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16TH APRIL 1988

As John King afforded himself a moment to digest what had happened during the 1st day of the Football league’s centenary birthday party at Wembley Stadium, he pronounced ‘I think we might have created a monster’ suggesting fans would expect them to play the same way in every match. Said the proud Rover’s boss ‘we love to play attractive football, 1 touch football but you can only do that about 10 times a season in the 4th Division.’ Certainly, the manner in which Rover went about the task suggesting they were totally comfortable in such exalting company, with no hint of being overawed by the occasion. It bode well for the future. With around 3,000 fans packed into the Tranmere section, much of the atmosphere within the old stadium was generated by Tranmere supporters who found themselves next to the Sunderland contingent. Rovers kicked-off the tournament at 10am within 20 minute-per-half encounter with FA Cup finalists Wimbledon, who included John scales, John Fashanu, Vinnie Jones and Lawrie Sanchez in their full-strength line up. Yet it was Tranmere who came up trumps thanks to a goal from Dave Martindale which saw Rovers progress to the next stage where they expected to meet Neighbours Liverpool. However Liverpool lost to Newcastle on penalties to set up a 1st phase quarter final tie with ‘Toon’ who fielded Paul Gascoigne and Mirandinha (the 1st Brazilian to play in England) among others. But both had to play second fiddle on the day as Rovers played some of the best 1-touch football the old stadium had ever witnessed-certainly from the lower division team-an opinion voiced by no lesser personage than Manchester United Alex Ferguson. With Jim Harvry and John Morrissey in imperious form stroking the ball around, Ronnie Moore took the opportunity to burst forward from defence exchanging passes with Martindale and Muir but Glen Rodger scrambled his effort clear. From the ensuing Jim Harvey corner, Garry Kelly fumbled the ball and Morrissey, lurking at the far post, was 1st to react and lashed the loose ball home for a deserved lead on 7 minutes. From then on as the Daily Post said, ‘ Rovers went into orbit’ pinging the ball around confidently on a near perfect surface. ‘Gazza’ and company never had a look in. Jim Steel should have scored a 2nd when his header from another teasing Morrissey cross flashed wide of the upright. The Rovers fans roared their approval and so did their new found friends from Sunderland in the next pen. After a move involving passes, Steve Mungall burst through into the right side of the penalty box only to be felled by Anderson, Ian Muir coolly converted the spot-kick. Muir and Morrissey should have added further goals before Dave Higgins was adjudged to have handled 10 minutes from time. Eric Nixon, though, proved the hero diving to save Neil McDonald’s spot-kick and that was it. Amazingly, Rovers were through to the semi-final against Nottingham Forrest on the Sunday. Though the players made a brief appearance at the club dinner in a Heathrow Hotel that evening (they had to move to a different hotel) any celebrations were put on Ice as there was a job to do, unexpected as it was the following day.

Newcastle United: Kelly, McDonald, Tinnion, Anderson, Roeder, Mirandinho, Gascoigne, Goddard, O'Neill, Wharton, Stephenson.

Tranmere Rovers: Nixon, Higgins, McCarrick, Martindale, Moore, Vickers, Morrissey, Harvey, Steel, Muir (McKenna), Mungall. Subs not used: Murray, Bishop, Hughes, O'Rourke.

Referee: Brian Hill (Kettering)

Attendance: 43,000

v Newcastle 1988



MOTTO: UBI FIDES IBI LUX ET ROBUR which means "Where there is faith, there is light and strength."

Designed by Ned O'Toole, Paul Harmon and Oisín Ronan
Special thanks to Tranmere Rovers Football club for the information.