Crewe Alexandra v Tranmere Rovers, 3pm
8 September ~ Conventional wisdom says you should never go back. Tranmere fans are glad that Ronnie Moore chose to ignore that maxim. Three years ago Moore was unceremoniously sacked after Rovers let a place in the play-offs slip through their fingers with two minutes of the season remaining. Chairman Peter Johnson then embarked on experiments, with John Barnes and Les Parry taking increasingly frustrating turns as manager, until deciding to give Moore a third go in charge last March.
The reinvigoration of the club was almost instant, with the team pulling clear of the relegation zone to scrape a wholly unexpected top half finish. Now the mood among Tranmere fans is one of happy disbelief. We can't quite believe we are watching creative, attacking football and that we have found some players who can put the ball in the net.
The club go into today's local derby at Crewe on top of League One and top scorers in the division. This is quite a turnaround from the goal-free wasteland of last winter. Decent at the back but useless up front, Prenton Park saw the fewest goals of any ground in the third tier last season.
Crewe have made a respectable start and won't want to suffer a second home defeat so early in the season but they may be struggling to cope with the recent sale of their two real stars, Nick Powell and Ashley Westwood, to the Premier League. Rovers are an improving squad. Team spirit seems buoyant, the line-up is gelling together and in Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, snapped up from Rochdale, we have the makings of a proper cult hero.
Even our annual early exit from two cups – including Tuesday's toothless capitulation to Port Vale in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy – doesn't seem to be dampening spirits too much. In Spring 1989 we met Crewe for a promotion love-in, playing out a 1-1 draw in front of 15,000 happy fans that sent both teams up. It was the first rung on the ladder that took Rovers to within a play-off match of the Premier League. A win this weekend could keep us on course for our first shot at the bigger leagues for over a decade. Ronnie Moore will surely be pleased he came back to oversee it. Tristan Browning