It was a decade that saw everything that football could offer. A Wembley cup final, major victories over many Premier League opponents, a heart-breaking relegation, a then Club-record points total and a last day escape from relegation into the bottom tier of English football. A total of eight management regimes took to the Prenton Park hot-seat during the 2000's as hundreds of players arrived and departed. Whilst the vast majority of those players came and left without incident, a select group managed to leave a permanent mark on the Prenton Park psyche. We take a look at some of those players.
Debut vs. BOLTON WANDERERS (07/08/99)
Born in Bristol, Steve started his football career with one of the city's two clubs, Bristol Rovers. Progressing through the youth ranks with the Pirates, Yates made his senior debut in 1988 before going on to make 197 league appearances in defence. Despite his aerial prowess, especially from corners, Steve didn't score a single goal in his 5-year senior career with the Bristol side.
In 1993, Steve joined up with his former Bristol Rovers manager Gerry Francis at Queens Park Rangers, making his debut in August 1993 against Liverpool. During his period in London, Yates played a further 135 league matches and managed to register the first and second goals of his career, scoring twice for the Loftus Road outfit in a 6-year tenure.
During the summer of 1999, Tranmere manager John Aldridge saw something in Steve that persuaded him to sign the defender for the upcoming season and Yates would make his debut for Rovers against Bolton Wanderers on 7th August. Steve would play a role in the club's progress to the 2000 League Cup Final, coming on as a Wembley substitute against Leicester City. In October that year, Yates scored a goal in a 3-2 win for Rovers that knocked Premier League Leeds United out of the League Cup, yet it is a particular FA Cup tie for which he is most fondly remembered.
On 27th January 2001, Tranmere travelled to Goodison Park to play Merseyside neighbours Everton. The Premier League side were comprehensively beaten by the team from the second tier, with Yates scoring the opening and closing goals either side of a Jason Koumas strike in a 0-3 win. The two headed goals represent the only brace in Yates' career, never before or since scoring twice in the same match. Such was the importance of that result, Steve is still held in the highest regard at Prenton Park, despite leaving the club in the summer of 2002.
Departing Tranmere after 113 league games and 7 goals in just 3 years (he'd scored twice in the previous 11), Steve joined Sheffield United in 2002, playing just 12 games before moving on to Huddersfield Town in 2003. He played 52 league matches for Huddersfield before retiring in 2005. He came out of retirement in 2006 and made a handful of appearances for Scarborough, Halifax Town, Morecambe and Caernarfon before hanging up his boots permanently later that year. Steve went back to Bristol Rovers to work on the staff and was part of the coaching team that led the club back into the Football League in 2015.
In total, Steve's 18-year career saw him make in excess of 500 senior appearances. He was heavily involved in the excitement of the John Aldridge cup fever that gripped Tranmere in the late 1990s and early 2000s and provided Tranmere fans with one of their greatest memories in the last two decades. Undoubtedly, Steve is a 2000s icon.
Interesting Fact: Tranmere fans celebrate Steve every year on 27th January, a day known as 'St.Yates Day' in honour of his performance in the FA Cup game away to Everton on the same date in 2001.
Debut vs. SWINDON TOWN (25/09/98)
John was born in Utrecht, Netherlands and it was in his native country that his football journey commenced. In 1993, John signed for NAC Breda and represented the club on 9 occasions between then and his departure in 1996. Staying in The Netherlands, Achterberg transferred to FC Eindhoven, making 38 league appearances in a 2-year spell at the Jan Louwers Stadion before making the move to England and the Football League.
John was given the opportunity to prove himself in the English game when John Aldridge signed the Dutchman on a free transfer in September 1998, initially as cover for the regular number one goalkeeper Danny Coyne. However, with Coyne Injured, Achterberg was given his chance almost immediately, making his debut against Swindon Town on 25th September. When Coyne left to join Grimsby Town in 1999, John battled it out with young Joe Murphy to be his replacement, the latter being selected to play in the 2000 League Cup Final in a somewhat controversial decision by John Aldridge.
The disappointment would not last for Achterberg, who went on to firmly cement himself as Tranmere goalkeeper for the best part of the next decade. The number of outstanding performances from John are too numerous to mention individually, however perhaps his greatest game for the club came in a 2004 FA Cup Quarter-final game with Millwall at The Den. After performing goalkeeping heroics for well over an hour, John saved a 75th minute Kevin Muscat penalty to keep the score at 0-0 and earn Tranmere a replay at Prenton Park. They eventually went out 1-2 to a Millwall side containing players like Dennis Wise, Danny Dichio and a young Tim Cahill, but Achterberg's initial performance against the eventual finalists earned him huge amounts of praise.
John's performances in the early 2000s saw him win the club's Player of the Season award in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 campaigns, the aforementioned Millwall performance typical of the ultra-professional Achterberg's form at the time. He wasn't finished there. He would go on to play a key role in Brian Little's 2004-05 team that finished 3rd in League One and would be an almost ever-present player until serious injury in 2005-06 saw him miss over 12 months of action. John returned to the squad to find new manager Ronnie Moore had signed experienced goalkeeper Gavin Ward for the 2006-07 season and Achterberg found himself behind him and then the returning Danny Coyne for much of his later Tranmere career. He did, however, continue to represent the club with the same levels of commitment and dedication whenever called upon and, after a fan backlash at his release in 2007, was given a 2-year coaching and playing contract that saw him make sporadic appearances until his final game against Northampton Town on 7th March 2009.
John's entire career in the Football League was committed to Tranmere Rovers, seeing him make 351 league appearances and multiple cup outings. A massively popular player, he was awarded a testimonial match in the summer of 2009 against an Everton XI side. At a time when players rarely stay at clubs on a long-term basis, especially in lower-league football, it's hard to imagine that many other players will complete the 10-year service required to be awarded a testimonial and with that in mind, John's could well end up as the penultimate testimonial ever granted by Tranmere Rovers.
A consummate professional, John took to goalkeeping coaching and is currently the first team goalkeeping coach for Premier League Liverpool, despite never playing in the top flight. That highlights the high regard with which John is held on Merseyside in general but Tranmere fans will always remember John for his outstanding performances in the goalkeeper's shirt of the Prenton Park club. A guaranteed 2000s icon.
