Welcome Back: Tranmere and Macclesfield

I’ve been doing a series of pieces on the new faces we meet this season, MK Dons, Bury, Northampton and Oldham, so now it is time to say hello to a couple of teams we’re a little more familiar with, Tranmere and Macclesfield.

The last time we met both was during our National League stay, where both were beaten home and away. Tranmere fell to a Macaulay Bonne goal at Prenton Park, then found themselves on the end of a 2-1 defeat at Sincil Bank, despite Andy Mangan’s dive and Jeff Hughes leveller. As for Macclesfield, Adam Marriott bagged, as he did against Tranmere, to earn us an early season win at their place and I doubt anyone will ever forget the return match at Sincil Bank in August. Terry Hawkridge, 2-1 and of course our Football League return.


Imps at Moss Rose in 2005, courtesy of Graham Burrell

Last season Macc were the unlikely winners of the National League, securing seven fewer points than us and hitting just 67 goals. Whilst nothing should be taken away from their achievements, it wasn’t quite as emphatic as our own title win. Their susceptibility to attack was highlighted as they were thrashed 6-0 by Fylde at one point, but they still won arguably the hardest division in football and they deserve their praise.

That said, they’ve had a horrible summer and are currently favourites for the drop along with Morecambe. John Askey, the architect of their wonderful National league win, has gone. He took over from Paul Hurst as Shrewsbury look to keep the momentum going by appointing a promoted non-league manager. That doesn’t help Macclesfield one bit and new gaffer Mark Yates has his work cut out.

Shrewsbury took Kieran Kennedy, MK Dons cherry-picked Mitch Hancox and Salford ensured Danny Whitehead’s spell in the Football league didn’t last as long as he might have thought. In terms of recruitment, former Imp Nathan Blissett secured himself a permanent deal which might surprise a few Imps who remember him as limited. Callum Evans has arrived from Forest Green, again he was on loan at Moss Rose last season.

Harry Smith is one they have high hopes for, he’s a former Millwall youngster but their options up front look decidedly thin. If Smith proves to be prolific then they’ll be reaping the rewards of a shrewd transfer policy, but the truth is they’re skint and can’t afford better. There was issue paying wages last season and promotion hasn’t brought them 5,000 season ticket holders and a wave of fresh interest.

I’ll be doing my full season predictions later in the week, but here’s a taster for you; Macclesfield are in for a tough season.


Bonne hooks home a winner against Tranmere in 2016 (courtesy of Graham Burrell)

Ah, the Trannies (as they were affectionately known) are back in amongst the land of the living. Our tussle with them two years ago was exciting and for a while it seemed we’d made ourselves a new enemy for life. Now, twelve months on, their presence in the Football League neither bothers me nor pleases me. It’s amazing how quickly an intense rivalry disintegrates when you won the league and they didn’t.

Tranmere came up via the convoluted play off system and rightly so having finished second. Andy Cook and James Norwood cancelled out a Bruno Andrade strike in the play offs and erased memories of Forest Green from twelve months before. Now they’re back, will they be any good? That is the pertinent question.

The answer, in my opinion, is yes. Firstly, they are a league club with a league club mentality. That may sound a bit elitist, but Tranmere Rovers are under no illusions what is required at this level and when it comes to attracting players, they have no issue.

Yes, they’ve lost Andy Cook and at present perhaps haven’t replaced him, but they still have goals in the likes of James Norwood. They’re still a compact unit, their transfer policy has been muted but at least they’ve moved to bring in decent players. Ollie Banks will help add steel to the midfield, he did well on loan with Swindon last season and Jake Caprice brings cover at full back.

They won’t be troubling the top three and there’s serious doubts about the top seven, but rest assured they’ll be safe from any silly relegation worries. There’s a big question mark over Mickey Mellon’s management still, plus they need to acclimatise to the Football League, but they won’t be struggling come the end of the season.


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