Sep 24 2013 by Nick Hilton, Main WIR
THE club mascot may be called Rover but Tranmere’s current team is lacking the snarl factor when it comes to intimidating the opposition, manager Ronnie Moore admits.
Moore says his players are too nice in the way they go about their jobs on the pitch and it is costing them goals and points in a poor start to the League One campaign.
Rovers slipped to within one point of the drop zone after losing for the fifth time in eight league games at Notts County last Saturday. The defeat highlighted a recurring failing of giving the opposition too much room to attack them.
Moore said: “We don’t have a problem with spirit because there is a good spirit in the camp. It is how the players work together on the pitch that is the issue.
“We are playing more as a group of individuals than a team and we need to be more aggressive in stopping the opposition from playing. When things are going against you, you have to work hard, earn your money by running, chasing, harrying, closing people down, getting into the opposition’s faces.
“We have gone away from doing that, for some reason. We think we can pass the ball around without doing any of the hard part of the game.
“We don’t have an aggressive midfielder in the club. The three players we have in there at the moment (Max Power, Chris Atkinson and James Rowe) are top of the ground runners and nice footballers. They all want to bomb forward and score goals. They don’t have a nasty side. They are too nice and they need to be more aggressive.”
Moore added: “I’m not saying they should go out and boot players up in the air. I mean they should be aggressive in closing people down and getting into their faces.
“It’s hard, when you are not an aggressive person, to go out and be aggressive on the pitch. What we are really looking for is a dog, someone who is the aggressive type who will do the holding job in midfield.”
A defensive midfielder in the “dogs of war” style made famous by the Everton FA Cup winning team of 1995 would fit the bill but there are few of them around in the modern era.
Moore has detailed the holding role to Max Power, a 20-year-old who broke into the first team last season. He hopes the youngster can grow into the job.
He would like to strengthen the squad with further loan signings after recruiting right-back/midfielder Tom Hateley on a four-month contract last weekend. But the budget, one of the lowest in the division, allows little room for manoeuvre.
Moore said: “We don’t have a pot of gold, that’s the main problem. We need to shift one or two players out if we’re going to bring one or two in.
“In the short term I would like at least one extra body in, be it a midfielder, a winger or full-back. At the present it is probably a full-back.
“It is a matter of wheeling and dealing but if we can’t get players off our wage bill it is going to be very difficult to get new people in.”
Tranmere take a break from the League One campaign by hosting Premier League Stoke City in the third round of the Capital One Cup tomorrow night.
The competition could yet provide Tranmere with a “pot of gold” if they can squeeze past the Potters and pull an away tie with one of the giants of the top flight in round four.
However, Moore admits the pursuit of League One points takes priority at Prenton Park. “It is the bread and butter we need,” Moore said. “Port Vale on Saturday is the big game for us this week. We need to win some league games and we have to stop giving away early goals.
“Believe it or not we were working all of last week in training on stopping crosses coming into our box. It went reasonably well. But on Saturday it did not work. Both of the goals came from crosses. There are too many coming in from the left side. Is it the winger not doing his job, the full-back not doing his job or is it both of them?
“We are standing too far off the opposition, allowing them to get balls into our box.”