Super White Army - Tranmere Rovers Football Club


May 10, 2018
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Super White Army - Tranmere Rovers Football Club


Tranmere Rovers Football Club is a professional association football club based in Birkenhead, Merseyside, England. They currently play in the English League Two, the 4th tier of the English football pyramid, where they have been for the past two seasons, finishing 9th and 7th since their relegation from League One in the 2019/20 season. Tranmere have been a bit up and down over the years, dropping as low as the National League, but if we go back to the late 90s, they were a regular in the aim is to return them to that sort of level and go one step further to the promised land of the Premier League.

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The foundations are in place to get Tranmere moving back in the right direction. They're valued at nearly £4.5 million, have a healthy bank balance of £1.2 million and have some decent training and youth facilities for a club as low as League Two.

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Only four sides have a bigger stadium in the division as well, with our home, Prenton Park, boasting a 16,582 capacity! Those with bigger are Bradford, Carlisle, Swindon and Doncaster.

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We have healthy 3,800 season ticket holders as well and I'd expect attendances to be pushing 10,000 which is decent for this level. Over 50% of our supporter base is core and hardcore, so those attendance targets are very achievable despite the low level we currently play at.

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As far as the board goes, they would like to see us get back to League One within the next 3 seasons, but for this year a top half finish would be sufficient. With the club £1.7 million in debt, the off field target is to focus on making the club self sustainable.

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Which is probably why I have no transfer budget to play with in my first pre season at the club.

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The squad is a big one though, so I might be able to raise a little bit of cash by offloading a couple of players. My assistant clearly thinks we have a squad with plenty of decent players across most positions too based in his star ratings on current ability.

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Certainly one of the best is left back Ethan Bristow who has just joined the club from Reading. The 20 year old has plenty of scope to thrive at this level and if we move up the leagues, he could improve and grow with the club.

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In fact, both full back positions are well covered with excellent players as Josh Dacres-Cogley is over on the right and he's pretty awesome too (for League Two anyway).

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A position we may need to try to find a way to improve quite quickly is up front. Kane Hemmings is the best we have to offer in the striker department, but he doesn't exactly set the world alight with his profile and he only managed 8 goals in 22 games last season which isn't promotion level form from your main front man.

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With the players I had available in the squad (and no signings being made as of yet), this is the tactic I have created. It focuses on both our full backs getting forward and making as much use of them further up the pitch (as they are our best two players). With both full backs pushing on, I wanted to set up with two defensive midfielders to provide plenty of cover and not leave us exposed when we attack the wings. However, both DM roles are on support rather than defence so although they will sit deep, they should move into the midfield to support the play when we have the ball. The attack minded centre mid pushes on to join the front three and effectively give us a diamond attack.

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The tactic performed extremely well in pre season, which included fantastic wins over Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham! We go into the new season with plenty of confidence!

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That confidence is not shared by the bookies though who only fancy us for a mid table finish this year.

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Our first game would be against a Hartlepool side that are expected to struggle this year and be well and truly involved in the relegation battle, so a home win was very much expected on the opening day.

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It was in the 19th minute that we were in front via Brad Walker, who arrived in the box late to hammer home a powerful strike into the roof of the net from a corner. We were dominant throughout the rest of the first half, having another 8 chances at goal to Hartlepool's 1, but we failed to score again before the break. We continued to create chances in the 2nd half, but Kane Hemmings was struggling, so was replaced by Joel Mumbongo on the hour mark. However, he had no impact either despite having a couple of good opportunities himself. Despite being pretty poor in front of goal though, we did just about secure an opening day victory thanks to a solid defensive performance from the lads.

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We'd stay in the North West for our first away day of the season, making the trip up to Cumbria to face Carlisle. And we made it 2 wins from 2, looking much more assured in front of goal in this one! Four goals, four different goalscorers...happy manager!

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The Papa John's Trophy is not something I'm particularly focused on (unless we get to the latter stages) but I do feel we have been handed a group we can qualify from!

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Talking of cup competitions, our next game would be in the first round of the Carabao Cup, taking on fellow League Two side, Crewe.

We're out of the competition after a 0-0 draw and a penalty shootout and we only really have ourselves to blame after another bad day in front of goal at home. 20 shots at goal and only 3 attempts were on target and that simply isn't good enough.

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Back in the league it was another draw, although it never should have been! Not only did we batter the Northampton goal for 90 minutes, but we also threw away a 2-0 lead! Disappointing to have to settle for a point here.

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I've been in charge of the club for nearly a couple of months now and I finally made my first signing for the club. Faysal Bettache has joined on a free transfer to help boost numbers in central midfield and provide competition for places. Bettache was released in the Summer by QPR and I think he can have an impact here.

