Tranmere Rovers might get some of the spotlight stolen from sharing the same region as Everton and some other club called Liverpool, but are a proud club with a rich history. We had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Robinson, a born and raised diehard Rovers fan who chatted with us about Tranmere.
RBM - Tell us a little bit about Tranmere Rovers and how they were founded.
MR - Tranmere were originally founded as Belmont in 1884 by two cricket clubs but changed the name to Tranmere Rovers in 1885. We were a founder member of Division Three North in 1921 when regional divisions below the second division was the norm.
Nowadays we are plying our trade in Sky Bet League Two which is pretty much back where we started all those years ago. Our fan base is pretty localised and mainly stems from the Wirral area, but we do have a supporters club in Norway as well. We have a hardcore fan attendance of around 4,000 at the moment with our average gate being around 5,000. This is a large decline from the attendances of the mid '90s which regularly attracted over nine thousand.
RBM - What would you say was the most glorious period for the Rovers?
MR - Tranmere have had two golden ages in my lifetime of supporting them, the first in the early '90s where we rose through the divisions reaching Wembley four times (twice for the play offs and twice for the Leyland DAF cup (now the Johnstone Paint Trophy)). We managed to reach the cusp of the Premier League just while Liverpool and Everton were somewhat floundering in the league with the latter facing relegation battles so attendances rose. We made the play offs for the Premier League three years running, but sadly were knocked out in the semi finals. We also made a League Cup semi final losing to eventual winners Aston Villa on penalties.
Then there was the late '90s to early 2000 period when Tranmere became famous for giant-killing Cup runs. Many a top division side fell victim to the Rovers at Prenton Park with some of the team's most famous Cup games ever played. Notable among those was coming back from 3-0 down at halftime to Southampton and winning 4-3, beating Coventry City 5-1, winning 3-2 against Leeds United after being behind 2-0 and last but definitely my favourite was going to Goodison Park and winning 3-0. The year 2000 saw Tranmere's one and only appearance in a major Cup final, a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City in the League Cup.
RBM - How much of an effect does having two old Premier League teams in the same area as Tranmere have on things like fanbase, gameday attendance and the like?
MR - Unfortunately this has a hugely negative effect on Tranmere. It is difficult to attract people to watch a local side when there's two massive clubs across the water. We often play games on a Friday night so we don't clash with the either's home games. This is historical but we have recently started doing this again in the hope of attracting more fans. With the resurgence of both Liverpool and Everton last season I can only see this getting worse and for a small club like Tranmere it makes life very difficult. We will always have our die hard fan base and hope we can attract a few more through the door.
RBM - Are Tranmere fans divided equally between Everton, Liverpool, and any other team?
MR - Any real Tranmere fan in my eyes would hold no affinity for Liverpool or Everton, in fact I'd go as far as saying some hate both teams. We have no real affinity for any other team but plenty of rivals, with tradtionally Everton, Liverpool, Wrexham and Chester being our main ones but during the mid '90s and onwards we had one with Bolton Wanderers as well. Recently, with being lower down the leagues we've had rivalries with Oldham Athletic and Preston North End to name a few, but it's mainly the closest away team to us!
RBM - How did last season go for the SuperWhites? And where does that nickname come from?
MR - Last season was a harrowing time for all involved at the club. We were relegated to League Two for the first time in 25 years, our manager was suspended by the club after allegations of illegal betting and then sacked. We lost a fair bit of money over the course of the season and at the end of the year saw some of our best players leave. Add to the fact that Liverpool did well, it made it a season to forget being a Tranmere fan.
The Superwhites is merely because of our all-white kit, but we have had other nicknames in the past with my personal favourite being 'Deadly White Submarine', coined by our best ever manager Johnny King.
RBM - Prenton Park is where Tranmere play, tell us about the stadium?
MR - The stadium itself was rebuilt in the mid 90's as we were pushing for the Premier League. It is a traditional four-sided ground with individual stands on each side: The Bebington Kop, Johnny King Stand, Main Stand and the Cowsheds. The ground itself holds 16,567 people but is currently starting to look a bit run down. It is located in Prenton in Birkenhead.
RBM - How has the Rovers' offseason been so far? What are you expecting to see in today's game?
MR - It has been up and down so far, we won our first two games against local sides 5-0 and 4-1 respectively but have lost the last two to non-league sides. I personally dont take any head about the early preseason games as the sides are experimental and they have been chopped and changed throughout the games.
Today I expect a young Everton side but I think it will be physical, there is still a rivalry there and our fans would like to see us get stuck in. I believe it'll be a close game despite the difference in class but ultimately I expect Everton to win. I'd be pleasantly surprised if we did!
RBM - Finally, the Sky Bet League Two gets underway in just under three weeks with the Capital One League Cup three days later. What are the season targets for the Rovers this year?
MR - Our goal is to go straight back up to League One, and realistically I think we can achieve the play offs. With a new manager and a very different-looking squad, it'll take the first few games before we know whether this is achievable or not. As a Tranmere fan you grow up without any tremendous expectations which makes any success all the sweeter.
Thanks for the interview Michael, enjoy the game today and see you in one of the Cups soon!