Tranmere Rovers will have a chance to book their place in the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final on Monday evening, and no-one would like to see them do so more than club legend Ronnie Moore.
Moore played for and managed Tranmere - who hold a 1-0 lead over Forest Green Rovers after the first leg - and can't wait for the game. Here's what he had to say when we caught up with him ahead of the return fixture...
What are your thoughts on Tranmere Rovers’ 1-0 win over Forest Green Rovers in the first leg of the Semi-Final Play-Off game at Prenton Park?
“It is the old cliché isn’t it, you are 1-0 up at half-time. No matter if people say ‘you played a lot of the game against 10 men and you probably should have won by two or three goals’ that doesn’t make any difference. When you are up against 10 men it sometimes becomes a lot harder than when you are playing against 11, I think the sending off was probably a bit harsh in all fairness, he has just kicked his foot out at him but was it any worse than the Norwood challenge? It is half-time for and it is all to play for, they have to come out a bit more than they did in the first leg, they sat in and played the lovely bit of football that they do play, and the one thing about Mark Cooper’s side is they always try to play the right way. Tranmere are a little bit more direct than Forest Green are but they will have to come out and that should give the opportunity for us to try and get that second goal that will hopefully see the game off.”
Do you think Micky Mellon will be frustrated that his team could not score more goals with Forest Green having a man fewer for the large majority of the game?
“When they went down to 10 men, they have gone 5-3-1 and said to Tranmere 'come on and break us down', and I don’t think that we created enough chances to do that throughout the game. It would have been very interesting if Norwood could have found the back of the net with his effort, you would have put your house on him scoring that with the form he has been in this season. He will be frustrated with that because he created that opportunity for himself, and if you would have wanted it to fall to anybody on the night, it would have been him.”
How impressed have you been with James Norwood’s performances this season, a campaign that has seen him ending up as the Sky Bet League Two Player of the Year?
“Without him, they certainly wouldn’t be in the position they are now, and I know it is a team game but every team has to have a goalscorer and if you are going to get promotion, you need someone that can get you 25-30 goals a season. And he has certainly done that this season, he probably has needed a bit of help alongside him with the goal side of things, and I think that is what Tranmere have been missing this season, another top goalscorer. Somebody who could have helped them towards automatic promotion, and when he is not on song you are always looking for someone else who is on song, but he has had a terrific season.”
Will Tranmere Rovers be looking to avenge the 2016/17 National League Play-Off Final defeat where Forest Green pipped them on the day to reach the EFL?
“I was actually at that game at Wembley, which was a heart-breaking one to be honest with you. I like that Christian Doidge, he’s a very good player and you can see that he can play at a higher level than League Two. I think he has proven that during his short spell at Bolton where he chipped in with a couple of goals in a struggling side, I think in a good Championship side he will be a handful. They have won both league games this season as well, so they will have that in mind heading into this game, 3-1 seems to be the scoreline that are following this team around at the minute. I think Forest Green might be a bit over-confident coming into this game because they have beaten them a couple of game this season, but I think Tranmere might have the beating of them tonight.”
How impressed have you been with Tranmere this season?
“Very much so, and if they could have beaten Bury the game before the final day, they could have had a chance of going up to League One in that last automatic promotion spot. I love the club, it has played a massive part in my life – but what a job Micky Mellon has done when you consider they were down to 10 men in the Play-Off Final in the first minute last season but they still managed to get promoted. It was unbelievable, then to come into League Two with a lot of the same lads who were in the National League last season, I think they have performed superbly. You cannot forget the work that Mark Palios has done behind the scenes, he came into the club with his wife Nicola and they have done a right job, they have put us back on the right path. The support they get as well is superb, they are getting seven, eight, nine thousand in League Two, it is unreal and they are loyal, that is for sure.”
You are obviously very passionate about Tranmere, but how much does the club mean to you?
“I have a lot of love for them, they are the club that gave me my first chance as a footballer, I made my debut in 1971 as an amateur, and I have had some good years and some bad years there. I was playing in a team that had to win to stay up when we were close to going down into the National League, the club have had a lot of years of my life, them and Rotherham United. They are the two Clubs that I have played for, managed and it has taken a lot of my life and they are the two Clubs that I look back for when I look out for results, and if everything goes to plan in the next few years I can see them playing in the Championship.”
We saw Newport County book their place in the Play-Off Final. From nearly dropping out of the EFL a few seasons ago, to making a Play-Off Final it has been an incredible story for them, hasn’t it?
“It has been brilliant, hasn’t it! The manager must be rubbing his eyes and asking himself is this real, it is unbelievable when you think of what has happened to them over the past few years. You have to feel for Mansfield Town though, they came so close to automatic promotion and now they are preparing to do it all over again next season, but Michael Flynn has done a fantastic job at Newport and you have to give him credit for that. You only have to look at the results that they have had in the FA Cup to see how good they have been this season, but they have done it the hard way, so they are they are waiting for the winners. But this is a huge chance for Tranmere to get promoted, I think if they get through this tie against Forest Green that Newport County are beatable, and I think it is a fantastic opportunity to get back into League One."