet to find a win.

Hoping for better fortunes slightly less Tranmere fans headed out to Pisa and the Arena Garibaldi for the next leg. The weather in the city was appalling with the rain beating down onto the pitch making playing conditions difficult. The game was supposed to be re-arranged but the referee feeling sorry for the 250 travelling fans let the game go ahead especially as the tickets had cost £45.

Although the conditions were poor it played into the hands of the Tranmere team who were used to muddy pitches. Tranmere secured their first win after Kenny Irons rounded the keeper in the 57 minute. The Pisa team that day included a young Christian Vieri who would later make a name for himself at Juventus, Inter Milan and as one of Italy’s top goal scorers for the national team.

The final game was against Cosenza at Prenton Park which Rovers won 2-1 but it wasn’t enough to qualify for the knock out stages. Derby County beat AC Reggiana which left Tranmere third in Group B.

Derby went all the way to the final held at Wembley where they lost to Cremonese. Tranmere failed to find success in the Anglo-Italian Cup but the 1992-93 season became one their most successful finishing fourth in the First Division and only failing to reach the Premiership after losing 5-4 on aggregate to Swindon Town in the Play-Offs.

Although Tranmere didn’t find success in Europe that season they would get one more chance to prove their worth on the international stage…

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The 1950s saw Football in England challenged for the first time, as traditional styles of play were questioned. As the founders of the game countries from around the world tried to catch up but few teams could beat the physical and winger orientated English style.

The game was changing however and clubs like Tranmere needed to make steps to ensure their survival. For Tranmere Rovers this meant the handing the team over to Noel Kelly in 1955 as player-manager.

Tranmere’s post war seasons had been distinctly average at times with little progress being made. But with spectator numbers at the highest in the club’s history the money was there to push for promotion. Kelly was seen as a new start for the club’s more modern style of management.

Previous to Noel Kelly the club had never really had a manager in the modern sense, with coaches dealing with the training and the role of picking the team falling to the Board. Kelly however was not successful and was relieved of his duties in 1956.

A replacement was not found until the following season when Peter Farrell took over the management of the team as a player-manager. The Irish international joined Tranmere from Everton for £2,500 much to the glee of many fans as the Birkenhead Advertiser stated ‘Unquestionably, this bold move by the club was met with the supporter’s whole hearted approval.’

Linking up with his old team mate Tommy Eglington, Farrell brought about a very professional style of football to the club.

Eglington had joined Tranmere from Everton under Noel Kelly and was instrumental in persuading his old team mate Farrell to join Tranmere. Although Eglington’s career was very much in its later stages by the time he joined Tranmere he still made over 170 appearances and scored thirty six goals.

With Farrell’s professional way of playing alongside Eglington’s skills Tranmere could face their first hurdle of the season, securing the club’s place in the new Third Division.

Previously the Third Division had been separated into two leagues North and South but by the end of the 1950s the Football League intended to merge the two divisions and create the Four Division for the weaker of the two leagues.

In the 1956-57 season Tranmere had finished second from bottom which in the 1957-58 season would have seen the club relegated to the new Forth Division. Farrell joined Tranmere twelve games into the 1957-58 with the team only having two wins to their name. In Farrell’s first twelve games he managed to notch up eight wins.

But the season was long and the poor start made it a hard slog to secure a Third Division place. It came down to the last game of the season against Wrexham at home where a crowd of just under 20,000 turning out. In front of the club’s largest home crowd for a league game (a record that still stands today) Tranmere beat Wrexham 2-1 securing their place in the new Third Division.

The style of football being played at Prenton Park was nothing new as clubs across the country heavily relied on fast wingers like Eglington to put the ball in the box. But the experience of both Farrell and Eglington helped professionalize the whole team into a tighter unit.

For the next three seasons Tranmere play was has been described as their most attractive football with Farrell and Eglington professionalizing the style of play. However the two aged players could not carry the squad and with no funds to bring in new players the team’s performance slipped and in the 1959-60 season Tranmere were almost relegated.

