Us football supporters tend to be massively loyal. If we’re ‘true fans’, that is. This means that we will put up with anything from our beloved club, and turn up again and again relentlessly, despite – somehow even occasionally because of – the disappointments. Actually, Tranmere fans are – statistically speaking – the most loyal in England, because Rovers have gone 26 years without tasting any May success, during which time they have suffered three relegations. As hugely talented local writer Ryan Ferguson put it a few months before last season’s play-off heartbreak:
“To support Tranmere Rovers is to believe in unseen dreams. To invest in this peninsula jewel is to fight against preconception and stereotype. To adore such a beautifully flawed concept is to feel true love, requited or not.”
Yet fans are also fickle. To continue the relationship metaphor, we are like lovers who switch from soaring ecstasies to tearful anguish within the space of a few hours – while never for a second doubting that our club is ‘the one’. A few days ago, the Super White Army seemed convinced that this would definitely be our year – we’d win promotion back to the league. We’d win it easily. It’d be in the bag by March.
And now? The almost five hundred hardy souls who endured a nightmare journey to the Southern Riviera seem a bit more cautious. Tranmere had been strong favourites to win, against a team who finished 42 points behind them last term, as Rovers smashed records, and they flirted with relegation. True, the Seagulls had strengthened over the summer, but so had Birkenhead’s finest, so surely they’d do better than the 0-0 they got down there in March.
But they didn’t. It was exactly the same scoreline. And this being the first game of the season, people look for signs of what 2016/17 will bring.
Well, if yesterday in Torquay is any indication, Tranmere will certainly be committed. Maybe sometimes a bit too committed. Players gave everything for the shirt, and made some crunching challenges, but this hyper atmosphere – coupled with the inconsistent refereeing that is standard at this level, led to two red cards. Captain Steve McNulty received his second booking of the afternoon just before the hour, after a bizarre incident following a full-blooded Adam Buxton tackle. It’s unclear exactly what McNulty was carded for, but it can’t have been for walking away and respecting the officials! Striker James Norwood was also instantly dismissed with five minutes left to play, after blatantly elbowing Torquay captain Josh Gowling in the face off the ball.
But these dire circumstances gave Rovers the chance to demonstrate their strength in adversity – a resilience that many of their fans strongly relate to! The team were a man down for over half an hour, and still actually looked the likelier team to break the deadlock until Norwood’s dismissal saw the side stretched even further. Still, Torquay couldn’t find a way through, and a clearance off the line two minutes from time sealed the draw.
Rovers face Woking at Prenton Park on Tuesday night, and those most loyal of supporters will be hoping to see other, perhaps more attacking promise in a fixture that Tranmere won 3-1 last time.
Tranmere: Davies; Buxton, Ridehalgh, McNulty, McEveley; Jennings, Harris, Hughes, Norburn (Sutton 57); Norwood, Alabi.
Attendance: 3,162 (492 Tranmere)
Photo credit: @BobEtherton1