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Bettache made an appearance from the bench as we beat Tranmere with Kane Hemmings scoring a double to ensure the 3 points.

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Four games into the season and our unbeaten start sees us sit 2nd and level on points with both Doncaster and Crewe. A promising start to my Tranmere career.

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Rochdale were up next for us and thanks to a Josh Hawkes double, we extended our unbeaten start to the season to 5 games.

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Wholesale changes were made to the starting lineup to play Leeds youngsters in the Papa John's Trophy and it didn't effect our form one little bit as we cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win.

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We'd already played Crewe and drew 0-0 in the cup this season (knocked out on pens) so I was keen to get a bit of revenge for that back in the league and we did just that. The score was 2-0 but it could have been so much better based on the stats.

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We followed that up by despatching of Stevenage pretty easily, before a disappointing draw against 21st placed AFC Wimbledon. We weren't great against Wimbledon either and could easily have lost the game in the dying minutes if they had taken either of two really good chances they had!

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As I've already said, the Papa John's Trophy is not a priority for me this year, so will be used to rotate the squad and give rare starts to some fringe players. I did exactly that against Bolton, who proved too strong for my second string, which is no surprise considering they are flying high sitting 3rd in League One.

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If we beat Crewe in our final game, we will still go through to the knockout stage though.

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With the first team pretty much fully rested, I expected a much better performance that I actually got against Grimsby! So gutting as well to concede a goal with the clock on 94:52! Two points dropped!

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We would have to be much better in our next game as it would be a top of the table clash between 1st and 2nd.

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Sutton took the lead on 8 minutes with their first shot of the game, but it was us who took the initiative into half time after Tom Davies equalized with a headed effort from a free kick before Regan Hendry's spot kick ensured we took a 2-1 lead into the break. The second period saw neither team create that much and game simply fizzled out which suited us as we take a massive 3 points.

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Immediately after that, we had another top of the table clash against Leyton Orient who had leapfrogged Sutton into 2nd over the previous round of fixtures.

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But just before that game, I received some awful news. The one position I don't have huge amounts of cover for is centre back, so to lose Tom Davies for the next 2 months is a massive blow!

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Especially as only Josh Dacres-Cogley has a better average rating for us so far this season!

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With Davies missing from the lineup, we struggled and concede 3 goals (and 4 goals) in a game for the first time this season as we are well beaten by Orient. It remains to be seen whether this is a knock on effect of Davies being out of the side, or whether it's just that Orient are one of the best (if not the best) teams in the league.

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Our first league defeat of the season is enough for us to lose top spot in the table, but it's still been an impressive start to the season for us now 11 games in and we have a nice 8 point buffer back to 8th placed Hartlepool...I'm looking at them as I think to reach the playoffs this year would be a great achievement considering we were tipped for mid table obscurity.

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Gillingham have made a terrible start to life in League Two after their relegation last season and sat 23rd in the table coming into our game. And we piled on the misery for the Kent club, with a decent win at Priestfield. It took us a while to get that 2nd goal, but Kane Hemmings 74th minute strike was a worldie as he vollied a thunderous effort into the back of the next for 15 yards out and that was the catalyst for us to go on and win the game by a big margin in the end.

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Everyone apart from the keeper was rotated for the last group game in the Papa John's Trophy against Crewe. For the second time this season, we faced off in a penalty shootout against Alexandra and after losing the first one in the Carabao Cup, five perfect penalties this time round ensured we won this one.

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With the penalty shootout wins giving a bonus point in the group stage of this competition, that ensured we finished 2nd and progress to the knockout stages with Bolton. A decent achievement considering I've played nowhere near my best team in any of the three games.

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We had 4 league games to play over the next 10 games and I'd targeted us with 7 points from those. However, the lads went beyond that and we picked up another 10!! Excellent work and to concede only 1 goal in those games with Tom Davies missing from the side is brilliant.

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A major reason for that has been the emergence of Ben Hockenhull who has come in for Davies and really stepped up to the plate so far.

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The first round of the FA Cup had pitted us against League One opposition in the form of Charlton Athletic and with them sitting in the playoff spots in the division above, they would be hot favourites to progress.

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But we're in good form at the moment and confidence is sky high so it's us who go through to the 2nd round after a great result!

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It will be more League One opposition up for us in the next round.

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But for now, it was back to League Two action and we faced a Newport County side that had beaten Dartford 6-1 in the FA Cup the week before. However, that didn't seem to give them any added confidence for this game and we win pretty easily. After 17 league games, we now have more goals than anyone else.

