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No Fear Of The 3rd Tier

Rovers have seen it all before in League One

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Posted: 31/07/19 | Updated 31/07/19

By | Matthew Evans | @M_R_Evans1



Hello and welcome to Deadly Submarine's 2019-20 League One countdown. Twelve months ago, we launched our inaugural countdown feature in preparation for Tranmere's return to the EFL. The response was incredible, and so we are delighted to be able to bring the feature back as we look ahead to Rovers' third-tier return.

With just three days until Rochdale visit Prenton Park for the opening fixture of the League One calendar, we will bring you a new piece every day until 2nd August, with each related to the number of days remaining in some manner.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@DSubmarine17), Facebook (@DeadlySubmarine) and our new Instagram account (@deadlysubmarineofficial) to ensure you keep abreast of the latest releases. Each new entry will be released at 6am on the appropriate date, so you should have plenty of time to digest each.

And if you do miss an instalment, you will find links at the bottom of each day's entry to take you back to any that may have escaped your attention.

Please find below our content for day eight in the 2019-20 countdown.

With just three days until the start of the League One campaign, the excitement is building for Tranmere's first third-tier campaign since 2013-14. As highlighted in day six of our countdown, there are some big name clubs awaiting Rovers in the coming months.

Whilst it may be useful for the SWA to approach the season with a sense of pragmatic realism, there is nothing to fear from a return to the third tier.

Prior to their 2014 relegation, Tranmere had enjoyed a run of thirteen consecutive seasons at League One level and over that time they went toe-to-toe with the best the division had to offer. From former European and domestic champions fallen on harder times, to bankrolled contenders ploughing through the divisions, Rovers have been fighting against those with greater resources for most of their life as football club.

Backed by the SWA, they have secured some significant results along the way. Here are the most notable reasons why there should be no fear of the third tier:

Tranmere Rovers 4 — 2 Sheffield Wednesday (27/08/04)

It took the former 4-time champions of England and 3-time FA Cup winners a season to adjust to life in the third tier following their relegation from the Second Division in 2002-03. Wednesday were determined to improve upon their 16th-placed finish from the previous campaign and would eventually go on to qualify for, and win, the 2004-05 play-offs.

Locked in a promotion battle with the Owls were Brian Little's Tranmere, who themselves would qualify for the play-offs later in the season helped by huge results such as this.

In front of 9,505 fans, goals from Ryan Taylor, Iain Hume, Calvin Zola and current assistant manager Michael Jackson secured a thumping victory for Rovers.

Nottingham Forest 1 — 1 Tranmere Rovers (30/12/06)

The former 2-time European champions, English champions and multiple-time domestic cup winners were relegated to the third tier in 2004-05 but were unsuccessful in returning at the first attempt. The following campaign, they would qualify for the play-offs before losing to Yeovil Town in the semi-finals.

Notwithstanding their unsuccessful promotion charge, they were a giant at League One level and had a formidable home record at the City Ground, losing just 3 times in the league season (Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United and Leyton Orient).

In this context, Tranmere's 1-1 draw, courtesy of former Forest striker Gareth Taylor's goal, was a brilliant result. They shouldn't have been surprised, however, having already secured a 0-0 draw at Prenton Park (23/09/06).

Leeds United 0 — 2 Tranmere Rovers (02/02/08)

The last club to win the English title under an English manager (Howard Wilkinson, 1991-92), the 3-time champions of England were in a Champions League semi-final against Valencia just seven years before playing in League One 2007-08.

With financial difficulties resulting in a 15-point deduction before start of the campaign, Leeds arrived at Prenton Park for their first game as a third-tier club fired up. After Chris Greenacre had put Rovers ahead, Leeds snatched a last-minute win thanks to a Tresor Kandol goal in front of the Cowsheds. Although the post-match antics of United boss Dennis Wise were completely disrespectful to Rovers, Tranmere would have the last laugh that season whilst Wise left for a behind-the-scenes role at Newcastle United in January.

