Rovers manager Micky Mellon on the “fairy tale” ending to Tranmere's season
In the midst of the celebrations for newly-promoted Tranmere's incredible Wembley play-off final victory over Boreham Wood, a victory that came despite Rovers being hit by a series of first half setbacks, the boss was called over by BT Sport for the customary post-match interview.
Could he put what had just happened into words? “It's incredible isn't it?” he said. "To win a play-off game, a final, is fantastic at any time, but to have the odds so heavily stacked against us from the first minute and then lose a goal in the 71st minute of the first half," he laughed, a reference to the lengthy amount of first-half stoppage time,“and then come back again and show the character that they had...
“We just calmed them down at half time and said look, these are the jobs we are going to have to be good at, and if we can catch them we'll catch them, at a set play or a counter attack, and we did that right then, so I'm delighted.”
The manager said the occasion was difficult enough as it was without the issues that Rovers faced before the interval: “The lads have been brilliant, it's no easy task to come to Wembley anyway but to believe and keep believing and get a result like that is terrific.”
Could it have got any worse for Rovers than it was at half time? “Well it doesn't get any better does it now? We're trying to make decent TV for you aren't we?” he laughed.
“We just had to dig in. We knew about the jobs, where sometimes the jobs are there and you just know what they are and you've just got to be good at them. So, we knew what they were from very, very early. We just stuck to our task and, to get a win in the end, is just unbelievable.”
How does he, as a manager handle a situation like this and get so much from his players? “You sit there and you think, can anything else go against us here, but you just keep going, keep believing and show the body language to the players that we still believe we can do this. If I look all down they'll feed off that.”
Did the final eight or nine minutes, with Rovers back in front, feel like an eternity for Micky? “Jeez, it was unbelievable - and then I'm wondering how long he's going to add on again!
“But they hung in there and they kept on fighting and they got a result..”
Looking over towards the massed Super White Army in the stands, Micky added: “You can see what it means to the football club. It's massive, because we'd really suffered over the last couple of years and I'm made up, it just means so much to everybody.”
Told that Liam Ridehalgh had been seen by BT staff visibly shaking in the stands, watching on helpless after his early dismissal and no doubt worrying what it might do for Rovers' promotion hopes, Micky said: “You wouldn't want to live with that would you? You wouldn't want to wish that on anybody.
“He's off the hook now so we get on with it,” Micky continued, “and he'll learn from that and he'll have to realise that, in the first couple of minutes of a game, you've got to be careful.”
After being shown the tackle itself on a replay, Micky said:“He's overrun it obviously, and then he's over committed, probably with the surface then, he's out of control isn't he? He's left the ground and we can have no complaints about that.”
Mellon also made the bold decision to introduce Connor Jennings in the first half, despite him being just back out of hospital. “We just wanted to get a wee bit more experience on there,” he explained,“because we knew what the jobs were and the lads who were on, it's not their type of game - we needed someone who had a lot of nous, knew the position well and used his professionalism and that's what Connor Jennings did for us.”
Jennings played a huge role in Norwood's winner and the boss said: “With Connor Jennings it's a fairy-tale on its own. I mean he's pretty much wiped out last week and to be on the pitch is a miracle to be honest - and then to have the fairy-tale ending like that, every credit to the boy.”
Asked if he could now start planning properly for next season, now that he knew Rovers were back in the League, he said he only had some very immediate plans on his mind for now: “The only thing I'm planning for is to get up that tunnel, get some red wine out and get on that bus, and then we're going to have a good bus journey home.
“These guys will tell you, they don't come along very often so you have got to make sure you enjoy them when they come, so we'll be planning to make sure we enjoy it, that's what we'll be doing.”