Mark Palios on the Tranmere ‘oneness’ that has fuelled thrilling FA Cup run and holds the key to League One survival – Liverpool Echo

Posted: January 16, 2020 at 6:46 am

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A chance to make history, to defy the odds and produce the unthinkable: Only the FA Cup can throw up such fairytale stories.

3-0 down at half-time against Watford; just how many teams would possess the mental fortitude to overturn this situation?

Not many, is the answer.

Battling back from unfavourable positions has been the hallmark of many Tranmere sides over the years, more so than ever since the appointment of Micky Mellon in October 2016.

Despite losing instrumental figures such as James Norwood, Steve McNulty and Jay Harris, all of whom played an integral part in forming an unbreakable sense of team spirit at the club, Rovers have found a way to evolve and carry forward this trait.

Watford was simply the latest remarkable comeback completed by this sidea result that not even Rovers chairman Mark Palios foresaw at half-time.

Reflecting on the 3-3 draw with the Hornets, Palios told the ECHO: I would say that Im pretty much the same as where Micky was on the game; your heart bled for the supporters because they were fantastic. They kept their heads up and kept going and, as a player, its actually quite important.

Like Micky said to the players, get out there and pay the fans back. Did I think we were going to do that? No, is the answer. Its very difficult to envisage coming back, and they were in such control that you couldnt see it turning as dramatically as it did.

One of the reasons Micky is at the club is because he understands and gets the club, being an ex-player. He understands the values of the club and what it means to play for Tranmere, and I think he imbues the players that come to Tranmere with that.

Micky is a coach that can change games. He reads the game; he understands the tempo of the game and is not afraid to make bold changes. We could have gone out there in the second-half and tried to limit the damage, but we didnt. We went out and tried to take the game to them.

The FA Cup has arguably acted as a welcome distraction from the challenges faced in League One this season, with Rovers reaching the third-round of the competition for a second year in succession.

Though still battling to beat the drop in the third tier, Tranmeres heroic cup performances have laid bare the spirit that exists within the squad and the value this brings.

This sense of oneness has carried the Whites a long way, and Palios has insisted its this quality alone that will play a major part in keeping Mellons men safe from relegation come May.

One of the problems with moving up through the divisions as quickly as we did, in the form of two promotions, is the dynamic of the squad changed. A lot of the old guard, who were part of the team spirit that we built, had left, said the Rovers chairman.

This dynamic was quite a difficult one to manage, continued Palios.

At times this season, people have said the players dont care. But I think there is a difference between not caring and a lack of confidence, because of the way a game is. While certain players will brush that off, keep playing and showing it, its sometimes difficult for players who are lacking confidence. It comes across as though they dont care: they dont take a chance and make a run, so they look slower and you get a vicious downward spiral.

In the first-half at Watford, we were a bit subdued and in awe of the fact that we were playing these guys. But there have been enough occasions whereby we have, in adversity, come through: Youre looking at Wycombe away, down to ten men before half-time; they thought it was over. We also beat Burton when we were 1-0 down in the 90minute, and there are enough examples this season where the lads have gone the 90 minutes. There are frustrations whereby weve conceded early goals, and sometimes you think If only we played the 70 minutes after the 20minute, wed be in a far better league position.

Without a doubt, over our time here, one of the major features of the club doing as well as it is has done is the fact that we have this oneness.

At Watford, it was almost as if the fans had done their bit and the players came out and paid them back. That oneness got us out of non-league, out of League Two and has been responsible for keeping us in the FA Cup this season. That is one of the major factors that will keep us safe this year.

At this stage of the competition last season, the Whites crashed out in humiliating style. A 7-0 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur put a dampener on a momentous occasion, and Palios has admitted this was a far cry from being a Tranmere performance.

Should Rovers progress to the fourth-round of the FA Cup for the first time since the 2003/04 campaign, either Wolves or Manchester United will be next in store.

Fancying Tranmeres chances of setting-up another glamour tie involving Premier League opposition, Palios believes adopting the correct mental attitude will hold the key to a famous cup win under the lights at Prenton Park.

Looking ahead to Tuesday night, Palios said: Our capacity will be 14,400. Whether we will achieve that, I dont know. Ticket sales are going well, and people need to get in and get them. I think its going to be one of those classic cup ties.

Watford have got their own problems, in terms of their league position, so it may be a strait re-run of the team they played first time around. Theyre coming here, playing at a packed Prenton Park, and its going to be a difficult pitch compared to the carpets they play on.

The biggest issue is whether or not our lads have the same mental attitude that they had in the second-half at their ground. The psychological pendulum in a game swings one way or another, and I think it would be important for us to get off on the right foot and not give them a three-goal start this time, he concluded.

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Mark Palios on the Tranmere 'oneness' that has fuelled thrilling FA Cup run and holds the key to League One survival - Liverpool Echo

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January 16th, 2020 at 6:46 am

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