The final weekend in November is traditonally FA Cup 2nd round weekend and for the third time in Brackley Town’s long history this year the team will again be competing for a coveted place in the 3rd round when the Premier League and Championship sides enter the famous old competition.
On Friday evening Kevin Wilkin’s side takes on EFL League Two side Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park in a mouth-watering game to be shown live on BBC2.
In 2013 Saints beat League One Gillingham in a replay at St James Park to advance to the second round only to go out by 2-3 at Macclesfield Town. In 2016 another defeat of Gillingham by 4-3 after extra time in another dramatic St James Park replay set up a trip to League Two Blackpool who edged Saints out by 1-0. This season the 1st round win over Bishop’s Stortford sends us to Prenton Park with another chance to make the third round for the first time.
The path to Friday’s tie at Tranmere comes from wins over Billericay Town, Marske United and Bishop’s Stortford and a bye against Kettering Town and sets up a fascinating tie, albeit to be played behind closed doors.
Tranmere beat Accrington Stanley in the 1st round and will fancy their chances of progressing and hooking a plum tie. Tranmere have a great tradition of FA Cup success reaching the quarter-final stage on no fewer than three occasions. In 1999 they went out against Newcastle United, in 2000 they lost to near neighbours Liverpool and in 2003 the eventual beaten finalists Millwall won out in a replay. A recent memorable televised occasion came last year when Manchester United won 6-0 at Prenton Park in a 4th round tie.
“It’s nice to have a little bit of a diversion from the league and a chance to come away from it a bit,” Kevin Wilkin said speaking after Saturday’s draw against Chester. “It’s perhaps a chance to reflect on our league form and where we are with that. Clearly it’s a massive game. Tranmere have turned a corner in the form they have been showing. We’re under no illusion we need everything to drop right for us to get through the tie but if we can get one or two players back from injury during the week it makes us stronger and the belief in the group grows that little bit more and can have an effect. If we can go thrte and play as we’re capable of then who knows. It’s something for supporters to look forward to. It’s a disappointment to get league opposition and not have supporters in the ground. But it’s on TV so hopefully everyone can watch it from their arm-chairs and enjoy it that way. That’s some consolation I guess.”
Tranmere were without a manager until Saturday when Keith Hill, 51, was confirmed in the role replacing Mike Jackson. Hill has managed at Rochdale in two spells, Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers after a long playing career of over 400 league appearances at centre-back at Blackburn Rovers, Plymouth, Rochdale and Morecambe among others. Tranmere won 5-0 on Saturday against Grimsby Town lifting Rovers to 13th place in League Two.
Tranmere’s Chairman is ex-FA Chief Executive Mark Palios who is the club owner along with his wife Nicola who is Vice-Chair having taken over in 2014. Palios played for Tranmere between 1973 and 1980 making almost 200 appearances for The Whites.
Tranmere Rovers were founded in 1884 as Belmont FC through the merging of two cricket teams and took the name of Tranmere Rovers a year later. In 1921 they were founder members of the Third Division North, the season they first entered the FA Cup.
The legendary Dixie Dean played 30 times for Rovers scoring 27 goals before moving to Everton where he scored an incredible 60 goals in the 1927-28 season. In 1938 Tranmere won their only championship gaining promotion from Division 3 North to the Second Division.
Through the ‘70s and into the ‘90s they attracted big names from higher levels in the game such as Ron Yeats from Liverpool as player/manager, Bill Shankly who took a consultant role for a period, John Aldridge who had a long spell at the club becoming the first TRanmere player to score a goal in the World Cup. In 1993 Pay Nevin joined before the club attracted a series of high profile former players into the manager role including Brian Little, Tranmere legend Ronnie Moore and John Barnes.
Tranmere’s Prenton Park ground has been home since 1912. It was extensively re-developed in 1994-95 and has a current capacity of 16,567 with the average home attendance in the 2018-19 season an impressive 6552.
Rovers are also known as a rare Friday night enclave of league football along with the occasional likes of Stockport County and Southend United due to having big clubs on their door-step every Saturday. The Friday night tag spawned Tranmere-supporting band Half Man Half Biscuit to sing “Friday night and the gates are low”!
Friday's match is another giant marker in the history of Brackley Town. The game is Behind Closed Doors and will be televised live on Friday evening at 7.55pm on BBC2.