By George Williamson
With it being the start of the January transfer window, many of Tranmere’s loan players were inevitably going to end up being recalled by their parent clubs for a variety of reasons, but Oldham’s decision to take back midfielder Ollie Banks will hurt Rovers the most moving forward.
The 25-year-old central midfielder joined the club on November 18th, and instantly became a mainstay in a side that, at the time, were struggling to even field eleven senior players.
He has impressed with a string of controlling performances, and it’s no coincidence that Rovers’ performances significantly improved when he was pulling the strings.
Rovers currently occupy the play-off places in the National League, a position in which many within the club would have snapped your hand off for if offered that at the time of Banks’ arrival, which is a massive testament to the player’s performances.
His loss will be a major blow to Micky Mellon and his coaching staff, who would surely have loved to have kept the former Chesterfield play-maker for the remainder of the season and possibly even beyond.
The returns of Harris and Hughes will help fill the void left by Banks, but with a January re-shuffle likely to occur after other departures and injuries over the past few weeks, the midfielder’s return to Oldham will undoubtedly be the biggest loss to the side.
Among the other changes to the squad over the past few weeks, Dylan Mottley-Henry returned to Barnsley, Devarn Green was sent out on loan to Warrington, Gerry McDonagh returned to Nottingham Forest and Scott Davies suffered a long-term injury and was replaced by new loan signing Rhys Taylor.
Like Banks, Mottley-Henry was a regular starter during his time at Prenton Park, and although he didn’t always shine out on the right wing, he did flash star quality at times and will also be missed as a wide option.
McDonagh found himself left out for the majority of his time at Tranmere, as Andy Cook and James Norwood solidified a strong partnership up front and hit a purple patch in December. Despite that, McDonagh was a good quality option off the bench for Micky Mellon, and Rovers will have to find a replacement for him in the coming weeks.
Davies’ loss arguably rivals Banks’ for the biggest blow to the side, as he produced a string of fine performances between the sticks and was the clear number one for the club. Mellon acted quickly and replaced him with AFC Fylde back-up Rhys Taylor, but it remains to be seen how big the gap is between the qualities of both Davies and Taylor.
The club will have to act quickly to replace most of these players, but replacing Banks with a quality central midfielder will undoubtedly be the biggest priority for the powers that be as Rovers look to continue their charge for promotion.