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And it's clear that down our left flank is where we are most dangerous. Both Josh Hawkes (AML) and Ethan Bristow (LB) are in the top 2 for most assists in League Two so far this year.

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Hawkes bagged another assist as we made light work of Donny in our next match as well. Kane Hemmings bagged a goal and an assist with a good all round performance as well, but it was goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt that picked up the man of the match as he made some great saves to keep the clean sheet!

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We are flying at the moment and have opened up a 6 point lead at the head of the division. We are also 10 points clear of 4th in the automatic promotion spots and a massive 16 points clear of 8th!

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Although things are going well in the league, we are out of the Papa John's Trophy though, falling at the hands of Liverpool's youngsters, who scored a late, late winner to knock us out.

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With things going so well in the league this season, the board have offered me a new 2 year deal at the club!

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In the FA Cup, we managed a 2-2 draw at MK Dons, which will force a replay back at our place. However, we have to feel we missed an opportunity to progress here as they had to play the whole second half with 10 men and we were already 1-0 up at that point!

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Back in the league, we batted Walsall's goal for 90 minutes...I mean, we really hammered it. So when they equalized in the 84th minute, I was completely ****** that it looked like we were going to throw points away. But just 4 minutes later, Kane Hemmings bagged the winner to ensure we got the deserved victory.

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Hemmings has 4 goals and an assist from his last 4 league games and that form is good enough for him to win the Player of the Month award for November.

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Whilst there is a manager of the month award for me too. My second in a row as I won it in October as well.

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With only a 3 day break before we took on Swindon, there were a lot of tired legs in the team and I had to rotate a few players. It wasn't ideal against one of the better sides in the division, but two players that had retained their position in the starting lineup both scored first half goals to put us 2-0 up at the break. Things were going nicely to plan and when Josh Hawkes scored his second of the game just 2 minutes into the 2nd half, it was game over. From there, we went on to score two more and the win was emphatic.

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It was the perfect confidence boost going into our FA Cup replay against MK Dons and we went on to thrash them to put us into the 3rd round of the competition. Kane Hemmings was bang on form again, netting himself a hat trick!

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After scoring pretty freely in our last couple of games, we couldn't carry that into the league game against Mansfield and have to settle for a 1-1 draw despite dominating throughout.

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Against Crawley, we were much, much better! I even gave top scorer Hemmings a rest and Mumbongo took his opportunity bagging himself a brace.

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It was 1st against 3rd as we took on Barrow next and it's another big result in our favour with Mumbongo again getting himself on the scoresheet after I kept him in the side after his good performance against Crawley.

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Gillingham are propping up the league and had only won 3 games all season, so I expected no trouble from them. And as expected, I got no trouble from them as we win one of the easiest games we've had all season.

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From the Gills who are 24th, our Boxing Day fixture saw us face 23rd placed Walsall. But they proved to be much tougher than anticipated and we have to settle for a single point.

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We quickly got back to winning ways though finishing off the year 2022 with a comfortable home victory against Grimsby.

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That win means we are a massive 18 points clear at the top of the table with 20 games to go! It's been a pretty incredible run to this point and I don't think it's too early to be saying I expect to be playing in League One next year.

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As the January transfer window opens, I immediately move to add a new arrival to the squad. 19 year old centre back, Louie Holzman, comes in from Reading on loan for the rest of the season and will provide vital cover in the back line.

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And the awards for December are announced as I lift my 3rd Manager of the Month in a row.

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We kicked off 2024 with a win over Sutton. A great result over one of the sides challenging for a playoff berth! They took the lead with a stunning shot that no keeper would have stopped, but we fought back well to win by a good margin in the end.

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It was time to turn our attention back to the FA Cup and a 3rd round clash with QPR. They're not quite a big enough name for a sell out at Prenton Park, but we should still have a good earner out of it with just shy of 12,000 supporters expected.

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Although we went out (as expected), I think we did enough to make our fans proud here. We were very much in the game right up until the 86th minute when they got their second and held our own throughout...actually dominating possession against the club from two levels up!

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Time for another new arrival and this is a really good one that could and should be a big factor in getting us over the line to promotion this year. Ryan Tunnicliffe came through the system at Manchester United and has played all of his football at higher levels for the likes of Fulham, Millwall, Luton and Portsmouth! He is a massive coup for us in League Two and immediately becomes one of my best players!

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Leyton Orient were the only side to have beaten us in the league this season and they would be our next opponents. And again we struggled a little against them, but in the end I was happy to take the point as they were piling on the pressure late in the game after Luke Robinson saw red for us.