The writing was on the wall for Farrell and by December of the 1960-61 season he parted company with the club. Eglington too left the club in 1961 not before a testimonial against an Irish XI.

Farrell may have given club a more professional style of football but he was already a dinosaur of modern football by the time he reached Prenton Park. The over reliance on wingers had been shown to be disastrous in 1953 when the undefeated England team were humiliated by Hungary 6-3 at Wembley, whose tactics and formations are more akin to today’s game.

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Seven years without the Football League had come to an end and Tranmere were gearing up for the new season. By August 1946 Tranmere were calling back their players to prepare for the up coming season.

The Club’s Secretary-Director Mr Trueman had the important task of replacing the first team Manager and Trainer Billy Ridding who had left the season before. Ridding had been put in place during the war after one of Tranmere’s greatest legends died suddenly in 1942. Jimmy Moreton who had been with Tranmere since 1910 as a player and then Trainer/Manager died of a stomach complaint in 1942 leaving a hole in the club Ridding could never fill.

As fans waited to hear who would be leading Tranmere into the 1946-47 season shocking news came out of Prenton Park as the Mr Trueman resigned from the Club after twelve years of services.

During the War Trueman had been running the Club almost single handily with so many of the Board involved in the War effort. After the war he continued to run the club without always consulting the still incomplete Board. Whilst trying to transfer Edward Chapman from Oldham the Board had written to the Oldham say Trueman did not have the backing of the Tranmere Board for any deal due to the lack of Board members.

Feeling incredibly hard done by Trueman offered his resignation at the Board meeting. Many of the other Board members let out cries of no but Trueman’s mind had been made and he left the Club he helped survive during the War.

In Trueman’s final statement as the Club Director he stated ‘Tranmere Rovers have had many ups and downs. If the Club is well managed, the desire to ape your betters resisted, and not be coerced by public opinion, you will be all right. You have got to manage on a strict budget, and that fact must always be remembered.’ The board then thanked Trueman for his years of service.

The Board meeting also announced the appointment of the new Trainer and Manager Tommy Jones. Jones had played for Rover between 1929-26 before joining Sheffield Wednesday and later Manchester United. During the War he had been the assistant trainer at Watford.

With the trouble at board level resolved and a new manager in place the club now needed to prepare for the up coming season. With 42 players on the books including youth players, amateurs and professionals the first pre season training was set to be busy.

As the new members of the Board made their way to the training ground they were somewhat surprised to see only five playing staff. Harold Bell, Benny Jones, ‘Lol’ Hodgson, Gil Alldis and Tommy Bryom were kicking a ball about at the training ground.

The absence of so many was not surprising when you consider so many players were still amateurs and were at work during the Thursday morning training session. Others either didn’t live in the area or were still waiting to be de-mod.

Further troubles hit the club as a break in at Prenton Park’s dressing rooms saw the club reduced to only having two footballs and not enough kits for the first teams. Everton loaned Tranmere six balls and it was hope replacement kits would be found before the start of the season.

As well as the damaged dressing room Prenton Park was not looking its best for the start of the 1946-47 season. A lack of materials and labour meant that five years after the Borough Road stand was bombed it still had not been repaired and the old hated concrete wall surrounding the pitch had not been replaced due to the lack of wood. The Kop too was in a poor state, after years of neglect weeds had taken hold and it resembled a meadow more than a stand.

The opening game of the season was to be against the Rotherham United at home, the same fixture they had played at the opening of the short lived 1939-40 season. The FA saw not reason in creating a new fixture list as so few games of the 1939-40 season fixtures had been played so they used the same one for the 1946-47 season.

On the afternoon of the 31st August 1946, almost seven years to the day, Tranmere fans wandered down to Prenton Park to watch the same fixture against Rotherham like they had done in 1939. This time however the fear of war was gone and a new dawn was breaking at Prenton Park as a new generation of players took up the torch of the 1939 team.