Tranmere are in League One action at Prenton Park on Saturday when they entertain Burton Albion. The match will see a return to the Wirral for former Rover Lucas Akins.
Akins joined Burton from Stevenage in 2014 and has gone on to become a huge crowd favourite with the Brewers during the most successful era in their history.
He’s won successive Supporters’ and Players’ Player of the Year Awards (2017/18 and 2018/19) and is always one of the first names on the team sheet.
It’s an amazing feat for a player who, its fair to say, often split opinion during his time at Prenton Park. Ahead of this Saturday’s game, we take a look back at how Akins, now 30, has built a solid career after being on the brink of giving up football altogether.
Lucas Akins arrives at Tranmere
It’s summer 2010 and Tranmere boss Les Parry is desperately trying to pull together a squad capable of playing in League One. The budget is tight, and options are limited. Trialists are very much the order of the day.
Timothy Cathalina and Maxime Blanchard had already earned contracts off the back of trials with Rovers, and striker Adam McGurk was also in the midst of trying to earn a deal as he played on non-contract terms.
With the new season underway, Rovers had opened with a defeat at home to Oldham. A Carling Cup win at Walsall would follow before a goalless draw at Huddersfield got the first point on the board. The Tranmere team that day featured the likes of Joe Collister, Kaylden Brown, Nick Wood and Liam Darville.
A couple of days later, a new trialist arrived at Prenton Park as Les Parry frantically searched for new options to add to the squad. Lucas Akins was that man – a young, very raw forward who had been released by Scottish side Hamilton Academical earlier in the year.
Twelve months before arriving at Rovers, Akins had seen his hopes of breaking through with hometown club Huddersfield ended having been released without making a first team appearance. From there, his journey had taken him north of the border for an unsuccessful spell.
Akins had given up a promising career in dance to concentrate on being a footballer in his teenage years, but with his career going nowhere, a return to dancing may have been a route he was considering taking.
Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports in October last year, Akins recalls a difficult time in his career.
“It was massively in the balance,” he admits.
“I was at a real crossroads in my career and it was make or break. I had to dig deep and I found something in myself. The path isn’t always smooth. There are bumps in the road. But as long as you are willing to fight for your dream, which I really had to do, then maybe you will reap the rewards down the line.”
In July, he got a call from Rochdale boss Keith Hill asking him to go on trial at Spotland. He took it and was able to spend a full pre-season with Dale, including a warm-weather training trip to Marbella which built his fitness ahead of the campaign.
Rochdale didn’t offer a contract, but a couple of weeks later he received the call to invite him to Tranmere.
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