By Josh Roberts
Tranmere have used a variety of players this season, some making more of an impact than others in Rovers push for promotion.
Established players in the squad have stood up this campaign as well as a regular influx of talent from loan signings.
Taking into all the performances this season, here is what I believe to be Tranmere Rovers Best XI of the season.
With very few viable choices to choose from to fill the goalkeeping position, Scott Davies is the clear favourite to take up the gloves in Tranmere’s best XI of the season.
On loan Rhys Taylor has played a handful of games and youngster Luke Pilling have appeared only sporadically.
Despite some of the criticism Davies receives, he is still a very competent ‘keeper for this level and is more than capable of doing a job for Rovers.
The centre-half pairing picks itself here as it is the most consistent pairing in terms of performance and appearing side by side, it is of course captain Steve McNulty and Richie Sutton.
Both players have established themselves at centre-half throughout this season, keeping Jay McEveley and Evan Gumbs out of the side for the majority of the campaign due to their partnership at the back. The arrival of recent loanee Manny Monthe has allowed Micky Mellon the chance to rotate at the back which will only improve performances.
McNulty has continually led from the back with impressive showing after impressive showing ensuring he is still one of the best around at this level. Not afraid to put his body on the line for the side and play through the pain barrier, the captain leads by example every matchday.
Sutton has become a perfect foil for McNulty having slotted seamlessly into the left hand side of defence after the departure of Michael Ihiekwe, providing balance, height and also a surprising goal scoring option from set pieces.
Full back provided the first difficult choice at left back but the chosen two are Adam Buxton and Eddie Clarke to go into the best XI of the season.
Buxton’s performances at right back have been superb, so much so that the fans have recognised him as their player of the season. The right back has it all, he’s defensively sound, has fantastic attacking ability, is deadly from a set piece situation and occasionally likes to show off a couple of tricks he has up his sleeve. An obvious choice for right back and a worthy Player of the Year winner in the Tranmere Talk awards.
— Tranmere Talk (@TranmereTalk) March 14, 2018
17/18 season has proved to be the breakout season for young left back Clarke and in his handful of appearances for the first team has established himself firmly in the side. His exciting forward runs have had fans off their seats whenever he plays, has a few assists under his belt but doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities either.
A breath of fresh air for Tranmere when the season wasn’t looking too good, his performances were good enough to garner interest from League 1 outfit Wigan Athletic in the January transfer window.
For the two men who should play in the centre midfield, this was a tough choice but eventually I settled on Ollie Norburn and Olly Banks to going into this XI.
Both were new inclusions to the Tranmere squad this season, Norburn signing permanently from Macclesfield Town and Banks signing on loan from Oldham Athletic midway through the campaign and both have had an enormous impact on the side.
Norburn has been a constant in the middle of the park, offering a certain calmness on the ball as well as being the glue that hold the midfield together. His guile and skill have been invaluable on occasions for Rovers and his performances often go under the radar earning Norburn the awards for Underrated Player and Signing of the season on the TranmereTalk awards.
— Tranmere Talk (@TranmereTalk) March 14, 2018
Banks, while technically not a Tranmere player, might be a controversial choice over Jay Harris, but when he came into the side, he was a catalyst for much of the good form Rovers enjoyed and continue to enjoy now as he set a platform for players who came into the side. On top of that, he was more often than not one of the best players on the pitch when he played and it’d be wrong not to include him in this XI.
This was a straight forward choice for who plays on the wings here as Connor Jennings and Dylan Mottley-Henry make their way into the best XI of the season.
Wing has been a problem position for Rovers this season despite having some of the best wide men in the league, but the likes of Ben Tollitt, Jack Dunn, Jake Kirby and James Wallace have all spent a time on the treatment table.
Jennings, while not being a natural winger, has been deployed on the left of midfield all season and has performed admirably well, even going on the best run of form of his career earlier in the season, scoring seven goals in five matches, from that position.
He has been a constant threat with his driving runs and his willingness to come inside to make space for the overlapping left back. A consistent performer who is the obvious choice for the left side.
Mottley-Henry, like Banks might been seen as controversial choice, but for the first half of the season he was fantastic offering genuine pace down the right wing and allowing Micky Mellon to play 442 which helped get Tranmere’s campaign up and running after a poor start. While goals weren’t a natural part of his game, he was still a more than useful outlet during his short stint at Prenton Park.
Choosing the two men who should lead the line for the best Tranmere XI of the season was a no-brainer as Andy Cook and James Norwood are the strikers.
The two have a natural understanding of each other’s game and bring the best out of one another when they play which is why they are one of the most lethal strike partnerships in the division.
From the outside looking in, it might look like Cook is a typical number nine, using his height and strength to be nothing more than a target man. But beneath the surface is a player who has good feet and a footballing brain making him dangerous in the box as 17 of his 18 goals have been scored from 18 yards or less.
Norwood has been the epitome of a player willing to hound and haress every defence in the league giving them no peace and making him a threat from anywhere in the final third. His range of shooting from inside and outside the box makes him menace if given space. The one criticism of Norwood was his inability to put away one-on-one’s but this season, that monkey has been firmly removed from his back.