Saturday’s televised defeat to Dover wasn’t the first time we have succumbed to part-time opposition during our tenure in this cesspit of a division, in fact it feels alarmingly familiar. But why?
We have effectively cherry-picked some of the supposed-best players in non-league football over the last two years, yet have started the season looking anything but one of the better teams. We have a collection of forwards that most teams at this level would jump at, a band of midfielders with multiple Player of the Year awards behind them at previous clubs. Yet despite last season’s record points haul, we often just too perplexed in the face of students, window cleaners and postmen.
So, here are five purely speculative theories as to why Tranmere, and many other teams, struggle against part-time opposition.
1) Pressure – and lack of – does mysterious things
There is no doubting that Tranmere, and other full-time teams, will feel pressure to get a result against so-called lesser outfits that are part-time. This can not only come from within, the professional desire to beat an opposition that is not full-time professional, but a huge part may also be the fans. In our first season down here especially, the fan’s reaction to going behind in games to teams perceived to be much lower in quality was bordering on disgust and bewilderment.
This likely makes an already under-pressure team feel even the pressure of the situation even more.
Flipping all of this on its head, part-time teams coming to Prenton Park and other grounds are much less likely to feel any pressure. They aren’t expected to get a result and they’re playing in a stadium and on a pitch vastly superior to most in the division (and the division above, for that matter).
To them, it’s merely a challenge and potentially a day to remember. This all adds to a full-time team beating a part-time team to be far from routine.
2) We’re too predictable
Another victim of being a big club in this division, could it be that teams simply know too much about us due to greater exposure we receive? We’ve had so many live television games in the past two years, and have some of the so-called ‘big named’ players in the division that teams will know so much about. Does this make a difference?
3) It’s the fans fault
As staunch Tranmere fans, I (we) refuse to believe that we could have any negative bearing on a result.In fact, while we do show our frustration as much as any other set of fans would given the last few years we have had to endure, the Prenton Park faithful also produce an atmosphere at home games that no club at this level can match. Players and management have openly stated how important the fans are and what a positive impact they have made on games.
Not too long ago, players turned tranmere down in league one in favour of earning more money non-league. Dover themselves lost top scorer to leaue one club. Is it a case of part-time players simply being much better than we give them credit for?