Interesting Fact: John's 2009 testimonial game against an Everton XI was the first Tranmere testimonial granted to a player born outside of the United Kingdom.
Debut vs. OLDHAM ATHLETIC (05/08/06)
Born in Huyton, Chris was on the books at Everton until the age of 16, at which point he transferred to Premier League rivals Manchester City, for whom he signed professional terms upon turning 17. An initial loan spell to Macclesfield Town saw Chris make his senior debut in March 2001 in a fixture against Blackpool before scoring his first goal in a 1-0 win against Kidderminster Harriers shortly afterwards. His appearances at Macclesfield meant he returned to recently-relegated Manchester City with experience of the Football League.
He was given his City debut on 11th September 2001, scoring in a League Cup match versus Notts County, yet the 2001-02 season saw him make just 3 appearances as City were promoted back to the Premier League. After making his top-flight debut in a 3-0 defeat to Leeds United on the opening day of the season, Chris would make sporadic appearances for the club before further loan spells with Walsall, Rochdale and Hartlepool United over the next two seasons.
An initial short term contract with Barnsley evolved into a permanent agreement at Oakwell, where he made 48 appearances and scored 8 goals throughout the 2004-05 campaign. Such was his impact on the team, he was voted the club's Player of the Season and he would continue this form into following year, playing 57 matches, including every league match, and scoring 10 goals in the process. Barnsley were promoted through the 2005-06 League One Play-offs, Chris playing in all 3 matches, yet he left the club in the summer.
In 2006, newly appointed Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore signed Chris for the Prenton Park club, securing his services on a 2-year contract. Shuker settled into the side immediately, bringing with him the talents and creativity that had earned him such a glowing reputation at Barnsley. His 50 matches were a significant contribution to a side that challenged for a place in the play-offs for most of the campaign, falling just 8 points short. For his outstanding season, Chris was selected for the PFA 2006-07 League One Team of the Year, chosen by his peers as one of the best 11 players in the league that season.
He signed a new 3-year contract in the summer of 2007 and started the 2007-08 campaign in arguably his best form yet. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in December 2007, which was a massive blow to the side. Chris was back in the team for the 2008-09 season, making 35 appearances as Rovers missed out on the play-offs by just 2 points and 2 minutes. Shuker would make 32 further appearances under John Barnes and Les Parry in the 2009-10 season before being released at the end of his contract in 2010. In total, he made 123 league appearances and scored 14 goals, including scoring direct from a corner, during a 4-year spell with Tranmere.
In 2010-11, Shuker would play 30 games for Morecambe in League Two before joining Port Vale on trial in December 2011. He signed for Port Vale in February 2012 before extending his contract by 2 years the following summer. He helped Vale to automatic promotion from League Two with 34 appearances during the 2012-13 season. Chris retired at the end of the following season.
After a playing career encompassing 402 appearances, 44 goals, 3 promotions and numerous individual awards, Chris went into coaching, returning to Tranmere as an assistant to Micky Adams during the 2014-15 season that saw the club in turmoil and ultimately relegated out of the Football League. Shuker re-registered as a player and made a further 3 appearances before leaving the club following the departure of Adams in 2015.
Despite his 5-feet-5-inch frame, Chris was a major force during his prime. He combined lightning pace with skill and trickery to produce goals on a team and individual basis. At his unplayable best, Chris was arguably one of, if not the, best wingers Tranmere have had in the post-Nevin and Morrissey years. 144 games in 4 seasons, in the face of serious injury, highlights how important Chris became in the creative process of the team. If he was fit, he usually played and up until his injury, he'd likely be one of the first names on the team sheet. A success at various clubs, Shuker is a Tranmere icon of the 2000s.
Interesting Fact: A 19-year-old Chris Shuker scored against Tranmere in the infamous 1-7 pre-season defeat to Manchester City in August 2002, the second time Tranmere had conceded 7 goals in the space of 7 days following a 0-7 defeat to Birmingham City a week earlier.
Debut vs. CARLISLE UNITED (18/08/98)
Born in Wrexham, Koumas initially played youth football in the Liverpool academy with the likes of Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard before continuing his development with Tranmere. He came through the ranks at Prenton Park, making his debut against Carlisle United on 18th August 1998.
Over the course of the next few seasons, Koumas would build himself an immense reputation as one of the most exciting young talents on the domestic football scene. With skill and vision far exceeding most of the often-seasoned professionals in opposition ranks, Koumas would play a commanding role in some of the club's greatest moments. He was a part of the squad that reached the 2000 League Cup final, scored the second goal in the 3-0 FA Cup win at Goodison Park in 2001 and caused general havoc for defences across a 4-year period in the Rovers midfield.
150 appearances and 32 goals caught the attention of many potential suitors, including the Wales manager Mark Hughes, who gave Jason his international debut against Ukraine in 2001. The following season, after Tranmere's relegation from Division One, Koumas was named in the PFA 2001-02 Division Two Team of the Year after yet another season of outstanding quality in the middle of the park.
It was obvious that his talents were too great for the third tier and in August 2002, Jason made a £2.25m transfer to Premier League West Bromwich Albion. This was, and still remains, Tranmere's club-record player sale. Koumas' initial season saw him grace both the Hawthorns and the Premier League with his exceptional talents, scoring memorable goals against Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers. Despite a team relegation, Jason was named the Player of the Season for his excellent performances during his debut Baggies year. The following season, 2003-04, would see Jason help the club achieve an immediate return to the Premier League. His individual contributions saw him crowned the First Division Player of the Month in November 2003 before claiming a place in the PFA 2003-04 First Division Team of the Year.
Differences between Koumas and new West Brom manager Bryan Robson saw his playing time limited until the 2005-06 season, when Jason moved to Cardiff City on loan. Scoring on his debut against Leeds United, he would go on to score 13 goals in 44 games from midfield as he secured the club's Player of the Season award and a place in the PFA 2005-06 Championship Team of the Year.
With West Bromwich Albion again relegated at the end of the 2005-06 season, Koumas returned to the Hawthorns, signed a new 3-year contract and became a regular player under new manager Tony Mowbray. Continuing his Cardiff form, Jason was named Championship Player of the Month for December 2006 and voted into the PFA 2006-07 Championship Team of the Year for the second-successive year. However, his performances were such that he was also named the Championship Player of the Year at the 2007 Football League Awards. His consistency in the second tier saw him make a £5.3m transfer to Premier League Wigan Athletic, with Tranmere receiving further compensation due to a sell-on clause in his 2002 transfer.
