Back at the turn of the millennium, when going on the internet meant waiting until after 6pm and having time to make a brew while a page loaded, and when Super White Army did not provoke a political correctness meltdown, the Rovers Rearguard legend Barbara Jones took her excellent independent Rovers website on to the new and exciting Rivals.net network.
The site grew tremendously on the network, had use of professional imagery from one of the world’s leading photographic agencies, attracted a bustling community of forum (message board) users, and ran TRFC articles many times a week, often daily. Being part of a big network was fantastic.
Rovers were also a Championship club, and as Barbara passed on the baton to Chris Owen and then Richard Ault, with many other great contributors along the way, the site grew and grew. At its peak it would regularly attract more than one million page views per month, especially during the 2004/05 season and subsequent play-off campaign.
The site would regularly run competitions for signed merchandise, perform former player interviews, spawned a Tranmere fan’s football team, sponsored some player’s boots, even had its own merchandise, and did countless other weird and wonderful things. It even briefly stood in for the official club website in publishing news stories while the official site was down. It was at the centre of the Tranmere Rovers digital world and fan culture.
And then, almost overnight, it went pop.
Somewhere between 2007 and 2009 (or earlier), after being sold from one off-shore corporation to another, the then owners of Rivals.net (BskyB) decided to change the look and feel of the website dramatically. It became unusable, users fled to hastily-created new forums, and editors of many sites on the network took them elsewhere (many can still be found on fragmented networks around the web).
The old Rovers Rearguard, like pretty much every other site on the network, was left in tatters. BskyB owned the roversrearguard.com domain, and that was that. Game over.
In the time since Rearguard disappeared, Tranmere have fallen away dramatically on the pitch, tumbling to the current position (let’s not dwell on it, it hurts like hell). While there are two excellent communities on TRFC forums (tip of the hat to The Cowsheds and Total Tranmere), we’re sadly lacking in Tranmere-related content these days.
NewsNow, a portal for many to get the latest Tranmere news, is dead during the week. A handful of standard match previews, reports and manager quotes is all you’re getting (no criticism of the club or local press). Editorial elsewhere is sparse.
There is little opinion, no sarcastic or even objective commentary on on-going proceedings, no calling things as they’re seen for fear of upsetting someone.
We’re in the abyss as far as football is concerned, yet to us, it matters as much now as it ever has.
So, Rovers Rearguard is making a return, of sorts. The aim? To provide some decent editorial content, and to perhaps explore other content ideas around the world of TRFC. Nothing more, nothing less.
At this point, there are no plans for a new forum, although do check out our nostalgic time capsule version of “The Wall” which we hope to have online in October. Those who were around back in the old days will remember it well (and it’s long load times).
So spread the word, have a look around and see what you think. We’re not answering to a network. We’re not answering to paying members. We’re not ran by the club, or the Echo, or any other organisation. There will be adverts present on the site, though not intrusively so (if we can cover hosting and other small costs, that would be great).
If you fancy writing, then drop us an email. As long as you can string some sentences together and the content of your article won’t get us sued, we’re open to ideas and contributions. If anyone has a magic formula for getting the site listed on News Now again, that would be great too (unless some fancy technology recognises we’re back).
There’s a small band of writers who are going to contribute to this project in their own time. We don’t guarantee daily content, or near to it. We’re just going to see where it goes.