Rovers’ played three seasons in the Anglo-Italian Cup, only once did they fail to get further than the preliminary round. Here we look at each season.
heir first crack at ‘European Competition’ came in this initial season of its re-launch. All of the 24 First Division sides were entered into the preliminary round of the tournament. These sides where split into eight groups of three. Tranmere were drawn in group 4 with Peterborough and Wolves.
The first ever game in the competition came on Tuesday 1 st September 1992 at London Road. A goalless draw with Peterborough meant Rovers gave themselves a great chance of progressing if they could over came Wolves at Prenton Park 14 days later.
An attendance of 3,511 saw a brace from John Aldridge help Rovers to a 2-1 victory, sending them through to the international stage of the competition as group winners.
The Italian and English sides were then mixed into the same group. In this ‘international stage’, Rovers where drawn into Group B. There were four English sides, and four Italian sides, both split into two groups. Tranmere were alongside Bristol City, Derby County and West Ham United. However, these English sides would not play each other. The English would play the Italian’s, and then their results plotted against each other. Only the top side would progress through to an English semi-final.
The first Italian side’s to ever visit Prenton Park would be AS Cremonese and Cosenza, both sides travelling to the Wirral on cold winter nights in late 1992. First of all, Tranmere would have travel to Italy for a competitive fixture for the first time in their history. The opposition was Reggiana, and a trip to the Reggio d’Emila.
The game in Reggiana finished goalless with an attendance of 2,251 present. Next up, the visit of Cremonese. This game would stay in the memory for some time, mainly due to the ‘sportsmanship’ shown by the visitors from Italy. An attendance of 5,727 watched on as Neil McNab was sent off for vilent conduct, and Rovers succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. Striker Chris Malkin grabbed Rovers only goal.
Rovers were again packing their bags two weeks later as they travelled to play Pisa. The Rovers side were given an excellent setup for the game, as they had a training camp hidden away in the mountains. It worked wonders, as Kenny Irons struck a late winner for Tranmere, squeezing the ball home for a tight angle after rounding the keeper. John King’s side had just created a little bit of history by becoming the first ever Tranmere side to win in Europe. To this day, its still the only side to have achieved that feat.
Rovers had a clear weekend to prepare for the final game of the group stage, a visit from Cosenza. The side from Southern Italy are still one of few Italians clubs to have a nickname. Theirs is ‘Lupi della Sila’, which translates to ‘The Wolves of Silla’. This name comes from a rare species of wolf that originates in the countryside around the Cosenza region. On to the game, and Rovers continued their good form with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Johnny Morrissey and another one for the on-form Kenny Irons. The wins against Pisa and Cosenza coincided with Rovers best winning run of the season. Five straight victories, with midfielder Irons scoring in three of them.
Unfortunately, this form wasn’t enough to see Tranmere through to the semi-final’s. The final table looked like this: