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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 13

14 November 2012

Last season it took Tranmere Rovers until March 13th to reach the 37-point mark, but in 2012/13 they have got to that tally four months earlier. Isn't that a remarkable statistic?

The turnaround under Ronnie Moore - who joined in early March 2011 - has been amazing. I remember him saying how confident he was in the players he'd inherited, and that his first task was just to make it all a bit less complicated for them, so he went back to 4-4-2, gave every player clearly defined roles, and ever since it's just snowballed and snowballed.

If he was being completely honest, Ronnie would concede himself that they've done a lot better than even he expected, but now that they're flying, the Tranmere juggernaut might be very hard to stop.

I know that he took great delight in beating his former club Oldham Athletic at the weekend. The fans at Boundary Park gave him some stick during his tenure, as they didn't like the brand of football his Latics side produced, so I sensed he took great pleasure in the manner of Tranmere's win there on Saturday. And I guess you can't blame him for that.

Another triumphant return occurred down at the Lamex Stadium, where Graham Westley's Preston North End thrashed his former club Stevenage 4-1.

He'd have been desperate to put one over Stevenage, not least because even though it's a club dear to his heart, seeing them above Preston in the league table will be hurting his pride a little. It's human nature.

Westley rightly saw Preston as a bigger club, with greater resources, and better prospects when he left Hertfordshire, but his project at Deepdale is one that was never going to reap immediate rewards. In fact I still think there is a lot more development to come from his side who are slowly but surely creeping towards the Play-Off picture.

Top scorer for Preston is midfielder Nicky Wroe, who has bagged eight already. Nicky's a player I worked with at Barnsley a few years ago. He was just a kid when he was with me, but I liked him a lot. He was good fun, a really nice young man, and someone who wanted to learn the game. I always had an inkling he'd do okay for himself.

He's always had the potential to be a very good footballer and now, at the age of 27, he seems to have hit the best form of his career. I love it when I see young players I've worked with develop into better footballers, and that's what's happening with Nicky Wroe.

Crawley Town striker Gary Alexander is a few years older, and has seen a lot in the npower Football League, so I was fascinated to hear him say that the Red Devils are the Manchester United of the division this week. That's a big call from Gary, who was implying that the Sussex side have a squad packed with players that have won things, and that's what gives the team a winning mentality.

Given the finances they have available, I'd describe Crawley Town as the Manchester City of npower League 1 myself, but I can see where Gary was coming from. Richie Barker's squad does contain a lot of players who have enjoyed success at various clubs in the lower leagues.

It got me thinking, and I asked myself how important is it for managers to sign players that have been part of successful sides in the past? My own view is that it helps, but that it isn't the be all and end all.

The bottom line is this; a coach will always try and find the best player available to fill a position that's within his budget. If they know someone, no matter how talented or experienced they are, is out of their price range it's pointless to give them consideration. You live to your means.

I used to look at ability, affordability, and then what they might bring to the dressing room both on and off the pitch. If they ticked all those boxes, and then I noticed that their CV showed previous successes it would be a bonus. Past merits, and a winning mentality are a consideration for sure but not the major one. You just have to go with your eyes, and say 'he'll do' sometimes.

Before I finish, I'd just like to congratulate Sheffield United on their long unbeaten record which ended this week with defeat to Milton Keynes Dons. They did excellently to go this far into the season without a loss, and I'm sure they'll bounce back quickly.

And good luck to John Hughes as the new Hartlepool United boss, too. There's plenty of work to do at Victoria Park but I wish him well.

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