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Three games in a week resulted in three more victories and we are marching towards the League Two title without too many issues right now! In the most recent fixture against Rochdale, Ryan Tunnicliffe got on the scoresheet for the first time since joining the club, whilst it was good to see Tom Davies scoring for the first time since his return from injury too.

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That would lead us into a top of the table clash against 2nd placed Crewe. However, it's mad to think that our nearest pursuers are actually 21 points behind!

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It was a close game on the stats, but we fear nobody right now and it's another 3 points chalked up! Tunnicliffe is coming into his own now, getting on the scoresheet for the second game running, whilst Kane Hemmings banged home another to confirm his status as the league's current top goalscorer.

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We had a very rare off day at Stevenage in our next game though and fell to only our second league defeat of the season with a narrow 1-0.

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It brings to an end a 21 game unbeaten streak!

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We only managed a draw against 4th placed Wimbledon as well, which makes it the first time all year we have gone back to back games without scoring.

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All of a sudden, our form is taking a bit of a dip as we only manage one win from our next three games as well. I have to ask the question if the lads are just taking their foot off the gas as we have such a commanding lead in the division and automatic promotion looks pretty much nailed on already anyway.

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I mean, with a 20 point lead and only 9 games remaining, you couldn't necessarily blame the lads if they already had one eye on next season, but I do need to keep us focused to get over the line before we relax too much.

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I want to wish you luck but you're managing Tranmere. Hate them
Our form has really dipped and we are struggling to buy a goal at the moment and that continued against Doncaster with a 0-0 draw. That's our 3rd 0-0 in our last 5 games.

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And then out of absolutely nowhere, we have a little goalfest against Carlisle that ends 4-3 in our favour!

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And that was a result that confirmed promotion to League One for us, with still 7 games remaining!

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With promotion now confirmed, the budgets for next year can be determined. We'll have a healthy £700k to spend which is decent for League One and a fair boost to the wage budget as well. The board are putting the foundations in place for another successful campaign next year!

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With the hard work now complete, it was back to those boring 0-0 draws again!

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3rd placed Bradford were up next and they are chasing automatic promotion themselves. But coming from 2-1 behind to beat them is the perfect way to win the league title in front of our own fans!

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That brought us on to this year's youth intake which isn't amazing, but isn't terrible either!

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Gary Roberts is the best looking prospect from the bunch and could develop into a decent little striker.

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With the league title already wrapped up, our last few games were simply a formality. Nobody would have blamed us had we just switched off at that point, but the lads kept their professionalism and we remained unbeaten until the end of the season.

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Which sees us finish the campaign with 102 points, equalling Swindon's record total from the 1985/86 season. An incredible season for us in which we were top goalscorers and only lost 2 games all year!

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As the season came to a close, the board approached me with a view to increasing the youth level at the club! I ain't gonna say no to that!

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End Of Season 2022/23 Review

So an amazing season finished with us as League Two champions. Promotion was sealed with a long way still to go and we were confirmed champions shortly after. We made light work of League Two!

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A decent enough run in the FA Cup saw us reach the 3rd round and there is no shame in going out to Championship opposition. We made it through the group stages of the Papa Johns Trophy too. It would have been nice to get a little further in the Carabao Cup, but I'm not complaining.

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Squad Stats...

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Of the new arrivals, it was Faysal Bettache who was the signing of the season for us and he was pretty solid in centre mid. All the new players put a shift in though and did well to be fair.

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Best 11...

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As expected after a title winning season, the dressing room atmosphere couldn't be better and there is plenty of support for my management of the club.

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At this point, I simply have to point out my favourite player at the club, Josh Hawkes...simply because he has been so amazing for me in this first season. 21 goals and 11 assists in the league from 38 appearances is an immense return from our left winger!

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When you compare his general performance against other players in the league, he is far surpassing them in every area of the game.

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Club Awards...

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League Awards...

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Ethan Bristow was also named as the League Two signing of the season as well.

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The past season has seen us lose some of the core fanbase, but become more of a family club which I don't mind at all. We've gained an addition 1600 followers on socials and the supporters expect us to simply avoid relegation next season.

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The board's vision matches that of the fans...avoid relegation if we can next season. The new 5 year plan is to become an established League One side.

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Commercial Summary...

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Before I sign off for the Summer, I just quickly want to highligh Macauley Langstaff as the top goalscorer in the National League this past season.

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The reason I am highlighting it is because he'll soon be a Tranmere player. Once our transfer budgets were announced when we secured promotion, I made a bid for him and he is signing for us on 9th June when the window opens for a fee of £120k.

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Macauley Langstaff is now officially a Tranmere player...and so is George Moncur. I make him my second signing of the Summer as he comes in from Leyton Orient for a fee of £130k. He had a good season for them last year getting 6 goals and 11 assists whilst maintaining an average rating of 7.11. A good addition to the squad and a player that can cover both centre mid or down either wing if required.

