In this section, we take a look at the Italian Stadia Rovers have visited in Anglo-Italian Cup games. Though the attendances weren’t the best, some of the stadia made up for it.
Stadium: Stadio Mirabello
Characteristics: Surrounded by blocks of flats with open terracing at either end of the pitch. Only one area is covered, whilst the exterior walls used to have a lot of graffiti on them.
Rovers visited two Italian stadiums in the 1992/93 season, their first ever competitive games on foreign soil. First up, a trip Reggiana. The Stadio Mirabello (below) is quite an old fashioned ground, and was dually scrapped in 1995. The game itself was played out in front of just 2,251 fans, and resulted in a goalless draw.
Around 250 fans made the journey to Reggio Emilia, situated halfway between Milan and Bologna. The disappointing home attendance was put down to it being an ‘insignificant cup-tie’, and as Peter Bishop pointed out in the programme report a few weeks later, “few Italians finish work before 8.00pm”, making it that little bit more difficult to attend for some.
Stadium: Arena Garibaldi (Stadio Romeo Anconetani)
Characteristics: All seater stadium. Light blue seats without backs. Only one area of the ground is covered as the picture shows.
Rovers’ next overseas trip came later that year. Tuesday 8th December 1992 saw Rovers travel to the town of Pisa. Pisa is located on Italy’s west coast, and has its own International Airport. Rovers were up against it as they headed to their mountain retreat to prepare for the game, followed by the hardcore ring of Tranmere followers.
The Italian club were taking the ‘Pisa’ a little with their ticket prices though, charging 22 to get in. Most would refuse to pay that for a Second Division match at today’s prices. This game brought Rovers first ever competitive win on foreign soil. A goal from Kenny Irons gave Tranmere a 1-0 win in front of just 700 fans!
Stadium: Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
Characteristics: Atalanta’a stadium is of a similar style to that of Pisa’s, but with a significantly reduced capacity.
When Rovers next got through to the International stages of the tournament, it landed them trips to two more Italian grounds. First up, on Tuesday 6th September 1994, a trip to Atalanta Bergamo in Northern Italy. Rovers didn’t fare too well, and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat. An attendance of around 4,000 turned up to watch it though, the highest crowd that would greet Rovers on any of their Italian excursions.
Stadium: Via del Mar
Capacity: 41, 000
Characteristics: The large bowl-shaped stadium is a fantastic place to play football. The main stand is covered, and alike the stands behind either goal, is double-tiered. Opposite the covered main stand is an open stand. This upsets the symmetrical look to the stadium.
Tranmere’s final foray on to Italian soil to date was a visit to Lecce. Rovers had no chance of progressing further in the tournament, and so manager John King named a hugely experimental side for the game. It resulted in a 3-0 defeat. The game was watched by a paltry 286 people. Now Rovers have played in some magnificent stadiums in the last 20 years or so, but even when empty, the home of Lecce must surely rank as one of the most spectacular?