It was at Tranmere this season that we started our League Cup run which, hopefully, finishes successfully next Sunday at Cardiff. Just a reminder to all our fans to uphold the good name of our club on their journey to Cardiff, in the city, during the game and on the way home.
We were all delighted with the international recognition that some of our young players received last week. Simon Davies was in the Welsh squad that managed to fix up a last minute game with Argentina. Hopefully he will have had a good experience at the Millennium Stadium and, for once, a youngster may be able to tell some of the wiser old heads any bits and pieces they may need to know about the venue.
Ledley King’s promotion to the England group in Amsterdam was not a surprise to those who have seen his progress from a youth team player. He deserves tremendous accolades for his sturdy defensive play in several positions. Since coming into the first team, he has played in both full-back positions, either side of the main centre-back in a three or alongside the centre-back in a back four. And, of course, he has operated as a central midfield player.
It says much for his ability that he has become such a valued member of our squad. At times he takes the pace off the ball and plays it away with both feet, something reminiscent of what our manager Glenn Hoddle was outstanding at during his career. He made time for himself by being able to accept the ball and play the ball with either foot.
What many supporters may not realise about Ledley is that in a career blighted by injuries since he joined us as a youngster, he has evolved into a first team regular despite having practically by-passed reserve team football completely. But his uniqueness is that he has only been booked once at senior level, a truly magnificent record.
Also Matthew Etherington enjoyed a promotion to the England Under-21 group that is looked after by David Platt. It was good to see Matthew go on as substitute and play well in the position where he is most comfortable, as an orthodox outside-left.
It is also not widely known that Anthony Gardner was in the original England Under-21 squad before having to succumb with injury. But hopefully he will be back for this Sunday’s game at Cardiff as Dean Richards is Cup tied.
A meeting is being held soon to discuss the implications of the new European rules for contracts. And this also includes the debate on transfer windows. The sooner we know the full outcome of compensation factors the better as, like most clubs, we also have several contracts expiring at the end of this season, particularly with younger players.
Some of them, of course, may be released, and we have to hope that there are not too many players out of work and that their way to a future career may not be barred because of the excess of ‘Bosman’ free transfers that is likely to happen this summer.
The staff are still looking at various players that may be suitable for the first team’s next ‘push.’ Our aim this season has always been the top six and this opportunity is still open although Newcastle have made a superb effort to seemingly replace Leeds in that top group.
It is rather strange playing on a Sunday afternoon, particularly at 4pm. It must be very difficult for managers these days, with no accepted rhythm of playing Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday.
Nowadays teams are playing Thursday, Sunday, even Saturday morning with lunch-time kick-offs. Players are creatures of habit and their training and eating habits were all once related around a Saturday game. This is no longer the case and it is interesting to see how some players react to strange kick-offs. I felt that our performance at Derby, where we passed the ball well but did not look like we would score goals, was slightly laboured at times and one wonders whether this was due to kicking off at midday.
Supporters should keep an eye out for the date of our home game with Blackburn in the FA Youth Cup. We look forward to an evening of top football in front of a good attendance.
Whatever the outcome of today’s game there are eight Premiership clubs left in the Cup for this weekend. By tonight, hopefully, we will be through and will know our next opponents in the sixth round.
It could be one of the most exciting weekends of the season so make sure that you get behind the lads this afternoon and we can go on to further cup success.
Enjoy the game.
Tranmere provide stern opposition today. They have a super record in cups over the last few years, particularly on their home ground Prenton Park. Under the leadership of Johnny King and, indeed John Aldridge, they regularly gained big cup scalps.