Tranmere’s love affair with wingers


Tranmere has been graced with some exceptional players during the last three decades, but few things excite the Prenton Park faithful quite like a skilful, old fashioned winger.

For those who were lucky enough to witness Tranmere’s rise to prominence in English football during the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, the brand of football Rovers played was simply stunning at times.

While the entire team was strong, one ingredient you could not ignore was the effectiveness of the wingers; namely Johnny Morrissey and Pat Nevin. Their skill, trickery and ability to repeatedly create goals for team mates meant that there was an air of excitement whenever they picked the ball up.

Whether we will ever see wingers of that quality again remains to be seen, but Tranmere fans to this day are always ready to fall in love with a winger who can excite, create and generate that unpredictability.

Despite living in an era in which old-fashioned wing play is rarely seen, our appreciation and admiration for wingers with the ability to get us off our seats is unequivocal.

The arrival of young Dylan Mottley-Henry on loan from Barnsley recently has stirred those passions once more. It’s no surprise that his arrival has helped Tranmere begin to record points again. He’s already got 2 assists and one goal in his five appearances so far, but more than that, his fearless and direct style of wing play has made Prenton Park a fun place to be.

He’s shown great strength, skill and a fearless attitude to run at, and beat, opposition full-backs. Let’s not forget that pace either, devastatingly obvious in the fourth goal against Halifax on Saturday. Every time he receives the ball there is a sense of anticipation, a buzz around the stadium as he gets the ball out of his feet and aims his sights on the full-back in front of him.

Cast your minds back over the last three or four seasons during periods when Tranmere have perhaps not enjoyed themselves much (aside from last season, perhaps), wingers have still proven to be one of the most talked about areas of the team, and the most anticipated in terms of new signings.

Ben Tollitt during the Vanarama National League match between Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient at Prenton Park, Birkenhead, England. (Photo by Richard Ault/

Ben Tollitt most certainly fits the bill of the type of player Rovers love. His impact was as good as Mottley-Henry’s, probably even better given that his form was outstanding from the day he arrived until he got injured. It’s the loss of Tollitt that so harmed Tranmere’s promotion bid last season, and even in his brief 20 minute return to fitness this season, he was picking the ball up and running at defenders. It’s pulsating, and there is nothing we seem to love more.

Both Tollitt and Mottley-Henry create havoc not only because of their own ability on the ball, but they are also often the target of twice as much attention from opposition teams. They have two men on them at times, or if they skip past an early challenge then defenders eagerly scurry out of position leaving gaps elsewhere, notably for the strikers.

If we could get two fit, quick and productive wingers in the team at the same time, you do wonder about how capable many teams will be at this level of keeping them quiet.

Devarn Green and Larnell Cole were the latest wingers to join the squad last week, but even the likes of Adam Dawson, Marlon Jackson and Lee Molyneux have all created a buzz when they’ve joined in recent years, even if those particular three never did really cut it. The potential of having out-and-out wingers in the squad on each occasion lifted spirits of Tranmere fans.

As Micky Mellon continues to try and lift his team back up the league, with a set of pacey wingers finally now at his disposal, and some forward players looking a real threat, perhaps finally the tools are available for the consistency we yearn for to return.

If nothing else, Tranmere fans can at least look forward to several more months of exciting wing play with the news that Mottley-Henry’s loan has been extended.

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