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I then moved to bring in a new keeper. Kieran O'Hara signs from Colchester for just £33.5k. He is a considerable step up on what we had last year!

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I continued spending my transfer budget as I added Will Randall to the squad for £80k from Sutton United. He was amongst the leading assisters in League Two last season, bagging 10, along with 6 goals as well. He can play down either wing and will likely play an important role for us this year.

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My first loan signing of the Summer is Joshus Williams. The young right back joins for the season from Birmingham, where he has made 6 first team appearances so far. He'll get opportunities this year to show what he can do.

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Then seven players left the club with their contracts coming to an end. There were two I wanted to stay, but no matter what I did, I just couldn't get Tom Davies or Josh Dacres-Cogley to sign new deals.

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Really gutted about Dacres-Cogley as he was one of my best players and I think could have been a real asset in League One and possibly even in the Championship if we get there at some point.

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However, I do feel like I've picked up a pretty solid replacement in Jack Hunt who joins on a free transfer from Sheffield Wednesday. Hunt brings a wealth of experience playing at League One level and above, so is a great addition.

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With a couple of my centre backs leaving the club this Summer, I needed to recruit in that position as a priority. Riley Harbottle is the man I turn to pretty much straight away and he signs from Nottingham Forest for a fee of £40k. He spent last season on loan at Mansfield and helped them to an 8th placed finish in League Two. He played a pivotal role in a team that had the 4th best defence in the league.

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Next in was another loanee from our parent club, Liverpool. Luke Chambers will provide competition for Ethan Bristow at left back, but can also play centre back too and I'm sure his versatility will be important for us this year.

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Then another loan signing from another Premier League club. This time, an attacker, as Scott Banks comes in for the season from Crystal Palace. He looks a real attacking threat for League One level and could play a big role for us.

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To get three League One clubs all drawn in the same group for the Papa John's Trophy has to be pretty rare, but that's exactly what's happened to us this season and we'll do well to get out of this group.

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This is where the squad is now at. I still need a backup keeper, but overall I am quite happy with the shape of the team and the options I have across pretty much all positions on the pitch. There could yet be another centre back into the club (maybe - haven't decided if I need one yet), but our attacking options are plenty and full of talent!

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Last year, the tactic I used was focused around my best two players who were my full backs on both sides. However, this season I feel we have a more 'rounded and complete' team with good players all over the pitch, so I want to revert to a formation and tactical setup that allows us to attack from multiple angles on the pitch, so this is what I'll be running with at the start of the campaign.

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Although I have to admit I'm not entirely confident about it at this stage after a pre season that wasn't fantastic by any means.

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With the season about to start, it's no surprise to see recently relegated Reading and Millwall amongst the bookies favourites to go straight back up again. We are naturally expected to be down the bottom end, although the bookies do think we have enough about us to avoid relegation...just!

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I desperately needed a 2nd goalkeeper for the first team squad and just before our first game of the season, I got one. Nicholas Bilokapic is a 20 year old Australian keeper who comes in on loan from Huddersfield and he's actually good enough to challenge for the number 1 spot between the sticks.

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Our first game of the season would be a tough one against a Peterborough side that finished 10th last year and were highly tipped for at least a playoff spot this season.

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So it was a fantastic way to start our season by beating them. A solid defensive performance was the foundation for the win and Macauley Langstaff's debut goal was enough to take the 3 points.

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The season ticket sales are announced and we've gained ourselves an extra 1000 season ticket holders this season with playing at the higher level.

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We went out of the Carabao Cup at the first round stage last year, losing to Crewe on a penalty shootout, and we didn't have high hopes to go one better this season as we'd drawn Championship opposition.

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And we did go out again, but we can proud of our efforts, running Huddersfield close and giving them a really good game.

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Back in the league though, we were immense against Wigan. What a great display from my lads as we absolutely battered them, with Langstaff making it two from two for the club.

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10.8 wigan stats.JPG

I said earlier in my last update that I may still look to add a centre back to the squad and I moved to do just that. The reason being that it's not costing me anything to bring Tristan Crama here on loan from Bournemouth for the season and with his quality, it was a no brainer to bring him in to boost the numbers.

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Back to the action and our first league defeat of the season came at the hands of Derby County. Losing at Pride Park is not a shameful result at all though as they are likely to be very much in the promotion race this season, and we weren't exactly hammered either.