Whilst at Wigan, Jason broke the 300 career appearances mark but his playing time was reduced by injuries and non-selection. A return to Cardiff on loan saw him play more regularly, however his season-long loan was blighted by injuries and, upon returning to Wigan, he was released in 2011. Jason didn't play professional football for 2 years before re-joining Tranmere in July 2013. His class and footballing ability were not in doubt but he was unable help prevent successive relegations into the National League, his playing time again hampered by injury. He retired in 2015. In total, Koumas played 483 matches and scored 87 goals, the vast majority in the top two tiers of English football.
Arguably the greatest natural talent to grace Prenton Park, Koumas' abilities were appreciated by fans wherever he went. His individual awards highlight his standing amongst fellow professionals and his captaincy of the Welsh national team, for whom he made 34 appearances, an indication of his impact on the international scene. However, it is at Tranmere Rovers where Jason will always be held in the highest regard. A player of temperamental brilliance, he helped provide the club with some of its greatest memories and then, upon his departure, brought in a club-record fee. He started and ended his professional career with the club and is arguably the biggest 2000s icon of them all.
Interesting Fact: Jason holds the unfortunate record of being the only player involved with all 3 of Tranmere's 21st Century relegations. He was registered as a player for the 2000-01 relegation from the second tier, the 2013-14 relegation from the third tier and the 2014-15 relegation from the fourth tier.
Debut vs. NOTTS COUNTY (02/03/02)
A Cardiff, Wales native, Simon was fortunate enough to learn his craft with his hometown club, Cardiff City. A member of the Cardiff youth setup, he was given a first team opportunity in the 1995-96 season with the club in the midst of an injury crisis. Haworth impressed and was given a more prominent role in the senior side the following year, scoring a respectable 10 goals in 27 appearances, including a goal in the 1997 Division Three Play-off Semi-final defeat to Northampton Town (4-2 on aggregate).
His performances for Cardiff in the third tier prompted Premier League Coventry City to pay £500,000 for his services, breaking the record for a transfer fee received by the then Ninian Park outfit. At the same time, he was earning senior recognition on the international stage, given the first of 5 senior Wales caps to add to his collection of youth and 'B' appearances. As could have been expected for a player still just 20 years old, the jump from the basement division to the pinnacle of English football proved turbulent and Haworth made only 11 Premier League appearances for Coventry during his first and only full season at the club. He also scored just once, a League Cup goal against Everton, during the same period. After his final Coventry appearance, a 1-5 defeat to Newcastle United on 19th September 1998, Haworth left the club.
His destination was a third-tier Wigan Athletic managed by Tranmere legend Ray Mathias, who was suitably convinced by Haworth's abilities to break Wigan's transfer record by paying Coventry £600,000 for Simon's talents. Making his debut against a Northampton Town side whom he had lined up against in his last Cardiff appearance, Haworth's first goals for Wigan came in his 4th game for the club, scoring a brace in a 5-0 win against York City. His first season at the JJB Stadium saw him appear 27 times, scoring 14 goals as Wigan reached the play-off semi-finals before losing to Manchester City. They also lifted the Football League Trophy during that campaign. Wigan would go one better the following year, finishing 4th and losing to Gillingham in the 1999-2000 Play-off Final in a season which saw Haworth score 20 goals in 52 appearances. In his remaining time at Wigan, Haworth scored a further 25 goals in 64 matches as they again lost out in the 2000-01 play-offs to Reading before stumbling to 15th at the time of his departure in February 2002.
After a disappointing campaign under Dave Watson, recently-relegated Tranmere Rovers found themselves 9th, 6 points away from the play-offs having won just 14 of their first 34 games back in the third tier. In an effort to progress towards the top 6 places, Watson signed Simon from Wigan. Haworth did not disappoint. After making his debut against Notts County, Haworth scored the winner on his home debut in a 1-0 victory over Bristol City and followed that up by scoring the only Tranmere goals in the next 2 games against Port Vale and Blackpool, both 1-1 away draws. He finished that season with 5 goals in 12 games as Tranmere finished 12th, one place and 2 points behind his former club Wigan.
For the 2002-03 season, former manager Ray Mathias was given the manager's job at Prenton Park. Simon played a pivotal role in the club's performance that season, scoring 22 goals in 47 games, including streaks of 5 and 4 consecutive matches, as Rovers agonisingly missed out on the play-offs despite posting a then club record 80 points. They finished that season 7th, one place and 1 point behind Haworth's former club Cardiff in 6th, whilst another former club, Wigan, won the title. The 2003-04 season failed to live up to the previous year on both an individual and team basis, Tranmere finishing 8th, 6 points from the play-offs and Simon scoring just 7 goals in 27 games, Haworth scoring what would prove to be his last professional goal on 3rd January 2004 in a 1-1 FA Cup draw with Bolton Wanderers.
This is due to the fact that the following week, on 10th January 2004, Simon suffered a horrific leg break in an away fixture at Brentford. He attempted to come back the following season, playing three matches in November 2004 against Bristol City, Blackpool and MK Dons, but he was unsuccessful in resurrecting his career and he left the club in March 2005, retiring at the age of just 27 years old.
A striker who scored goals wherever he went, he was never able to fulfil his potential after having his 'prime' footballing years taken away through injury. His goal in his penultimate match of the 2003-04 season highlights the fact that, if healthy, it is likely Haworth would have continued to score goals for many more years. Despite this, he ended his truncated career with 104 goals in just 294 matches at an average of 1 goal every 3 games.
Simon has since gone into coaching, spending time on the Shrewsbury Town coaching staff (2014) and managing Eagley (2013-14) and Clitheroe (2016-).
For his overall contribution, including his 22 goals in a record-breaking season widely regarded as one of the most exciting in the club's history, Simon will always be a 2000s icon at Tranmere Rovers. Indeed, he was the only Tranmere player between 1997 and 2014 to score 20 or more goals in a single season, a period which includes the entire decade of the 2000s.
Interesting Fact: Simon was the first player to score for Wigan at the then-JJB Stadium, scoring in a match against Scunthorpe United on 7th August 1999.
