It’s been a weekend of ups and downs to say the least. Late on Friday night, Tranmere announced that popular former striker Andy Cook had re-joined the club on loan until the end-of-the-season. However, less than 24 hours later, Rovers’ survival hopes took a hammering.
Tranmere have been crying out for a target man all season. Stefan Payne and Jordan Ponticelli arguably had the physical attributes, but both players have failed to make any kind of impact, the latter returning to Coventry after his loan spell was terminated.
Despite investment back in August, it took Rovers until the dying moments of the January transfer window to finally do a bit of business that may just redress the balance upfront. Cookie’s return sparked euphoria among Tranmere fans on the internet late Friday.
Cook returns to Prenton Park 18 months after leaving. His last appearance for the club came in the National League Promotion Final. He scored, as he so often did, and play a key part in one of the most important victories in Tranmere’s history.
Indeed, after joining on a free from Barrow in 2016, Cook’s record at Rovers was exceptional. He netted 49 goals in 85 appearances and forged a deadly partnership with James Norwood. He brought an aggression and physical approach that we had missed for goodness knows how many years, and we have dearly missed since he left, too.
However, despite Cook’s love of the club, the lure of League One football at Walsall led to him leaving in 2018 on a free. He netted 18 goals for Walsall last season but Walsall were relegated. League Two Mansfield came in with an offer of £150,000 in the summer and took Cook there.
However, while the big man has still been weighing in with goals for the Stags, he found himself on the bench most frequently behind Danny Rose and Nicky Maynard in the pecking order.
Now, Cook is making the return and his adoring fans cannot wait for the homecoming for the 29-year-old on Tuesday night. However, the circumstances could be better.
That’s because less than 24 hours after the jubilation of Cook’s return, Tranmere took to the field at Bolton. The striker had not signed in time to be eligible for the game, but James Vaughan and Morgan Feeney had.
What followed was the worst performance by a Rovers team since the 2015-16 season at best, at worst the relegation season of the year before that.
Devoid of leadership and creativity, Tranmere were 1-0 down at the break to League One’s bottom side. While we were poor, we had enough of the ball in the first period for it not to be a write-off.
However, in the second period, things went downhill. While the score finished only 2-0, it could and should have been much worse. Rovers were abysmal, disgraceful some would say. The lack of fight in the second half was a considerable concern – too many players were simply yards away from what should have been 50/50 tackles and loose balls.
Was it a lack of fight, lack of interest, lack of leadership or were the players tired following the recent run of games? Either way, it was utterly abject and some of the individual performances bordered on embarrassing. It is not acceptable, and Rovers were booed off.
So, what of Cook? On Friday night, he was coming into a club fresh off a cup run and spirits were high. Now, before we even look at the league table, Cook is tasked with picking the fans up and pulling people together once again. Without the unity that has pulled us through the last few years, we’re in deep trouble.
He will add a focal point to our poor attacking play and will also add a threat off corners and set-pieces, if we can get them past the first man – that’s another discussion all together.
It’s great to have you back Cookie, let’s hope that the recovery begins on Tuesday night.