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10.10 derby stats.JPG

Even though I was pretty happy with my squad, I just can't resist a deadline day signing. Joe Newell was released in the Summer from Hibernian where he had made 82 appearances in the top tier of Scottish football. He joins us on a freebie and immediately becomes one of my best centre mids in the squad...he'll play a big role this season for sure.

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Newell went straight into the starting lineup against Doncaster and turned in a solid, if unspectacular, debut as we beat the bookies favourites to go down, with relative ease.

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10.12 donny stats.JPG

So four games into life in League One and it's fair to say it's been a good start for us!

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Meanwhile, we enjoyed a big win over Lincoln to kick off the group stage of the Papa John's Trophy!

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Macauley Langstaff has made an amazing start to his career here at Tranmere and it got even better with a scintilating performance against Wycombe where he bagged himself another 4 goals!

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11.1 wycombe stats.JPG

Back to back wins to nil followed against both Oxford and Portsmouth and people are taking note of Tranmere Rovers as not just relegation candidates this season! Langstaff again found himself on the scoresheet against Oxford, before picking up an injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks...Kane Hemmings came in for him against Portsmouth and grasped the opportunity though, leading the line and scoring a goal in the 4-0 rout.

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11.2 portsmouth.JPG

After such a flying start to the new season, the board are quick to snap me up for at least another 2 years.

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Hemmings scored another 2 goals and got an assist as well in a wonderful performance against Cambridge United, as we grab our biggest win of the season so far. It takes us to 6 straight wins in all competitions.

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11.4 cambridge stats.JPG

However, Kane Hemmings will now miss 2-3 months through injury after coming off in the dying minutes against Cambridge! Gutting!

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Then on top of that, we lose Joe Newell for nearly a month as well!

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On a more positive note, Tristan Crama picks up the young player of the month award for September, whilst I am awarded the manager honour.

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11.6 manager of month.JPG

Despite our injury woes, we just keep on winning as Plymouth become the latest team to fall to defeat against us. Langstaff returned from an injury of his own to come off the bench with 12 minutes to go and score a goal.

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11.7 plymouth stats.JPG

We progressed from our Papa John's group with a game to spare as well after beating Norwich City's youngsters pretty easily, with a rotated squad.

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League One would then throw up our most difficult game of the season (on paper) as we took on title favourites Reading. But we're on another ******* level right now and a totally dominant performance sees us chalk up another win, by a margin that could and should have been a lot bigger than it was.

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11.9 reading stats.JPG

Right at the other end of the scale, Morecambe are likely to struggle this year and that was confirmed even more after showing how little they offered in their match against us. I didn't even feel like we ever got out of 2nd gear in this one and still won very comfortably.

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11.10 more stats.JPG

I was starting to wonder if anyone could actually cope with us this season at the higher level and right then, just as those kind of thoughts start to creep in and over confidence is building, we are brought back down to earth by Millwall. Although the stats did suggest that this 3-0 result in their favour was entirely unjust.

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11.11 millwall stats.JPG

We put that Millwall result behind us right away, coming back with back to back victories over two of the sides that came up with us last year. Bradford took an absolute battering which saw Langstaff bag another hat trick!

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We're now 14 games into the season and we sit pretty at the head of the table, with a 4 point lead over Derby. More importantly though, we have opened up a 7 point lead over 3rd place! At the start of the season, the target was 50 points as that would be seen as enough to avoid relegation and it seems mad to think we have reached 36 so quickly!

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Our rivals, Bolton, have made a decent enough start to their season and came into our game in 6th place. However, they were still no match for us at all and a great performance from Scott Banks inspired us to a great win!

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12.1 bolton stats.JPG

We could only manage a draw away at MK Dons. On the balance of play, it looks like we edged it, but they created some really good chances and in the end I was happy to come away with the point.

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12.2 dons stats.JPG

It was time for our first venture into the FA Cup this season. I fully expected us to progress after we'd drawn National League South opposition in the form of Torquay. And it couldn't have proved to be any easier really!

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Our last game in the group stage of the Papa John's Trophy meant nothing really as we had already qualified for the knockout stage. I just took the opportunity to rotate things and keep my side fit and Harvey Saunders enjoyed his day up front, scoring a hat trick on our way to another easy win...I seem to be using the term easy win a lot more than I expected to this season!

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I'm still waiting for the wheels to fall off at some point this's got to happen at some point I'm convinced. But for now, we just keep on going and keep on impressing as we took another 10 points from a possible 12 over our next 4 games. That included smashing 6 past Cheltenham as well in our biggest win of the season so far.

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The game against Charlton saw Scott Banks score all 4 of our goals as he put in a 10/10 performance.

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And that would have gone a long way to him securing the Player of the Month award for November.