Debut vs. BRENTFORD (09/08/03)
Eugène was born in the Ivory Coast but played youth football for French side FC Sochaux before making his professional debut for a different French club, Stade Lavallois, in 1989. After a 3-year hiatus for personal reasons, Dadi joined FC Sète, playing 17 games and scoring twice during the 1995-96 season. He transferred again in 1996, this time to Austrian club LASK Linz, where he stayed for 4 years, making 52 appearances and scoring 10 goals. A short spell at Toulouse FC followed before he joined Scottish club Aberdeen in 2001.
At Pittodrie, Dadi became a firm fans' favourite after playing 33 games for the club during the 2001-02 season. His time at Aberdeen yielded just 5 goals, yet his impact on the club ensured that Livingston were willing to sign the striker for the 2002-03 season, where he went on to make 25 appearances and score 3 goals.
Eugène's performances in Scotland had caught the eye of Tranmere, who brought the former Ivory Coast international to Prenton Park in the summer of 2003 and it is with Rovers that Dadi became a household name throughout the lower leagues of English football. In an attack that included the likes of Iain Hume and Simon Haworth, Dadi would make 49 appearances in his debut season, ending the 2003-04 campaign as the club's top scorer with 19 goals - no mean feat given the quality of competition for places.
The following season saw him play less regularly, however he was still a pivotal cog in the machine that took Brian Little's men to 3rd place in League One and to the play-off semi-finals against Hartlepool United. During this term, Dadi would play 37 matches and score 9 goals, yet it was his link-up play with players such as top-scorer Iain Hume that continued to earn him praise. He left the club at the end of the season, his final goal coming on 28th March 2005 in a 2-4 defeat to Doncaster Rovers which also saw him sent off.
Upon leaving Prenton Park, the much-travelled Ivorian would continue to journey around the footballing map, representing both of Nottingham's clubs, Nottingham Forest and Notts County, before a 2-year stint at Israeli side Hapoel Acre between 2006 and 2008. From there, he would join the Australian side Perth Glory where he won the Members' Player of the Year award in 2008-09 despite missing the final two games of the season after taking up a 5-month loan to Swiss side FC Vaduz. Upon his return to the A-League, Dadi joined the New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix, linking up with former Tranmere player Chris Greenacre. Eugène would end his career in Indonesia, first with Perisbo Bojonegoro before completing his footballing life at Manado United. After hanging up his boots in 2012, Dadi has focused on working in the fashion and movie industries.
In a career that took him right around the globe, it is undeniable that he made the biggest impact at Tranmere Rovers. 28 goals in 84 games, including finishing top scorer in a line-up of gifted forwards in his debut year, ensured he left a mark on the pitch. His charisma and off-field influence enabled him to become an even greater success off the pitch and he is definitely a 2000s icon.
Interesting Fact: Eugène runs a fashion label and once held a photoshoot with several of his Tranmere teammates to promote his clothing. He was also named the official club tailor for a short period in 2005, designing club suits for the 2004-05 season.
Debut vs. MORECAMBE (04/09/07)
Another player to develop through the ranks at his hometown club, Barnsley-born Antony progressed through the academy at Oakwell before going on to represent the senior Barnsley side. He made his professional debut against Norwich City in August 2000. Although the club was relegated to Division Two in 2002, Kay stayed loyal to the Tykes and would go on to represent the club 197 times, scoring 12 goals over a 7-year period with the Yorkshire side. At the time of his departure, Kay was the club's longest-serving player, vice-captain and having scored the winning penalty in the 2006 League One Play-off Final, ensured a return to the Championship where he played 32 matches before his release in 2007.
Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore wasted no time in securing Kay's services, bringing the experienced defender to Prenton Park in an effort to boost a side that had finished 8 points shy of the play-offs the season before. Antony's impact was immediate, scoring on his home league debut against Luton Town in a match that finished 2-1 to Tranmere. That goal would be the first of 7 goals in 43 appearances in his first year at Prenton Park, an excellent return for a player who spent much of the season at centre back.
The following year, 2008-09, Kay was moved into a central midfield role and he it was a position in which he excelled. Playing alongside Steven Jennings and Paul McLaren in the heart of the midfield, or dropping back to play at the centre of the defence with Ben Chorley or Ian Goodison, Antony was undoubtedly one of, if not the, most important player in a side that missed out on the play-offs by just 2 points and 2 minutes. On a personal level, Kay played 53 matches and finished the season as the club's top scorer with 12 goals, the majority of which came in the big games against teams such as eventual-champions Leicester City, runners-up Peterborough United and giants Leeds United.
One of several to leave the club before the arrival of John Barnes in 2009, Kay left Tranmere after 17 goals in 96 appearances over his 2-year stay led him to Huddersfield Town. In his 3 years with the Terriers, Huddersfield made the play-offs every season, finishing 6th, 3rd and 4th as they finally earned promotion at the third time of asking, beating Sheffield United on penalties in the final. Antony played a significant role in Huddersfield's consistency at the top of the League One table, playing 97 games over 3 seasons and scoring 10 goals.
Upon their promotion to the Championship, Huddersfield allowed Antony to join MK Dons in August 2012, one year into a 2-year contract signed in 2011. Over the course of the next 4 years, Kay would help MK Dons earn automatic promotion to the Championship in a 2014-15 campaign that saw the club score 101 league goals (of which, Kay scored 1). The following year, Kay made 36 appearances and scored 2 goals in the club's first season in the second tier under their new identity. He was, however, allowed to leave in the summer of 2016.
Upon his Stadium:MK departure, Kay was signed by Bury, for whom he plays at the time of writing.
Antony's impact at Prenton Park was undeniable, the fans creating the song “Superman wears Antony Kay pyjamas” to highlight the high regard with which he was held. He not only finished his second season as top scorer, more often than not his goals were memorable, either for the quality of the goal or because they had great importance for the season as a whole. Tranmere struggled to replace a few of the 2008-09 side during the subsequent summer but arguably none more so than Kay. Versatile, fearless and a leader, Kay has won promotion with 3 different clubs. Although he didn't quite manage to achieve the same with Rovers, he is still an icon of the 2000s.
Interesting Fact: Antony's goal in a 2-0 Boxing Day win against Carlisle United was voted the fans' Goal of the Season for 2007-08.
