Tranmere have sacked boss Keith Hill this morning in a move that may shock many in football – but the truth is, it was the only real choice left if the club was to have any chance of making an honest attempt at the play-offs next week.
Firstly, let us say this. Hill does deserve some credit. He led us past several League One sides on the way to the Papa Johns Final and he secured some excellent results in the league. However, to say things have unravelled in recent months is somewhat of an understatement.
Since the Papa Johns Final against Sunderland, after which Rovers were widely praised by neutrals and opposition fans for the quality of their play, the team has tanked big time. From automatic promotion looking like an amazing opportunity, the team limped over the line and somehow went into the final 10 minutes of the season with their play-off spot hanging by a thread.
Thankfully, we did finish in the top seven and will get a shot at promotion yet. However, the game was followed by another bizarre post-match interview from Hill, his worst yet. He had lost many fans already due to the style of football his team had played, his lack of acceptance of poor performances and most of all his comments that suggested Tranmere fans were “fickle”.
But Saturday’s analysis from Hill hit a new low. While not wanting to write the entire interview up here, comments included:
– His admission that he had found the squad difficult to manage since Wembley
– That there was a lack of unity in the squad
– That some players weren’t giving 100% to the club unless they started matches
– He dug Corey Blackett-Taylor out for not doing enough to warrant playing time, though did say he loved him to bits
– Claimed recent form is “not my fault”
– Said the players had “eased off” in training
And then if that weren’t enough, Hill said Tranmere had been demoted last season due to losing too many games, not because we won the last three. In doing so, he referred to the club as “they” and “Tranmere”.
Added with what’s gone before, the dire football and the horrendous run of results that has resulted in one of our most talented squads in some years ending up finishing seventh in the fourth tier, sacking him was inevitable.
It is also somewhat embarrassing for the club owners, Mark and Nicola Palios, who two weeks ago shoe-horned a live Q&A in after back-to-back wins only to claim the football appeared worse because fans were watching from a single camera angle on iFollow. That we all needed some “perspective”. The fans weren’t the ones who needed that perspective.
Perhaps if action would have been taken earlier, we may have salvaged automatic promotion which looked a given a couple of months ago rather than ending the season 20th in the form table.
However, let’s put all of that behind us. Questions can and will be asked in the summer. For now, we have a shot at the play-offs, something which felt bizarrely lacking just a few hours ago.
Ian Dawes will take charge of the team, assisted by Andy Parkinson. Last time those guys had the team, we saw them engineer a superb run of form which turned around our season. It culminated in a 5-0 thrashing of Grimsby.
That game saw Corey Blackett-Taylor almost play just off Vaughan in a more central position. Khan was just behind the strikers, Feeney was further up the pitch in a wide position, all of these things clearly playing to strengths and allowing us to create chances and score goals.
So, Prenton Park is likely to be rocking going into next week’s first leg against a very good Morecambe side. We’re realistic enough to know that this is going to be a big challenge for the team to get past the Lancashire outfit over two legs. But, there will be a positivity, maybe even that siege mentality will be back.
Fans will be inside Prenton Park. James Vaughan may be fit enough to feature after getting some match time on Saturday and the place will be re-energised.
What’s more, nobody has any clue what the starting line-up will be, including Morecambe!
A final word for Keith
While Keith Hill’s departure is a welcome one for Tranmere fans, it’s hard not to think of the person here.
Hill spoke openly in one press conference this season about his struggle with mental health during the last 12 months including how things ended for him at Bolton.
When you consider that, and his comments on Saturday about “falling out of love” with modern society and feeling like he belonged in a different era, on a human level, you have to feel for him and hope he finds his way back into football shortly.
By all accounts, Keith is a nice guy – it just did not work out here. We wish him well for the future. After all, it seems that Rovers and Hill are just better off without each other.