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So it's back to the cup action with two cup games in a week, starting with the Papa John's Trophy knockout stage, where we had drawn the U21s of Sunderland...who are now a Premier League side after promotion last year. Although, I'm not sure if that's going to last beyond a season as they currently prop up the top tier.

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I rotated the squad as I generally always do for this competition and the lads put in a good enough display to get us over the line and through to the next round.

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We will now face one of the best academies in the country in the next round and I might not get away with fielding a weakened side against them.

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FA Cup Second Round action and it was Wigan at home. A difficult tie on paper, but we had already beaten them 3-0 in the league this season. But we're going to need a replay if we are going to progress in this year's competition after a 2-2 draw here. We were 1-0 down for a long time, before 2 goals in 3 minutes put us in front, only to concede in the 91st minute meaning we'll now need to beat Wigan at their place.

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We had a couple more league games to take care of before that though and that started with an excellent win over Sheffield of the biggest teams in this division.

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12.12 wednesday stats.JPG

We made light work of Exeter as well with a 3-0 win that could very easily have been 6! We just refuse to let up at the moment in the league!

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12.13 exeter stats.JPG

22 games into the league campaign and we are building a little lead at the top of the table - not a massive one, but an impressive one when you consider second placed Derby haven't even lost a game this season yet!!

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Meanwhile, in the FA Cup, we made a mockery of the fact we needed a replay to get past Wigan and into the third round. Although, they did massively help us out when Max Power was sent off just 28 mins into the game.

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The Christmas and New Year period is always a busy one and this year was no different, as we played 4 games in 9 days. We started and finished with wins over Port Vale and Millwall, with a draw and a defeat in between. We should never have lost that Reading game though as we had 25 shots to their 4!!! It was nice to get a bit of revenge over Millwall though after they beat us quite comfortably earlier in the season.

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We then had a 5 day break before taking on Morecambe who I'd been quite vocal about in my recent press conferences about the fact I think they're the favourite to be relegated this season!

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So of course they played like they had a real chip on their shoulder and a 93rd minute equalizer earned them a point. Based on the stats, it was probably deserved so I won't have too many complaints.

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13.3 more stats.JPG

We'd have a couple of games break away from the league now for two cup games in the space of 5 days. That would start with the Papa John's Trophy against Man City U21s. It's a youth team that has plenty of players who could play regularly for us!

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But we dump possibly the best youngsters in the competition out of it! A comfortable win in the end where Kieron Morris put in a man of the match performance assisting all three goals.

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There's plenty of U21s sides left in the competition at the quarter final stage, but we will face off against fellow League One side Plymouth.

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In the FA Cup, we were expecting a sell out at home to Premier League Brighton. We'd be massive underdogs to progress!

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Although the scoreline went heavily against us (which was to be expected), we actually didn't do as bad as it suggests. We created 16 chances in this game and virtually matched the Premier League side on possession. It wasn't as bad as it initially looks!

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Even though it's against much higher level opposition, there is always a worry that being on the receiving end of a thrashing will have a negative effect on the team. However, that wasn't the case here as we return to League One with a solid home win over Bradford.

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13.9 bradford stats.JPG

But we weren't at the races against Leyton Orient and suffer what has to be classed as a shock defeat considering they are 20th in the table!

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13.10 orient stats.JPG

We quickly put things right against Shrewsbury though.

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13.11 shrews stats.JPG

We backed that up with another win against Wycombe as well, with Macauley Langstaff coming off the bench to get his 29th and 30th goals of the season!

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13.12 wycombe stats.JPG

There are just 15 games of the season to go and we retain our place at the top of the table, but Oxford and Derby are waiting to take advantage of any dips in form we might have. We should be all but nailed on for at least a playoff spot though which I absolutely would have taken at the start of the season.

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It's just the league title left for us to go for now as well, after we crashed out of the Papa John's Trophy at the hands of Plymouth. It was one of our worst performances of the season.

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The January transfer window passed us by this season without any additions to the squad.

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The main reason for that is that financially it wasn't viable for us to bring anyone in. Not because of the club's financial state, but more because anyone coming in on more than £300 per week would have seen us in breach of FFP rules.

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We've got 15 games of the season to go, but potentially none would be bigger than this. 1st vs 2nd as we take on Oxford United.

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Massive result....for Oxford! We took a 1-0 lead into the break and everything was going relatively smoothly, but Oxford came out a different side in the second half and turned the game on it's head.

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14.4 oxford stats.JPG

Portsmouth away was always likely to be a tricky fixture too and when we were 3-1 down on 47 minutes, it looked like we were staring another defeat in the face. However, the lads rallied and we fought back to earn ourselves a very good point!