Debut vs. COLCHESTER UNITED (04/01/03)
Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, a young Tyrone represented FC Abcoude as a boy before transferring to Volendam. It is with Volendam that Loran progressed to senior football, making his debut in the year 2000. He made 25 appearances in the period up until April 2002, when English club Manchester City took him on a trial basis before eventually making the move permanent for a £60,000 fee in August of that year.
His time at Manchester City did not develop as either party would have liked, with Tyrone failing to make a single appearance for the club in the opening months of the season. Noticing his lack of playing time, Tranmere manager Ray Mathias brought him in to the Prenton Park fold on loan as he looked to push the club towards the play-offs. Loran was a huge success at Tranmere, the giant defender playing 17 times between January 2003 and the end of the 2002-03 season and he contributed greatly to a brilliant run of form that saw the club finish on a then record 80 points.
Strong, brave and intimidating, Tyrone was also able to play with the ball at his feet and, come the end of the season, Mathias was able to secure a permanent transfer for the player for an undisclosed fee. Loran started the 2003-04 season in the same fashion he had ended the previous campaign yet the side struggled to match their end of season form and Mathias left the club on 29th September 2003. Initially, Loran played under new manager Brian Little but an injury in December 2003 saw him miss 3 months of the season. He returned in March 2004 in preparation for the following year. However, the summer 2004 arrivals of players such as Mark Rankine, Jason McAteer and Michael Jackson saw his options for playing time greatly reduced at both central defence and central midfield. After just 2 matches at the start of that season, Loran left for Port Vale on loan in December 2004 before heading back to the Netherlands in January 2005, signing for RBC Roosendaal in the Eredivisie.
It was a shame to see such a talented player leave Prenton Park so quickly after his arrival, but the fact that he went from the lower leagues in England to the top tier in Dutch football highlights how good Loran was. He played a role in Roosendaal's survival at the end of the 2004-05 season and although the club was relegated the following year, Loran helped the club return immediately, winning the Eerste Divisie (second tier) title in the 2006-07 season. After 77 appearances for Roosendaal, Loran left the club in the summer of 2007, transferring to Eredivisie club NAC Breda on a free transfer.
In his first year at Breda, the club finished 3rd with Tyrone playing 17 matches as they qualified for the UEFA Intertoto Cup, whilst in the 2008-09 season the club again qualified for Europe as Loran appeared 26 times. He went on to make a further 19 appearances over the course of the next year and a half before joining De Graafschap in January 2011, where he made 7 appearances. He retired in the summer of 2011, having played 221 league games in just 11 years despite suffering serious injuries.
Whilst on the face of it Tyrone's record at Prenton Park does not seem particularly stellar, it was his impact on the club as a whole that says far more than the number of appearances he made. At 6-feet-1-inch tall, Loran had the height and the size to stand out on the pitch. His trademark shaved head and 'tough-guy' image made him an instant hit when he initially arrived on loan. He played his part in some of the memorable matches of the 2002-03 run toward the play-offs under Ray Mathias and was a rock in both defence and midfield. His career in the top flight of Dutch football indicates how technically gifted Tyrone was but it is his performances at Prenton Park that make him a Tranmere Rovers icon of the 2000's.
Interesting Fact: Tranmere are the only English club that Tyrone has represented in senior football whilst a permanent member of the squad. He never made a senior appearance for Manchester City and played all of his matches for Port Vale whilst on loan to the Valiants.
Debut vs. OLDHAM ATHLETIC (12/08/05)
Although he grew up on the larger side of the River Mersey, Steven received his footballing education in the youth system of Tranmere Rovers. Starting as a boy and working his way through the various age categories, Steven quickly garnered a reputation as a very promising young striker. Indeed, such was his potential that he was given his first team opportunity in the 2005-06 season against Oldham Athletic at just 17 years of age. Over the course of the season, Davies would go on to make a further 25 appearances during his debut campaign, scoring twice, including his first senior goal on 29th October 2005 in a 0-2 away victory at Doncaster Rovers.
In the summer of 2006, Ronnie Moore replaced Brian Little as Rovers manager and Steven found himself moved to a wide midfield role, usually on the left. Although primarily a striker beforehand, Davies quickly adapted to this new role and became an exciting prospect on the wing. His proficiency in his newfound role earned him more playing time, making 33 appearances as Moore's men mounted a play-off charge.
Steven, still only 19 years old, started the 2007-08 season with 58 senior matches to his name and he became a key component in Rovers' good start to the campaign. As of 29th September 2007, Tranmere were 3rd in the League One table with just 1 defeat in their opening 8 matches. It was in the eighth of those games, a 2-2 home draw with Northampton Town, that Davies would suffer a serious injury that would rule him out for the majority of the season. It was a cruel blow to Rovers, who had lost Chris Shuker in a similar fashion just 9 months prior. Just as Shuker was returning to form and fitness down the right, they lost Steven's talents from the other wing.
Davies' form had earned a lot of plaudits and had even seen Leeds United attempt to sign him during the summer of 2007 and his absence from the team was abundantly apparent. Davies did, however, return for the final 2 matches of the season against Nottingham Forest and Northampton Town respectively.
In the summer of 2008, Davies found himself out of contract and although Tranmere were keen to keep him at the club, the inevitable offers were presented to Steven by clubs further up the pyramid who were acutely aware of his sizeable potential. In the end, Championship side Derby County secured his services with an initial fee of £275,000 decided by tribunal. Including add-ons, the fee could rise to a potential £750,000. Davies left Tranmere with 71 appearances and 5 goals to his name at just 20 years of age.
Steven would spend 4 years with Derby, making his debut against Doncaster Rovers on 9th August 2008 before scoring his first goal in a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City on 30th September. An infamous run of injuries blighted his Derby career, yet Steven was still able to become the club's top scorer in the 2011-12 campaign, his 12 goals putting him at the top of County's scoring charts alongside Theo Robinson. Despite his injuries, Derby were convinced by Steven's ability and exercised the option in his contract that extended the deal until 2013. However, they also offered Steven a new 3-year contract which was rejected by the player. As a result, he was eventually sold to Bristol City, playing his last game for the club in a pre-season friendly with Chesterfield.
Steven moved to Bristol having played 94 games and scored 23 goals for Derby and his impressive 1-in-4 ratio from the wing persuaded Bristol City to pay £750,000 for his services. His first game for City was a 4-1 win against Crystal Palace on 21st August 2012 and he waited just 6 matches before scoring his first goal in a 2-2 draw with Watford. In his first season, he scored 13 goals in 38 matches and this prompted Blackpool to pay £500,000 to secure his signature in the summer of 2013, less than a year after he had joined City.
