Aug 16 2012 by Nick Hilton, The Liverpool Post
RONNIE MOORE conceded this week that he thought Tranmere’s preparations for the new League One campaign, which begins with a game against Leyton Orient at Prenton Park on Saturday, had gone well.
The comment was a fleeting diversion from the manager’s preoccupation of the last couple of weeks: adding a strong and, ideally, experienced centre back to his squad.
In the very next sentence Moore was talking about conceding too many goals in the pre-season games and about the problems of having most of his central defensive cover ripped out by injuries and international calls ahead of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup site at Chesterfield.
It may take a month or two for more to resolve the centre back issue to his satisfaction. By mid-September Premier League and Championship clubs should have made their minds up about the players they are prepared to release on loan to the lower divisions and Tranmere will be able to make a considered choice.
In most other areas of the squad, the recruiting is done.
A team with a different character to the one Moore inherited from previous manager Les Parry last March is under construction.
Under Parry, Tranmere succeeded in punching above their weight (in terms of the budget for players) by being very good at making it difficult for the opposition to play. Rovers’ defensive record was impressive, their own goalscoring figures modest.
Moore is tweaking the tactical engineering. Resilience at the back is once again important but his plan is to build a team equipped to turn defence into attack at speed.
“We have introduced some pace into the squad,” Moore said. “I think is the key quality to have if we are going to improve results away from home by hitting teams on the break.”
Three of the attacking players signed this summer – Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Joe Thompson and Abdullai Bell Baggie – are at least quicker than average.
Akpa Akpro is fast enough to show a clean pair of heels to any centre-back if he gets the right pass and Moore is committed to honing the Frenchman’s finishing skills with specific work on the training ground.
Thompson, a wide midfielder, followed Akpa Akpro from Rochdale and Moore says Tranmere fans have yet to see the 23-year-old’s true potential.
“We have not seen the best of Thompson yet,” Moore said.
“He’s not really settled and there’s a lot more to come from him. At the moment he is just floating about in games and not really doing what I know he can do.
“We’ve had a little chat and hopefully it won’t be too long before he puts that right.”
Moore has given a similar talk to Bell Baggie, a 20-year-old he first encountered as a loan player at Rotherham during the 2010/11 season.
“He has a contract and an opportunity to show we can be more than just a player who makes an impact coming off the bench,” Moore said.
Moore says he is “happy with the business we have done over the summer.” There have however, been some unexpected twists.
One of Tranmere’s first recruits, Ben Burgess, a 30-year-old target man with a solid track record, became one of the shortest lived signings in the club’s history. After playing two preseason games Burgess, who had been released by Notts County at the end of last season, cancelled his contract and retired from the game. He confessed he did not believe he could give Tranmere 100% on the pitch. A knee condition was the likely cause of the unexpected decision.
Rovers’ summer trialists included a striker of similar stature in Jonathan Tehoue, who did well enough over a handful of games to when a contract offer. The deal was not taken up, with Moore complaining that an agent’s “ridiculous demands” were to blame.
Moore is prepared to start the season without a tall centre forward after securing a six-month loan deal for Jake Cassidy, the teenage striker from Wolverhampton Wanderers who impressed on a loan spell at the end of last season.
The manager also sees promise in the performances of home-grown striker Cole Stockton, who paired up with Cassidy to good effect in the final half-hour of Tranmere’s pre-season friendly at Port Vale last Saturday.
“Stockton is still young and learning very strong and holds the ball up well,” Moore said.
“We’ve had one or two non-league clubs come in and want to take him on loan but at this present time he is not going anywhere.”
In allowing Lucas Akins to join Stevenage for an undisclosed fee, Moore generated sufficient revenue to replace the wide midfielder with two players. It was good business for a manager operating with one of the lowest budgets in the division.
Perhaps the most important deals done by the club during the summer were in securing the services of Andy Robinson for another season and in persuading James Wallace to convert his loan from Everton into a permanent transfer.
Robinson is the most talented player at the club with the skills and vision to unpick any defence. He also plays an important role in keeping dressing room morale high.
Wallace adds drive and energy to the midfield and is seizing the responsibility of captaincy with enthusiasm.
It is not difficult to detect the quiet optimism in the dressing room that over the next nine months, Tranmere can maintain the recent edition of punching above their weight through a League One campaign. The ride should be an entertaining one.