By Jacob Greenwood
Woking travel to Merseyside on Saturday to kick-off their National League campaign against non-league new boys Tranmere Rovers.
Rovers, who were top of League One in February 2013, find themselves the big fish in a small pond and will be looking to replicate Bristol Rovers’ immediate bounce back to the Football League.
The Merseyside outfit appointed experienced National League manager Gary Brabin, previously of Southport, Luton Town and Cambridge United, to oversee their attempt to win promotion. As well as a new management team, Rovers have signed players with plenty of pedigree including ex-Aldershot winger Adam Mekki and ex-Hull youth product Jonathon Margetts.
Everything Woking FC has talked to Tranmere fan Kenny Orr to find out how the side from Prenton Park are preparing for life in non-league and what The Cards can expect to face on Saturday.
How does it feel to have a fresh start in a new league?
Mixed really. It was sad to be relegated out of the Football League, as it does feel like we’ve been cast into the wilderness slightly. However, we do need a fresh start and there is the opportunity to have a successful season after fighting relegation for 10+ years. Being able to play Chester, Wrexham and Southport will also be great.
What went so wrong last season?
It sounds like a over reaction, but pretty much everything. We entered the season under old ownership who were running everything on a shoestring. This was then coupled with a new manager in his first job (Rob Edwards) who sadly, was out of his depth.
Micky Adams was brought in by Mark Palios and at the time, everyone was happy. We all thought he could get us out of trouble. However, then the transfer window came and he signed too many players for a squad which was starting to regain confidence. Our form nose dived, he continued to change formation and starting lineups weekly and the rot set in. With six games to go I knew we were on our way down, the body language of everyone playing said it all.
What has happened over the summer at Tranmere?
There’s been a squad overhaul, much to everyone’s delight. It was widely considered by the supporter base that a losing mentality had set in after having successive relegations. So we have pretty much assembled a new squad. Obviously, we also have our new manager, Gary Brabin. We don’t know a huge amount at this stage, so I can’t comment on him as yet. Feedback from his previous clubs wasn’t great, but I’m waiting until 10 games in before I judge.
Refreshingly, off the pitch the club has seen investment for the first time in 10 years. Owners Mark and Nicola Palios have to take huge credit in restoring pride to a stadium and facilities which were falling apart. So the stadium has been given some much needed TLC. We also have a new training complex on the way after the sale of a training ground we owned.
Gary Brabin has a lot of experience at this level. How impressed are Rovers fans at getting him in?
It was a mixed reaction really. Mark Palios kept his cards close to his chest and no one really had an idea who would come in. He’s come close to promotion out of the league, we’re hoping he can go one step further with us. I had read that he had gone to Athletico Madrid to study Diego Simeone’s setup, which I found impressive. He comes across as calm and hasn’t rushed into signings which I also like.
Bristol Rovers bounced straight back last season. Do you think Rovers will do the same?
My heart says yes, but my head says no. Bristol were very lucky in the play-off final, fingers crossed we can do the same. The division is clearly competitive and with only 2 promotion spots, it will be tough!
Who will Woking need to watch out for on Saturday?
A bit hard to say without knowing much of the squad yet. Andy Mangan is well known in lower league circles and has a great strike rate. Lois Maynard, our attacking midfielder from Halifax, looks like a great signing and the type of player we have lacked for years!
What is your score prediction?
I’d love a result to get our confidence up, 3-0. But I’ll settle for a cheeky 1-0.
Pictures by David Holmes. More images can be found at wokingfc.co.uk