After just 47 appearances for the Tangerines, Steven joined Sheffield United on loan on 6th March 2015 in a deal that lasted until the end of the 2014-15 season, when he joined Bradford City on a 1-year contract. The following summer, he joined Rochdale where he still plays at the time of writing.
Davies' 300-plus career appearances, a large proportion of which came in the second tier, indicate the talent that he possesses. The fact that both Tranmere and Derby were keen to extend his stay despite significant injury shows the impact Steven made when he was fit for selection. Indeed, many Tranmere fans will pinpoint the injury to Davies as a significant factor in the club's failure to reach the 2007-08 play-offs, having started the season as arguably the club's most influential player. It's his prior form and the impact of his injury that make Steven a 2000s icon.
Interesting Fact: During his time at Derby County, Steven endured an astonishing six operations.
Debut vs. SHEFFIELD UNITED (01/11/97)
Paisley-born Micky Mellon started his professional career someway south of Scotland with Bristol City. He was a part of the squad that won promotion to the second tier in 1989-90 as City finished runners-up to city rivals Bristol Rovers by a margin of just 2 points. In a 4-year association with the club, Micky made 35 appearances with the Aston Gate side in conjunction with 11 appearances made during a 1991-92 loan to Cork City, achieving one promotion along the way.
Micky moved to West Bromwich Albion in 1993 for a fee of £75,000 halfway through the 1992-93 season. He scored 6 goals as the Baggies finished 4th in the third tier, qualifying for the play-offs before beating Swansea City and Port Vale to secure promotion to the second tier. After just a few months, Micky was back in the second tier, yet he returned to the third tier when he joined Blackpool in 1994 for £50,000.
Something in his 45 performances for West Brom had caught the eye of Blackpool manager Sam Allardyce and Mellon proved to be a vital part of the manager's plans. In his first season with Blackpool the club finished 12th before improving significantly to end the 1995-96 campaign in 3rd position, a solitary point away from automatic promotion before losing out to Bradford City in the play-offs. Irrespective of that collective disappointment, on an individual basis it was a very successful year for Micky, who was voted Blackpool's Player of the Year for his contribution to the cause. Allardyce, however, was not rewarded for the season and instead left his role at the club, with Micky following him out the Bloomfield Road door shortly afterwards. In total, Micky had played 138 matches and scored 17 goals by the time he opted to join Tranmere Rovers in a £300,000 transfer in 1997.
Back in the second tier, Micky made his Tranmere debut against Sheffield United on 1st November 1997, the first of 33 appearances in his first season at Prenton Park. His first Tranmere goal came on 28th March 1998 in a 0-3 away win at Stoke City and he followed that goal up with the opening goal in a 3-0 home win against Stockport County on 13th April. The following season, Micky made 29 appearances in all competitions for John Aldridge's men, his final game coming in an FA Cup tie against Ipswich Town on 2nd January 1999. He subsequently joined Burnley in a £350,000 transfer after 62 games for Rovers.
Helping Burnley to a mid-table finish in the 1998-99 season, Micky was again celebrating promotion to the second tier as Burnley finished runners-up to Preston North End in the 1999-2000 season. Back in the second tier, Micky started the 2000-01 term with the Turf Moor side, making the final of his 85 appearances for the club shortly before returning to Tranmere in March 2001, initially on loan before completing a permanent free transfer.
Representing the club 13 times as Rovers were unable to prevent relegation to the third tier in 2001, Micky played a key role in the heart of the midfield as Rovers attempted to gain promotion over the coming seasons. Often captaining the club, Mellon played over 115 matches in a 3-year period that saw the club set a then record points total whilst challenging at the top of the third tier. Micky left the club in 2004, having short spells with Kidderminster Harriers, Witton Albion and Lancaster City before retiring.
A vastly experienced player with numerous promotions under his belt, Micky went into coaching with Lancaster City and Burnley before taking up the manager's position with Fleetwood Town in 2008. On 12th January 2009, Mellon became the first full-time manager in the club's history, a decision that would prove very fruitful for the Cod Army. Winning the 2009-10 Conference North Play-offs, Micky then led the club into the Football League as 2011-12 Conference Premier champions. Mellon left the club, somewhat unfairly, with the side 4th in the League Two table on December 2012, their first season in the Football League.
A 2-year tenure as assistant and then caretaker manager at Championship Barnsley followed before he was appointed manager of Shrewsbury Town on 12th May 2014 following the club's relegation from League One. Mellon led the club straight back up, finishing the 2014-15 season as runners-up to Burton Albion and achieving automatic promotion.
Micky returned to Tranmere for a third time on 6th October 2016 with the aim of helping the club return to the Football League.
A player who often split opinion, Micky's experience and record speak for themselves. A consummate professional with a winning attitude, he has various promotions as both a player and manager. Mellon was a significant cog in the machine that took the club to a then record points total of 80 and always gave his all for the cause. His return as manager in 2016 highlighted the affection he has for the football club and it's important to note that it's a reciprocal feeling. Without doubt, while often understated, Mellon is a 2000s icon at Tranmere.
Interesting Fact: Upon his appointment in 2016, Micky became the first player to play for the club in the 21st Century to subsequently become permanent Tranmere manager. (Jason McAteer (2006) and Matt Gill (2015) held the role in a short-term, temporary capacity).
Debut vs. SWINDON TOWN (15/04/00)
Iain was born in Edinburgh, Scotland yet his youth development came at Tranmere Rovers. Working his way through the age groups, Ian impressed manager John Aldridge enough to earn a place in the first team squad towards the end of the 1999-2000 season. On the 15th April 2000, Iain came on in a match with Swindon Town at the age of just 16 years and 167 days old, taking the mantle of the club's youngest ever player away from the legendary 'Dixie' Dean. Over the coming seasons, Hume would continue to develop his role within the side and would feature prominently following the club's relegation in 2001.
