Failed takeovers and betting scandals
25 April ~ If ever there was a time for Tranmere Rovers to ignore off-field distractions and knuckle down to business on the pitch, then Saturday's game at Leyton Orient is it. With two games to go, League One survival is in the balance. The trouble is, with the club having spent the whole season singularly failing to step up to the mark, few in the crowd have any confidence that we'll start now. Behind the scenes, the club has suffered its most turbulent campaign in years, while on the pitch we have hardly managed any better.
A mini-revival at the start of this month saw back-to-back wins against Colchester and Shrewsbury. However, three winless games since then have dragged us right back into the relegation mire, so facing a free-scoring and confident Leyton Orient on Saturday is not ideal.
The fare on offer at Tranmere recently has been dire, but it certainly hasn't been helped by the off-pitch shenanigans that have seen us lurch from crisis to crisis on an almost weekly basis. The latest event in a catalogue of upheaval has left us without a manager, as Ronnie Moore's breaching of FA betting regulations meant that he contrived to get himself sacked by Rovers for the second time in five years. Add that to the serious illness of midfielder Joe Thompson and the dismay over the arrest of club legend Ian Goodison for alleged spot fixing, and silver linings become ever harder to find.
And yet it wasn't meant to be like this. Much of the winter and early spring was dominated by talk of a takeover, bringing to an end nearly three decades of Peter Johnson's low-key benevolence. It was a seductive vision. Property millionaire Michael Wilde would return to his boyhood club, installing ex-Barcelona defender Albert Ferrer as manager, and in no time we would tiki-taka our way up the table. Frustratingly, the deal fell through, leaving the less mouth-watering reality of caretaker boss John McMahon watching helplessly while our back four hoof the ball into Row Z as we try and avoid dropping to the fourth tier for the first time in 25 years. It's not quite the Nou Camp.
One of the few bright spots has been the form of veteran Ryan Lowe, our first 20-goal man for over a decade. Without his input, we would have been down weeks ago. If Saturday sees a repeat of his crucial winner at Colchester, it would further cement his hero status. We are coming to the end of our 13th consecutive season in League One. Some might see that as dull, but get something at Brisbane Road and we can start hoping for an altogether more settled time at the same level come August. Tristan Browning