Tranmere Rovers set to utilise homegrown talent more to boost their squad
MANAGER Ronnie Moore says Tranmere are likely to look to homegrown talent to fill some of the gaps in the squad left by injuries and the departure of loan players.
Front man Cole Stockton and midfielders Jake Kirby and Max Power may find themselves thrust into the first-team frame as Rovers attempt to maintain the pace at the front of the League One promotion race.
Striker Jake Jervis returned to Birmingham City at the weekend following a month on loan at Prenton Park while a second loan striker, Nathan Eccleston, has spent most of his month with Tranmere receiving treatment for a hamstring injury back at Bloomfield Road.
The pair were brought in to cover for the absence of Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, who is not expected to be available until mid-January after breaking a bone in his foot.
Meanwhile, Rovers know that 10-goal leading marksman Jake Cassidy is returning to Wolves in early January when his long-term loan comes to an end. The Championship club may well decide to keep the teenager at Molineux for the second half of the season.
Tranmere don’t yet know whether the long-term loan arrangements for midfielder Liam Palmer (from Sheffield Wednesday) and Ben Gibson (from Middlesbrough) can be extended when they run out in early January.
Moore and his staff have been scouring the market for potential replacements. However Tranmere are working with one of the lowest budgets in the division, so resources are limited.
Moore reported that last week he attempted to sign Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from Peterborough after the 20-year-old front man became one of four players transfer-listed and fined by the Posh for a breach of club discipline on a night out.
But Tranmere could not afford the player’s wages. Mendez-Laing then signed for financially-troubled Portsmouth.
Moore said: “We asked about Mendez-Laing and we can’t afford the money he is on. We are trying to find strikers out there but it is difficult. We will probably have to rely on the kids.
“We have a young lad here, Jake Kirby. If I go and bring another kid in, we don’t get to know whether Jake is going to be good enough or not, until we throw him in and have a look.
“Cole Stockton was unfortunate not to play against MK Dons on Friday. I’ve been reluctant to play him alongside Jake Cassidy because they are similar types. Cassidy is definitely going back to Wolves in January and we don’t know how long for. He is going to be a big loss for us. Can Cole do it? It will be a big test.”
Moore took encouragement from the performances of Stockton, Kirby and Power in the 3-0 FA Cup win at Braintree Town last Tuesday. The trio were on the bench for the 1-0 home defeat to MK Dons on Friday.
With Sheffield United thrashing Stevenage 4-1 on Saturday, Tranmere’s lead at the top of the table was cut to two points ahead of tomorrow night’s game against struggling Walsall at Prenton Park.
Moore admitted Friday’s televised game, dominated by the Dons’ pass and move football, was “a learning curve for our young players.”
He added: “We will not play anyone else at this level who keep the ball as well as MK Dons do and limit the opportunities you have. They have great movement and great individual players. As individuals they are probably better than us but as a team I don’t think they are better than us. I think we have more fighting spirit and I think we will score more goals than them. But their retention of the ball is fantastic.
“It shows how things have changed. MK Dons have a massive budget yet all their players reacted to beating us like they had won the FA Cup. That shows how far we’ve come in a short time.”