Archives for posts with tag: Johnny King

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.

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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.

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…

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.

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.

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As the season draws to a close Tranmere are within inches of reaching the play offs and maybe even automatic promotion. With a final push needed I thought it appropriate to talk about the greatest of all Tranmere’s legends Johnny King.

No other Tranmere Manager has brought the success that John King brought to the Club. He took Tranmere from the bottom of the Football League to within touching distance of the top level of English Football. Along the way he even added a trophy and a Wembley victory.

Although a true White, King wasn’t born on the Wirral or even Merseyside but instead Marylebone in London in 1938. However when war broke out in 1939 his family moved to Halewood.

As a boy King was a true sportsman excelling in both Cricket and Athletics, as well as football. He was Liverpool Sprint Hurdle Champion, opening batter for Liverpool Boys and played football for Liverpool Schoolboys.

In 1956 King signed for Everton as a part time player but also trained as a plumber and gas fitter. His first league game for the club was in 1957 against Preston a power at the time.

After a short stint at Bournemouth King returned to Merseyside when Walter Galbraith the then Tranmere Manager offered him a contract. King was the lynch pin in the Tranmere team for his seven years at the Club. One of his crowning moments being the 1968 FA Cup run which ended in front of 60,000 Everton fans.

King in 1968 joined Port Vale and later Wigan Athletic before he left football behind and became a window cleaner. But within 12 months Ron Yeats the then Tranmere Manager invited King back as a trainer. In 1975 Yeats was sacked and King was asked to manage Tranmere for the first time. After just one season at the helm King secured promotion into the Third Division. However by 1980 the club was still stuck in the Third Division and had lost several key players leading to the club being relegated. King left the club.

After a short break King went to manage Northwich Victoria and took them to Wembley twice in two years. After milling around a few other clubs and making Caernarfon a success full team King was invited back to Prenton Park in 1987.

King had an uphill battle from day one as he had five games to keep Tranmere in the Football League. On the final day of the season Tranmere beat Exeter and secured their place in the Football League next season.

After a season rebuilding the club Tranmere and King went from success to success. The new team was full of enthusiasm and Tranmere were promoted to the Third Division at the end of the 1988-89 season.

The following season Tranmere finished fourth and made the play offs only to be cruelly denied promotion by Notts County. However Tranmere’s season was by no means a loss as they won the Club’s first major silverware since 1938 in the Leyland DAF Cup.

In 1991 King led Tranmere to the Second Division after beating old rivals Bolton in the playoff finals 1-0. That season saw King take Tranmere to Wembley for the fourth time as the Club made the final of the Leyland DAF Cup for a second season but sadly lost 3-2 to Birmingham City.

With King at the helm Tranmere were within touching distance of the Premier League and in 1993 they reached the play offs only to be beaten by Swindon in the Semi Final. The following season they made the playoffs again but lost out to Leicester. In 1995 King made what would be his final push for promotion to the Premier League and once again made the playoff but again lost this time to Reading. John Aldridge was made player-manager the following season.

Although King did not secure promotion to the Premier League he inspired a run that saw Tranmere rise from the bottom of the Football League to in reach of the top. Even today his success is a source of inspiration and as we again push for promotion we should remember some of his wise words.

‘A football season is like a long sea voyage. Sometimes the wind is in your favour and you can make good headway but equally there will be times when you are becalmed. That’s when you have to stick to your course, believe in your crew and then hoist the sails when the wind changes so you can take advantage of it.’