Tranmere Rovers: Remember Them?


By Pete H

It’s been a wild ride for Tranmere Rovers in recent years. Ups, downs, and – for a time – almost going hand-in-hand with Boro’. It’s a far cry from the early 1990s; Rovers more used to battling for a spot in the top flight at a time we’d yet to even make it to the non-league top flight. For a pair of clubs who had very different orbits for so long, something sent our respective journeys on a collision course. And, for a time, we even held the upper hand as the Wirral club plunged into non-league circles themselves. So, it seems like we have quite a bit to get through then…

Who are Tranmere Rovers Football Club?

In the beginning was the word and, for the Super White Army, that word was “Belmont”. This is a name that came about in 1884 when the team formed to give two cricket clubs something to get up to during the wild Wirral winters. The name stuck for a massive… one year. In 1885, Tranmere Rovers became the club’s official name and the rest was history. That’s exactly why we’ll now be taking a couple of hundred words to explain it.

After finding their feet in local competitions, Rovers started to make the step up after World War One. First, it was the Central League in 1919. Then, two years later, the call came from Football League HQ. The voice said: “We’re expanding, do you want in?”

It started a long association between the club and the Football League that would last almost a full century. More on that later. Promotion took them into the second tier in 1938 – but they fell straight back down. And, once World War Two was out of the way, Rovers would spend much of the next few decades in the bottom two rungs of the ladder. Fast forward to the 1990s, and they returned to the second tier after two promotions in three seasons.

Why do we know the Rovers?

Not content with what was now called Division One, the club set sights on a first appearance in the top flight. And, for three straight seasons, they came so close; losing in the playoffs on each occasion. An outing in the 2000 League Cup final couldn’t hide the fact that they were on a path in the wrong direction.  And, in 2001, relegation saw them drop into the third tier. At the time, it was called Division Two. Now, it’s called League One. And it’s where Boro’ would catch them.

What is our record against them?

To start, our record was up and down. In our first-ever meeting, Boro’ ran out 2-1 winners at the Lamex – despite having a man sent off. But we were properly outclassed in the return fixture as we went down by three goals. It didn’t stop us making the playoffs, obviously. But we didn’t go up. And we returned the following season to renew rivalries. At the helm for us was Gary Smith; for them it was Ronnie Moore.

The 2012-3 season saw us both set the pace in the early weeks of the season. Tranmere took on pole and we were leading the chasing pack. By the time we met in November, we’d fallen away. But we managed to hold them thanks to Greg Tansey‘s stunning late leveller. It wouldn’t be the case in March, however, when we fell to defeat at Prenton Park; again conceding three goals as the Sky cameras were present to see us go down 3-1.

For the pair of us, the 2013-4 season is better best forgotten. We finished rock bottom and they would join us in relegation to League Two, er, too. In a role reversal that campaign, we went to theirs first; drawing 0-0 and picking up our first point at their place. A 3-1 home win for us later on that season in March gave us a small glimmer of hope. But, in truth, it was never enough. It meant we’d write the next chapter together in League Two.

Tranmere Rovers: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 12 — W 3 — D 6 — L 3 — F 14 — A 17 — Pts 15 — WR 25%
Our last tango: Tranmere Rovers 0-1 Stevenage, 09 February 2021

What happened to them?

If 2013-4 was bad, the 2014-5 campaign was even worse for the Super White Army. You wouldn’t know it from a pair of 2-2 draws (first at theirs, then at ours), but we were aiming upwards – and they were staring downwards. Our unsuccessful playoff bid was disappointing in the end. But it didn’t compare to Tranmere, who were relegated for the second season on the spin; ending that long unbroken run in the Football League.

It took them three years to make it back, with two more playoff failures in-between. The upshot (if you can call it that) of their eventual promotion in 2018 meant that we were reunited; us and them kicking off the 2018-9 season at the Lamex. Boro’ squandered a two-goal lead to settle for another 2-2 draw. A 2-0 reverse at theirs later on in the season was one game that cost us a spot in the playoffs. For them, they’d finish sixth – and secure a second straight promotion.

Of course, nothing is ever simple in football and this is a story that isn’t over yet. The mess that was the 2019-20 season saw the Super White Army occupy the League One relegation zone due to the PPG calculations. Despite a reasonable-enough proposal for settling matters, they came back down. Both our 2020-1 games fell in the second half of the campaign; one of our patented 0-0 draws at home was followed up by a stunning Danny Newton cameo in a 1-0 win at theirs.

Rovers nearly booked an instant return to League One too. Well, we say “nearly”. Not for the first time, they lost in the playoffs; going down over their two-legged semi-final against Morecambe – who would ultimately secure promotion. In some ways, it’s maybe the Super White Army’s thing to lose in the playoffs. Why defy the norm? In others, perhaps the Prenton Park club had enough ups and downs in recent times and just wanted some stability.

So, we’ll see ’em again next term…

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Tranmere Rovers club profile

Leave a comment