Whilst in the third tier, Iain enhanced his reputation with a series of sparkling displays and exceptional goals, the most memorable of which coming in an FA Cup tie away to Premier League Bolton Wanderers in the 2003-04 season. Picking the ball up in the middle of the park, Hume unleashed a ferocious shot within the first 60 seconds of extra time to put Tranmere 1-2 ahead and it's a lead they held onto to send the home club out of the cup. On the international stage, Hume was also earning praise for his displays on the international scene, voted Player of the Tournament at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships playing for Canada.
With the arrival of Brian Little, Hume became an even greater threat in the Tranmere attack, finishing the 2004-05 season, in which Tranmere finished 3rd in League One, as the club's top scorer on 16 goals.
Iain's pace, excitement and overall ability meant Tranmere would always face a struggle to keep him in the third tier, as he was simply too good to play at that level. On 31st August 2005, the last day of the Transfer Window, Leicester City signed Iain for an initial £500,000 fee. He left Prenton Park after 37 goals in 177 appearances across a 6-year spell between 1999 and 2005.
He made his Leicester debut on 10th September 2005 against Sheffield Wednesday and would go on to score 9 goals in 37 matches in his debut season with the Foxes. Signing a new 3-year contract in the summer of 2007, Hume continued his swashbuckling style of football, winning the club's Goal of the Season award for the 2007-08 campaign for a strike against Watford in August 2007. He also ended that season as Leicester's top scorer with 9 goals in a campaign that saw the club relegated to the third tier.
Unsurprisingly, many Championship sides were chasing his signature and he completed a £1.2m move to Barnsley in the summer of 2008, Hume scoring within the first 5 minutes of his debut against Queens Park Rangers on 9th August. With 4 goals in his first 15 matches for the Tykes, Hume was continuing his career-average record of a goal every 4 games, yet things would take a sickening turn soon after. On Saturday 8th November 2008, Barnsley were playing Sheffield United when Iain was caught in an off the ball incident with Blades' defender Chris Morgan. Morgan elbowed Hume in the head, fracturing his skull and leaving him fighting for his life in hospital. Although no disciplinary action was taken against Morgan, Hume would bear the scars of this collision for the rest of his life. The 'challenge' left Hume requiring surgery that left him with an 18-inch scar on his head and understandably, he did not play again that season.
When he did return to action, Hume made 35 appearances and scored 5 goals in a 2009-10 season that saw the club survive in the Championship. Shortly after the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign, Hume would join Preston North End, initially on a 3-month loan before making a permanent switch in January 2011. Hume again showed his battling spirit by ending the season as the club's top scorer, despite relegation, in the same manner he had done at Leicester. Despite playing the full 2011-12 term at Deepdale, scoring 9 goals in just 28 games, Hume was allowed to join Doncaster Rovers in August 2012, with whom he won the 2012-13 League One title and promotion back to the Championship.
In March 2014, Hume joined Fleetwood on loan and helped them qualify for, and win, the League Two Play-offs, before starting out on a patchwork journey around the footballing globe. Short spells in India with the Kerala Blasters, an unsuccessful return to a Tranmere side now in League Two (and soon to be relegated into Non-League football) and a return to India with Atlético de Kolkata preceded a transfer to the Spanish second tier with SD Ponferradina. A brief return to Kolkata followed before Iain joined Extremadura UD in the Spanish third tier in February 2016.
A magical talent that played his role in almost all of the club's most exciting moments during the decade, Hume was an inspirational figure at a very young age. The courage with which he faced the life-changing injury endured at Barnsley typified the fight that Iain brought to the side. Although his return was somewhat anticlimactic, his initial run in the team holds special memories for a lot of Tranmere fans. He is still the Club's youngest ever player and is undoubtedly a 2000s icon.
Interesting Fact: Although Iain has over 60 caps, mostly at senior level, for the Canadian national team, he was born in Edinburgh and could have represented Scotland on the international stage. He was offered the chance at the age of 15 but chose to represent the North American nation instead.
Debut vs. OLDHAM ATHLETIC (21/02/04)
It is not very often that a player comes into a side in his thirties and goes on to play for the club for 10 years. Then again, it's not very often that you sign a player like Ian Goodison. Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Ian spent much of his early footballing life playing in the minor domestic leagues in his homeland. Despite his relatively low profile, his talents could not hide forever and he was brought into the international squad in 1996. Shortly afterwards, Ian transferred to Olympic Gardens FC in 1997 and he later represented his country at the 1998 FIFA World Cup where his skills were showcased around the globe.
One of those who recognised Ian's abilities was Hull City manager Brian Little, who recruited Ian and teammate Theodore Whitmore to play for Hull City in the English third tier during the 2000-01 season. Unsurprisingly, Ian was an instant success for the Tigers and he was rewarded for his 40 debut-season performances with the club's Player of the Season award. The following season, Brian Little left Hull City and this prompted Ian to leave the club as well, departing after 71 appearances to return to Jamaica to play for Seba United.
Goodison played for Seba until 2004, when Brian Little determined that the Prenton Park squad required some defensive reinforcement. Making his debut for the club in February 2004, Goodison would go on to appear 14 times before the end of the 2003-04 season, including both ties in the FA Cup Quarter-final with Millwall. The following season, Ian would move from an unfamiliar left-back role to his natural central defensive position and he became arguably the club's most consistent performer. In a season where Tranmere finished 3rd and made the play-off semi-finals, Goodison played an incredible 51 matches for the Rovers cause, missing barely any fixtures in any competition.
After the following season failed to reach the same heights, Brian Little left the club towards the end of the 2005-06 campaign and it was initially thought Goodison had been released. However, the arrival of Ronnie Moore as manager saw Ian offered a new contract and he became the first name on the team sheet for the duration of Moore's time in charge. During the 3 years between 2006 and 2009, Ian was a significant influence over a side that posted 3 successive top-half finishes, mounting play-off challenges in every season. On the final day of the 2008-09 season, Tranmere narrowly missed out a play-off place and Moore was sacked as manager shortly after.
The change of manager did not dissuade Goodison from staying on at the club and he became a crucial senior member of a somewhat young and inexperienced side. The disastrous start under John Barnes meant that another managerial change came early in the 2009-10 season, club physiotherapist Les Parry replacing John Barnes, initially on a temporary basis before taking the role permanently. Under Parry, the club gathered some crucial wins against clubs like Millwall and Norwich City as they went into the final day of the season needing a win to have a chance of survival. As was so often the case, up stepped Ian Goodison to smash home the opening goal in a 3-0 win over Stockport County that saw the club survive in League One by the skin of their teeth.
