TRANMERE are ready to reward manager Ronnie Moore and his coaching staff for their table-topping work at Prenton Park with new contracts today.
The ECHO understands Moore, assistant manager John McMahon and goalkeeper coach Dave Timmins have agreed deals that will tie them to the League One leaders until the summer of 2015.
Rovers have been keen to secure the long-term services of Moore and the backroom team, who have kept Rovers at the front of the promotion race on one of the lowest budgets in the division. Their existing contracts were due to expire at the end of the season.
Chairman Peter Johnson is also aware that Tranmere’s success made Moore a potential target for other clubs, particularly those seeking a manager capable of operating with limited resources.
Moore, 59, a former Tranmere player, captain, coach and assistant boss, began his third spell as manager at Prenton Park last March, when he replaced Les Parry. He had been out of work for the previous 11 months, after being sacked by Rotherham in April 2011.
Moore’s brief then was to lift a struggling Tranmere side clear of the threat of relegation. He succeeded quicker than anyone could have expected as Rovers took 20 points from his first 10 games in charge and eventually finished the campaign in 12th position.
During the summer, Moore’s blending of retained players, including Andy Robinson and former Everton midfielder James Wallace, with new recruits and loan signings such as Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Liam Palmer and Jake Cassidy, produced a potent combination.
Tranmere’s flying start to the 2012/13 season earned Moore manager of the month awards for August and September. Those expecting the Prenton Park bubble to burst as the winter, injuries and suspensions pressed on were surprised as Rovers clung on to top spot, keeping big spending rivals in their wake.
A 2-1 victory at Brentford last weekend, their eighth on the road in the league, lifted Tranmere onto 56 points – the same total they reached over the full course of the last two seasons. They have 17 games still to play.
Back in November, MK Dons manager Karl Robinson dubbed Moore “probably the best manager in the country because of what he’s achieved with his budget”.
He’s earned widespread respect and admiration within the game for Tranmere’s results so far.
Tranmere’s unexpected success forced the bookmakers to shorten the odds against them climbing into the Championship next May.
Yet the whole remarkable enterprise is engineered on a shoestring. Rovers work with a budget for expenditure on the entire squad – covering transfers fees, wages and bonuses for the whole season – that adds up to no more than two months’ wages for one top paid player at Liverpool.
Whether you are inclined to regard Tranmere’s financial discipline as unambitious or prudent – the club have never lapsed into administration – they are demonstrating that at the game’s third tier level, it is possible for paupers to steal a march on princes.
Moore pulled diverse elements into the melting pot to produce a team that packs a heavier punch than the sum of its parts.
Before looking for new recruits at the end of last season, Moore and his staff decided they would make every effort to re-sign Robinson and Wallace, star performers in the side inherited from Parry.
Then he set about introducing the element in the side that can trump so many others at League One level – pace. Striker Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and wide man Abdulai Bell-Baggie are very quick. So too is left-back Zoumana Bakayogo, who was already under contract. Moore kept the emphasis on pace when making subsequent signings: the former Liverpool front man David Amoo, who was brought in on a permanent deal this month and loanee Michael O’Halloran (from Bolton).
As a consequence, Tranmere have the potential to turn defence into attack at a speed many opponents struggle to cope with.
A number of individuals in the side have been playing some of the best football of their careers this season, feeding off each other and building confidence.
There is nothing radical about the tactics – 4-4-2 with a dash of adventure – but the fine tuning is shrewdly done. The input of coach McMahon, manager of the Liverpool reserves team under Rafa Benitez, should not be underestimated.
If Rovers’ form has been nothing less than a rocket ride with Ronnie, then Moore’s own career is back on the rise after a patch of turbulence.
His dismissals from two previous jobs, at Tranmere in 2009 and Rotherham United in 2011, subsequently looked like misjudgements on the part of the chairmen who wielded the axe.
Even so, Moore offered his services to Tranmere on a non-contract basis last March.
He quickly turned results around by liberating players from their anxieties as much as changing team tactics. He signed a one-year deal in the summer.
Moore is as engagingly open, off-the-cuff and un-PC as he ever was. He is also open to new ideas and was prepared to revise the habits of 25 years in coaching and management when he returned to Rovers.
He confesses that while out of work for 11 months, he thought about making a change to the way he prepares his teams for matches.
“I’ve changed, there’s no doubt about that,” Moore said.
“We don’t talk too much these days about the opposition because you can frighten the life out of your own players by giving them too much information.
“I have learned.
“It is all about us now, about what we can do.”
Moore and his players are focused on Saturday’s encounter with Swindon Town at Prenton Park. They want to make amends for a 5-0 hammering at the County Ground in December.
“I want us to show Swindon what we are really about,” Moore said.