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14.5 ports stats.JPG

Our next game against Cambridge would be my 100th in charge and I hoped we could mark the occasion with a win.

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And we came so close to doing so...within 60 seconds in fact! A 94th minute equalizer from Cambridge denied us the 3 points!

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14.7 cambridge stats.JPG

We follows that with a disappointing defeat against local rivals, Bolton. The wheels seem to be coming off as we approach the back end of the season and the timing couldn't be worse.

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14.8 bolton stats.JPG

We were now on a run of 5 games without a win in all competitions, so I didn't have the greatest level of confidence going into a tough fixture against the MK Dons. However, I changed up my pre match team talk, thrashing my arms with emotion and demanding a result from the lads and they duly delivered! Much, much better and hopefully this would get us back on track.

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14.9 dons stats.JPG

We followed that up with a win over Cheltenham, scoring 5 goals in the process. It's lucky we were on our A game in front of goal as defensively we were pretty dreadful. But we got the job done and at the business end of the season, that's all that matters.

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14.10 chelt stats.JPG

Our next two games were going to present us with two tough away days against a couple of sides that are both chasing down a playoff spot. Both Lincoln and Wigan sit 8th and 9th in the table and this would be a chance to show if we've got the minerals to go on and win this title or not.

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It's not very often you'll see back to back 5-3 wins but that's exactly what we achieved as we took on Lincoln first. Finding ourselves 2-0 down in the opening 6 minutes was a bit worrying, but again my lads show what they're made of and we come back to storm into a 5-2 lead before they got a late consolation. Langstaff made is back to back hat tricks as well.

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14.12 licoln stats.JPG

Macauley Langstaff picked up a minor injury in training and would miss the Wigan game, so I was nervous about our goalscoring ability without him. But I had no reason to be as we managed a couple of goals which was enough to get us the win. Worth noting we had two goals ruled out for offside and hit the post 3 times as well!!!

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14.13 wigan stats.JPG

Going into the last 7 games of the season and it's a 3 horse race for the title, but we have the advantage of a 4 point lead at the moment. We have still got a massive fixture against Derby to play, but then Derby and Oxford still have to play each other again as well which works in our favour!

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Going to be an exciting one end to the season, hopefully you can see it through
The first game of our 7 game run in was against Peterborough United, who came into the match 20th in the form table, so confidence wasn't exactly running high through our opponents. And we capitalised on that to record a 2-0 win.

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15.1 peter stats.JPG

Derby could only manage a draw against Cambridge United, so that means we have a 6 point lead over them back in 3rd now, which is most welcome as we still have to play them!

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23rd placed Doncaster Rovers were up next for us and if we want to win the league title, these are the games you have to win! We had an incredible 35 shots at the Donny goal, scoring 3 times, in what was a very easy victory!

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15.3 donny stats.JPG

At the end of March, it was an awards double at the club as Macauley Langstaff picks up the Player of the Month, whilst I took my 3rd Manager of the Month award too.

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15.4 manager of month.JPG

It was the big one up next! 1st vs 3rd as we invited Derby County to Prenton Park. It was a tight game which could have swung either way, but it was Krystian Bielik's headed effort from a corner on 76 minutes which seperated the sides and Derby take a big win to keep them in the title race!

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15.5 derby stats.JPG

Despite the disappointing result against Derby, we had reason to celebrate in the same week as the youth intake was announced and is being tipped as a potential golden generation.

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15 year old Spanish striker, Ivan Suarez, looks like an absolutely immense prospect and possibly one of the best youth players I've EVER had come through a system on any version of FM!

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Callum Whiting looks pretty decent as well!

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I brought Suarez off the bench for the last 20 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday, as we were winning the game comfortably and that makes him the youngest player to ever feature in the competition!

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15.9 youngest player.JPG

The win over Wednesday put us within touching distance of automatic promotion and even the League One title.

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George Moncur's low powerful strike was enough to gain us all 3 points against Exeter and that is enough to secure promotion to the Championship!! What an achievement!

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I'll have a cool £2 million to spend in the Summer to try to build a team that can compete in the 2nd tier!

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We needed a single point from our last two games to win the league title. And we got just that as we allowed things to go right down to the final day.

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Even if we hadn't picked up a point against Shrewsbury on the final day of the season, we still would have ended up winning the title as Derby failed to win.

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Champions for a second season running and back to back promotions is more than I could have ever dreamed when I took over the Tranmere job. On to the Championship we go!

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what an end to the season for you and what a player Suarez is going to be for you as well so be interesting to see how he develops for you
what an end to the season for you and what a player Suarez is going to be for you as well so be interesting to see how he develops for you

Possibly the best regen I've ever had on an FM save!