As we edge nearer to the opening day of the season, Tranmere fans are anxious to see more names added to the squad list. Most pressing? Another forward option.
Tranmere are thin on the ground when it comes to strikers at the moment. Kane Hemmings and Elliott Nevitt will lead the line against Stevenage as it stands, but beyond them there is very little back-up.
If we’re honest, it’s not just back-up Rovers need in those forward areas. It’s an alternative option, perhaps a different style of striker when games aren’t going our way, or another player to challenge Hemmings and Nevitt for their starting berths.
Beyond those two, Tranmere have already been hit with the injury to Charlie Jolley. The young forward had been on the pitch just four minutes in his first pre-season game when he got injured – he’s now likely to miss a significant period of time, possibly most of the season.
That leaves one other option, youngster Jake Burton. Burton has already got a few first team appearances under his belt, perhaps most notably being given a surprise start away to Northampton Town last season when Mellon was trying to halt a poor run of form. While we should definitely be using our young players and giving them a chance to progress, we also cannot ignore the need for another forward.
It’s something Mellon can’t and isn’t ignoring. His excellent post-match interview on Saturday saw him talk about searching for the right player at the right price and just how tricky that is.
Mellon also joked in challenging fans to go and use one of the staff laptops to search the databases and view footage of players they’ve got access to and see if he and his staff and missed anyone. Rather than do that, we tried to get some names from those who have given us snippets of information previously. It was like pulling teeth.
That said, here are five names we’ve got reason to believe there is interest in (or from), or who may be available.
1) Joel Mumbongo (free agent)
If you’re wondering who the trialist striker was who came on for a 20-minute cameo against Huddersfield on Saturday, then you’re one of few who don’t yet know! It’s not been the best kept secret on social media, let alone on at least two football transfer websites.
It is 23-year-old forward Joel Mumbongo, recently released by Burnley. The powerful Swedish forward joined the Clarets from Italian side Hellas Verona in 2019 but would make just seven senior appearances. He had a good goalscoring record for Burnley U23s, scoring 8 goals in 13 appearances. He also scored twice in 10 outings while on loan at League One outfit Accrington Stanley last season.
Mumbongo has already scored for Rovers too. While his brief outing against Huddersfield didn’t exactly set pulses racing, his appearance as a sub in the recent friendly at Southport did. His movement was very good in that game, as was his link-up play with Kane Hemmings. He also scored the fourth goal for Rovers in a comfortable win.
While we wouldn’t be surprised to see the former Sweden U19 secure some sort of deal at Prenton Park, we still think Mellon would like a more experienced player as well.
2) Leon Clarke (free agent)
We’re not sure how much interest there is from Tranmere, but sources tell us that veteran striker Leon Clarke’s availability is certainly one that several League Two clubs have been made aware of this summer. At 37, he’s no youngster, but with more than 150 career goals and 6 promotions to his name, he may add some physical presence and experience to the front options should Tranmere wish to go down that route. He ended last season at Bristol Rovers and counts the likes of Wolves, Sheffield United and Wigan among his many former clubs.
3) Connor Wickham (free agent)
Here’s a name that first surfaced last January on social media as someone Tranmere had an interest in. At that point, he left Preston to join MK Dons on loan, but fast forward to present day and Wickham is a free agent and absolutely on Tranmere’s radar it would seem – as well as many other clubs. Once thought of as one of English football’s brightest young talents, Wickham has a stellar CV as far as the stature of his former employers are concerned; Ipswich, Sunderland and Leeds, to name a few.
His move to Sunderland back in 2011 cost the Black Cats a transfer fee in the region of £8million as he made the move to the Premier League. He would later move to Palace for a reported fee of £7million.
However, for all of the buzz about his ability, injuries have sadly cost Wickham the career many thought he would have. That said, if Tranmere could get him signed up and get a run of luck with injuries, then you have to feel he’d be a great signing, not least for the here and now on the pitch, but also for the what the likes of Elliott Nevitt could learn from him.
Despite having seemingly been around for ages, Wickham is still only 29. If he’s joining Tranmere, expect that to happen before the season opener against Stevenage.
4) Paul Glatzel (Liverpool)
Young Liverpool forward Glatzel is definitely someone Rovers are keeping a close eye on as he works to recover fitness following the hamstring injury suffered on loan at Tranmere last season. After a slow start, Glatzel showed undoubted quality despite being hit with two injuries. For more on this, check out our earlier article here.
5) Jonathan Afolabi (unattached)
File this one under “highly unlikely”, but a name that was mentioned to us a few weeks ago was Jonathan Afolabi (yes, we had to Google him too). Afolabi, 22, has recently been released by Celtic after failing to make the grade with the club. He had joined from Southampton in 2019 but most recently had spent time out on loan with Airdrie and Ayr United in the last two seasons.
Now, our source may be putting two and two together and coming up with five based on the arrivals of Lee O’Connor and Ross Doohan from Celtic previously, but apparently, Rovers have shown interest in Afolabi on loan before now, so perhaps there is something there.
However, this feels highly unlikely. The Ireland under-21 striker has spent time on trial with Portsmouth this summer and did well. While no contract offer has seemingly gone his way yet, it’s not out of the question. Also, he is now on trial at Forest Green Rovers, another League One club. Maybe one to keep an eye on until snapped up elsewhere, but it feels like Tranmere may be at the back of a lengthy queue should they indeed be interested in his services.