Arriving at an expectant Elland Road on 2nd February 2008, Tranmere put in one of their best away displays as they swatted a Gary McAllister-led United aside on their own pitch. With Jennison Myrie-Williams unleashing a curling shot into the top corner to make it 0-1, former Leeds striker Ian Moore — son of Rovers' boss Ronnie Moore — secured the win with the second just three days after rejoining Tranmere from Hartlepool United.

Leeds were a fantastic side that season, their playing record equivalent to a 91-point season, which would have been enough for automatic promotion if it were not for their points deduction. That they still qualified for the play-offs after such a handicap reveals how good a result this was for Tranmere.

Tranmere Rovers 2 — 1 Leeds United (06/12/08)

Presumably buoyed by their brilliant on-field performance, Leeds were expected to take the next step in 2008-09 by securing promotion at the second time of asking. It didn't work out like that and Gary McAllister was a man under pressure coming into Leeds' visit to Prenton Park.

Having gone behind early, Tranmere rallied and completed the turnaround thanks to goals from Antony Kay and that man Ian Moore, who made it two goals in two appearances against Leeds since returning to Rovers.

McAllister was sacked on 21st December and Simon Grayson took Leeds to a play-off place, whilst Rovers fell agonisingly short following 'that' Cliff Byrne goal at Scunthorpe United.

Tranmere Rovers 2 — 0 Leicester City (11/03/09)

Having been relegated from the Championship the previous season, Leicester City started the rise that would ultimately lead to a Premier League title in the 2008-09 League One campaign. Unlike many other fallen giants, Leicester were successful in achieving an immediate return to the second tier, winning the League One title under Nigel Pearson at the first attempt.

They arrived at Prenton Park on a club record 23-match unbeaten run. It would not reach 24.

Following an Antony Kay opener, Steven Jennings' penalty secured a 2-0 win for Tranmere as the Super Whites sent a statement of intent to the rest of the division. Indeed, the win for Rovers was one of just 4 defeats suffered by the Foxes all season, which reinforces how impressive this result was.

Tranmere Rovers 2 — 1 Southampton (06/03/10)

One of a trio of former Premier League clubs to be relegated from the Championship in 2009-10, Southampton were dealt another blow with a 10-point penalty that ultimately prevented them joining Norwich City and Charlton Athletic in the play-offs. They placed seventh, 7 points outside the play-offs with a record that would have seen them finish fifth without the deduction.

With some excellent young players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, José Fonte, Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin complemented by eventual Liverpool player Rickie Lambert, their squad was packed with future internationals.

Managed by Les Parry, Rovers were deep in a relegation dogfight, yet they stunned their opponents by securing an unlikely victory thanks to a Marlon Broomes goal and a late Ian Thomas-Moore penalty.

When one compares the respective strengths of the teams, this result truly was an upset.

Tranmere Rovers 3 — 1 Norwich City (02/04/10)

If Canaries fans thought Norwich's aforementioned relegation alongside Southampton and Charlton Athletic was to be the low point of 2009, they were in for a shock.

Reeling from a return to the third tier for the first time in 49 years, they were humbled still further on the opening day of the 2009-10 season, losing 1-7 at home to a Colchester United team containing current Tranmere midfielder David Perkins, who scored one of the United goals.

Norwich sacked manager Brian Gunn and replaced him with Colchester counterpart Paul Lambert, the Scot's transfer sparking a revival at Carrow Road that would ultimately lead them to the Premier League.

By March 2010, they were flying at the top of League One and arrived at a struggling Tranmere team who were in a relegation battle. Ten points clear at the summit, Norwich were put to the sword in a crazy game.

Ian Thomas-Moore scored a sixth-minute penalty to make it 1-0 to Rovers, before future England goalkeeper Fraser Forster conceded a second penalty and was sent off after just 10 minutes. Thomas-Moore scored that too and the Super Whites would eventually win the match 3-1.

