Where Are They Now?
The youngsters of Maidstone United (A) 29/04/17
Posted: 02/05/19 | Updated 02/05/19
With one game remaining, Lincoln City are champions and Tranmere Rovers are confirmed for the play-offs.
Whilst that statement is an accurate reflection of the 2018-19 League Two season to date, it is actually a reference to the 2016-17 National League campaign. Going into the final day in April 2017, Tranmere manager Micky Mellon made the bold decision to rotate his squad for the away trip to Maidstone United.
In hindsight, 'rotate' would be somewhat of an understatement. Handing first starts of the season to nine players, including six senior debuts, Tranmere's starting eleven had an average age of just nineteen.
Nonetheless, they secured an unlikely 0-1 victory thanks to a fifty-sixth-minute goal from Sam Ilesanmi, extending Rovers' points total to ninety-five — a Club record.
With the SWA making the trip to Crawley Town in unnervingly similar circumstances, it would not be a surprise if Micky Mellon decided to rotate the team again, considering doing so has played a key role in reaching the play-off finals in 2017 and 2018.
As fans rack their brains trying to decipher the possible selection permutations for Saturday, let's explore how the 2017 vintage have progressed since that day in Maidstone.
Luke Pilling — Came on as a substitute for the injured Scott Davies in 5-2 defeat at AFC Fylde on 1st January 2018. Loan spells at Warrington Town (2017-18) and Ashton United (2018-19) have helped Luke gain further playing experience. He has been named as the substitute goalkeeper in Rovers' League Two matches since Shamal George returned to Liverpool in January 2019.
Josh Solomon-Davies — Transferred to Stalybridge Celtic in September 2018, where he plays under former Tranmere striker Simon Haworth. He has made nineteen appearances thus far in 2018-19, playing in the 1-0 victory over Grantham Town on 27th April 2019.
Callum Lucy — Joined Runcorn Linnets until November 2017. Short tenures at Witton Albion and Skelmersdale United preceded a return to Runcorn Linnets in October 2018.
Sam Ilesanmi — Signed for Llandudno FC in July 2017, staying at Maesdu Park until a transfer to Colwyn Bay FC in January 2018.
Aaron Collins — Joined Rovers on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers on 23rd March 2017. He had a one-month loan at Maidstone in November 2017 prior to joining Newport County on loan until the end of the 2017-18 season in January 2018. Joined Colchester United on loan in June 2018, returning to Wolves in January 2019. Released from Molineux, he joined Morecambe permanently until the end of the 2018-19 season.
Evan Gumbs — Spent much of the 2017-18 campaign on loan at Warrington Town. Despite further short-term loans, he is still a member of Rovers— squad and has been named as a substitute on several occasions. He made his most recent appearance in Tranmere's 0-0 draw at League Two champions Lincoln City on 22nd April 2019, unfortunately suffering a cruciate ligament injury that will keep him out of action for the foreseeable future.
Declan Drysdale — Joined Coventry City in January 2019 and went into their Under-23 squad.
Adam Dawson — Joined Darlington on loan in September 2017 and left Rovers in November 2017 before signing for Southport in December 2017. Joined AFC Telford United in July 2018, transferring to Chester in November 2018. He joined League Two Macclesfield Town on 11th January 2019 on a deal until the end of the 2018-19 season.
Adam Mekki — Joined Bromley in June 2017 and has made sixty-six appearances in all competitions, scoring five goals.
Érico Sousa — Re-signed for former club Accrington Stanley in June 2017, signing a one-year contract. He was retained for the 2018-19 season, making a short-term loan transfer to Barrow in October 2018.
Eddie Clarke — After fifteen appearances for Rovers in 2017-18, including as one of the Wembley Warriors, Clarke joined Fleetwood Town in May 2018. He has made just two senior appearances for the Cod Army, totalling one hundred and twenty-seven minutes.
Tom Croughan — Following a brief spell at Runcorn Town from August 2017, Tom signed for Burscough in December 2017. He joined Widnes FC for the 2018-19 season.
Jack Fleming — Had a short stay at Runcorn Linnets in August 2017 before transferring to AFC Liverpool in September 2017. After just ten matches, he was signed by Skelmersdale United in October 2017. He spent the 2018-19 season at Northwich Victoria.
Patrick Wharton — Made his Tranmere debut in 6-0 EFL Trophy defeat at Shrewsbury Town. Currently on loan at Stalybridge Celtic, having had a short loan at Colwyn Bay early in 2018-19.
Udoyen Akpan — Joined Italian fifth-tier side ASD Città di Siderno 1911 in 2017, reaching the play-offs in his first season in Italy. He has remained a regular for the Eccellenza side in 2018-19.
James Devine — Currently on loan at Colwyn Bay, James remains a member of the Rovers squad.
As one can see, just four of the sixteen-man squad remain at Rovers, although none are regular first-team starters as yet.
Whether this is an indication of the players' abilities, the Club's progression or a combination of both, a lot has changed in the two years since these sixteen players were tasked with representing the SWA.
Therefore, if an unfamiliar face appears at the Broadfield Stadium, take note. As this Where Are They Now? has established, it could be the only opportunity you have to see them.