Tranmere Rovers Season Preview: Norwood to shine?

With the 2018-19 League Two season coming into view, The Football Lab spoke to Tranmere Rovers fan Matthew Glazier (@matthew_glazier)…

You won promotion last season with 82 points, 13 fewer than the 2016-17 side that stayed down. Although on paper you hadn’t improved, would it be fair to say that you had that extra bit of drive in the play-off final?

The points difference can largely be attributed to a slow start to the 2017/18 season. We were stuck in a rut for the first two months but we were the best team in the division after clicking into gear. The experience of the play-off final defeat stood us in good stead when we took to the Wembley turf in May.

Jay Harris was one of those players who really stood strong at Wembley. Are you pleased he has signed a new contract and that Ollie Banks has joined from Oldham, or do you worry the midfield might miss the technical quality of Jeff Hughes?

Delighted that Jay Harris remains part of the squad. He’s a committed and tough-tackling midfielder who should get plenty of game time. Ollie Banks’ arrival has been heralded by the supporters after a successful loan spell and he seemed to do well with Swindon on loan last season too.

Goalkeeper Scott Davies kept 17 clean sheets last season, of which six, crucially, came during the team’s below-par opening two months. You must be pleased he has signed on for another two years?

Scott is someone that divides supporters. He seems to have a weakness setting himself when players shoot from range and can often be suspect from crosses. However, he’s been part of Tranmere’s promotion charges and deserves to have the jersey for now.

Steve McNulty didn’t seem to have the easiest time in the play-offs. Do you think a new centre-back – Mark Ellis or Manny Monthe – will partner Ritchie Sutton?

Ellis looks likely to be first choice centre-half considering his previous track record with Mellon. He turned down the chance to stay at Carlisle and did well alongside Clint Hill last term. Steve will probably be used sparingly and yes, Sutton and Monthe can cover in that position. However, Monthe can also play as a full-back and we have previously operated with three centre-halves too.

Eddie Clarke has left for Fleetwood this summer. Do you think he might have stayed if he had more often been trusted to start at left-back ahead of Liam Ridehalgh; and is Micky Mellon reluctant to take risks on young players?

Clarke’s lack of game time was a mystery to most fans considering what we saw in glimpses. Yes, I think Mellon does like to stick with tried and trusted players a lot of the time although Eddie was being linked to a jump up for most of last season, so leaving was inevitable.

Target man Andy Cook has gone to Walsall, on a free like Clarke. Does the club need to handle contract negotiations better?

Cook wasn’t actually starting for Tranmere in the past few months of 2016/17 season. It appears as though the season just gone was going to be Cook’s final season at the club, most of the best Tranmere players are on a decent contract and we have recently signed Paul Mullin from Swindon who is likely to start games.

Jake Caprice joins from Leyton Orient. Can he challenge Adam Buxton for the right-back spot?

Orient fans seem to have mixed views on him but it’s always good to bolster the squad and have options for each position. Buxton will still be first choice.

You’ve so far kept hold of 20-goal man James Norwood. Based on his performances in those big games, is he somebody who would relish the challenge of playing at a higher level?

Yes, Norwood’s finishing has improved a lot. His pace is a massive attribute, he can accelerate quickly and break from deep. League Two is probably his level but let’s see what the new campaign brings.

Larnell Cole looked a real threat in the play-off semi-final against Ebbsfleet. Do you think he is best suited to hugging the right touchline, or cutting in from the left?

I’d argue that he might be most dangerous playing centrally, behind the front two / one striker(s). He has a tendency to drift left to receive the ball but Cole is open to bags of improvement at a young age.

Ben Tollitt has had a torrid time with injuries over the last couple of years. Are you hopeful that we’ll see the best of him this year?

Hopeful rather than confident. Tolly was tearing it up a couple of years ago and injuries have set him back time and again. Maybe he’ll never return to his previous best but at least he’s got a full pre-season which might make a difference.

Tranmere aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I noticed Notts County signed Kane Hemmings and Krystian Dennis who should score goals in League Two. Lincoln should continue to be progressive and there’s a reason why Paul Tisdale has swapped lovely Devon for the franchise club.

Where will you finish?

I think third place is realistic. Mark and Nicola Palios will ensure we have one of the biggest budgets in the division, we will get one of the biggest gates and the spirit within the camp is fantastic. It’s never been a better time to be a Tranmere Rovers supporter.

Thanks to Matthew for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Tranmere can be found on We Love Betting from late July.