The result gave Rovers fresh impetus going into the final ten games of the campaign and, whilst Norwich were crowned champions, Tranmere went on to record a famous 0-3 win at Stockport County to secure a last-day escape from relegation.

One of the best examples of “anything can happen in football”.

Tranmere Rovers 3 — 0 Sheffield Wednesday (15/02/11)

Although the more prominent names can usually be found at the top of the table, it is not unheard of for them to become involved at the wrong end of League One.

Gary Megson's Sheffield Wednesday were a prime example of this, with the Owls grappling with the prospect of League Two football in the build-up to this match. Freshly relegated from the Championship, they were in real danger of successive relegations and arrived at Prenton Park on a 9-game winless run.

An unlikely rival in the battle to beat the drop, Rovers took full advantage of Wednesday's woes to extend the run to 10 games and go above the club from Hillsborough. Goals from Lateef Elford-Alliyu, Ian Goodison and Enoch Showunmi gave Tranmere the victory, but they would go on an 11-game winless streak themselves immediately following this result, culminating in a 4-0 defeat to Wednesday later in the season.

The run of results that followed this game gives a truer reflection of Tranmere's struggles that campaign, which makes such a comprehensive win even more remarkable.

Tranmere Rovers 2 — 0 Southampton (22/03/11)

With Tranmere having beaten Southampton when the two clubs met at Prenton Park in March 2010, their victory contributed to the Saints' failure to gain promotion. Twelve months on and they were back again, this time led by former Rovers goalkeeper Nigel Adkins.

Their squad still contained excellent players for League One level; Fonte, Schneiderlin et al were all back for another attempt at beating Tranmere in front of the SWA. Same players, same outcome as Les Parry's charges were inspired by goals from John Welsh and teenage sensation Dale Jennings.

Whilst Tranmere were in almost as much trouble as the previous season, Southampton had improved and were sat just 5 points from the top of the table before their arrival. Given their progress under Adkins would see them promoted as runners-up with 92 points before eventually regaining their Premier League status a year later, this result is perhaps one of the most impressive of Tranmere's entire League One tenure.

Tranmere Rovers 1 — 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (01/01/14)

Even in 2013-14, a season when Tranmere conceded 79 goals on their way to relegation, they managed to draw 1-1 with eventual League One champions Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had been in the Premier League just two seasons prior.

With Wolves suffering successive relegations from the Premier League to League One in 2012 and 2013, they had a spending power very few clubs at League One level have ever enjoyed, much like Sunderland's arrival in 2018.

Unsurprisingly, they romped their way to the title, collecting 103 points in the process. At the end of the season the two clubs would be separated by two divisions, but on this occasion, there was nothing between the two sides thanks to Ryan Lowe's goal for Rovers.


In Tranmere's previous spell in League One, they saw them all come and go. Whilst over the length of the season the clubs with far greater resources than those on offer to the likes of Ronnie Moore and Les Parry usually fared better than Rovers, there have been plenty of occasions where on-the-day circumstances have negated such off-field advantages.

Hopefully the aforementioned results will provide a counterweight to what has been a pretty feet-on-ground countdown thus far.

With Tranmere set to engage the likes of Sunderland and Ipswich Town in league competition in 2019-20, the results highlighted in this article provide ample reason to believe that Rovers can defeat them when their respective fixtures come around.

As the SWA are aware, some things cannot be bought. Fearlessness is one of those commodities, and whilst Rovers will perhaps lose out to third-tier clubs in the transfer market, those same clubs cannot buy the spirit that has been fostered within the Tranmere camp under Micky Mellon's leadership.

The Super Whites aren't easily frightened, however, even if they were, hopefully we have established that there is nothing to fear in the third tier.


Remember: Check back tomorrow for day nine of our ten-day countdown to the 2019-20 season.