The 2010-11 season saw Tranmere make another poor start but they recovered to finish in 17th, Ian playing a major role in guiding a young squad through a second-successive relegation battle. The next year, Rovers appeared to have improved, occupying a play-off position at the end of August 2011. It would not last, however, and the side slid towards a third-consecutive relegation battle. A run of 1 win in 21 matches saw Les Parry removed as manager, with former manager Ronnie Moore coming in to lead the club to a 12th-place finish.
Over that summer, Moore convinced a 39-year-old Goodison to sign a new contract and he played a pivotal part in the club's incredible start to the 2012-13 season. Tranmere sat top of the league after going the first 12 games of the season unbeaten, winning 9 and drawing 3. Despite losing the 13th fixture to Bournemouth, Ian would play past his 40th birthday that November to become the first Tranmere player to play into his forties. In spite of his age, Goodison was still as valuable and talented as he was when he first joined the club, and although the club struggled to stay at the top of the league (eventually finishing 11th), Ian signed another contract in the summer of 2013.
The 2013-14 season saw Tranmere suffer the first of two successive relegations as age and injury finally caught up to Ian on the pitch. Despite this, he still managed to post 20 appearances for the club, captaining the side in his final appearance against Bradford City. At 41 years of age, he became the club's oldest-ever player when he stepped on that pitch for the final time that day.
Born halfway around the world, Ian Goodison owed the people of Tranmere nothing and yet he gave them everything. Over the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, Ian donned the Rovers shirt on 410 occasions, putting him 9th in the club's all-time appearance list between Dickie Johnson (10th) and Kenny Irons (8th). It's not just the quantity of matches that makes Goodison a legend, but the quality of them as well. In 10 years, Ian was voted the Supporters' Player of the Season 3 times. He also won the North West League One Footballer of the Year award 3 times as well.
In addition to the recognition of his club performances, Ian represented his country an astounding 128 times, making him by far and away Tranmere's most capped player of all time. Loved in his homeland and adopted homeland alike, Goodison's testimonial saw former managers Brian Little and Ronnie Moore return to celebrate his career. A Tranmere XI played an International XI in a match that saw a large percentage of his Jamaican 'Reggae Boyz' teammates fly in to celebrate with him.
A player of Ian's ability could easily have played at a much higher level than Tranmere could afford him, yet he remained loyal through even the hardest situations imaginable. Throughout the second half of his decade at the club, Ian was the one consistent source of pride left in the shirt. It's one thing to give your all when things are going well. It's another thing all together to give everything in times of hardship. It Is for that reason, and all the aforementioned reasons, that Ian Goodison is a 2000s icon. Possibly the 2000s icon.
Interesting Fact: Ian's testimonial in 2015 is, to date, the only testimonial granted for a Tranmere player who represented the club solely in the 21st Century.
Debut vs. WIMBLEDON (12/08/00)
Beginning his professional career with Swindon Town at the age of just 16, becoming their youngest-ever player in the process, Paul really broke onto the scene during the 1981-82 season, scoring 14 goals in 35 games in a season where Swindon were relegated to the fourth tier. The following season, 1982-83, Rideout scored 20 goals in 44 games, securing a place in the 1982-83 PFA Division Four Team of the Year. For his outstanding season, he was also voted the Swindon Town Player of the Season in 1983.
A £200,000 transfer to Aston Villa in 1983 afforded Rideout the chance to play in the first division 25 times during his debut season in the top flight. The adjustment meant Paul scored just 5 goals this season, but he improved greatly over the summer and returned 14 goals in 29 games the following season. In 1985, Rideout made his first move abroad, joining Italian club Bari, spending 3 years in Italy that included over a century of appearances before coming back to English football with Southampton in a £430,000 transfer.
After a promising start at The Dell which yielded 19 goals from 71 appearances, Rideout struggled for game time, a loan spell with former club Swindon Town preceding a short 4-game return to the Saints. He was eventually sold to Notts County for £250,000 in September 1991 but was on the move again in January 1992, switching to Scottish club Rangers for a £500,000 fee. He played 11 games as Rangers won the Scottish Premier League and SFA Cup double at the end of the 1991-92 season. In August 1992, however, he made a further transfer, this time to Everton as Rangers recouped the £500,000 they had paid for his services just months previously. It was Rideout's third move in less than a year, yet at Goodison Park he would find some much-needed stability.
In his first 2 years with Everton, Paul made 48 appearances and scored 9 goals as the club struggled in the newly-formed Premier League. Conversely, the 1994-95 season would see fortunes change, Rideout scoring 14 goals in 29 games, including what for many was the goal of his career in the FA Cup Final of 1995 as Everton beat Manchester United 1-0 to secure the FA Cup. Paul would stay with Everton until 1997 before setting off for lands afar again, this time China and the United States. A 3-year period abroad led to a combined 81 appearances for Qianwei Huandao, Kansas City Wizards, Chongqing Huandao and Shenzhen Jianlibao before returning to England.
In 2000, Tranmere manager John Aldridge brought the veteran striker to the club and he played an important role in the club's cup successes of the early 2000s. Whilst to most his FA Cup Final winner will be the iconic goal of his career, for Tranmere fans it's a different story. On 20th February 2001, Tranmere played Premier League Southampton in the FA Cup, finding themselves 0-3 down at half-time. It was thanks to a Paul Rideout hat-trick and a goal from Stuart Barlow that Rovers managed to turn the match around in the second half, winning the match 4-3. For many, it's the greatest FA Cup comeback of all time, given the nature of the two sides' respective seasons up until that point and the fact that Southampton were from the league above.
After relegation in 2001, and the subsequent failure to earn an immediate return to the second tier, Rideout retired in 2002 after a career of 147 goals in 593 matches, including 6 games for the England Under-21 side in the mid-1980s. Upon retirement, Paul went into coaching, including a spell in the Tranmere academy, and now lives abroad. Whilst not a figure that immediately comes to mind when thinking of iconic players, there were very few more iconic moments than the second half comeback against Southampton in 2001. For that hat-trick alone, Rideout will always be remembered as an icon of the 2000s.
Interesting Fact: Paul's playing career spanned an incredible 12 clubs in 22 years, starting in 1980 with Swindon Town and ending with Tranmere in 2002.