A LITTLE vignette, played out on the touchline at Griffin Park last weekend, provided an example of the spirit driving Tranmere’s League One promotion challenge.
While play stopped so striker Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro could receive treatment after a heavy fall, substitute Ian Goodison slipped out of the dugout and moved along the touchline to pull Ash Taylor aside.
The 40-year-old Jamaican international may have lost his regular starting place in the Rovers side this season but Goodison was keen to impart words of advice to the more senior of Tranmere’s two young centre-backs.
The benefit of Goodison’s vast experience was valuable. Taylor was faced with the threat of Brentford’s 18-goal leading scorer Clayton Donaldson, arguably the most dangerous centre forward in the division. Donaldson was contained, Brentford were beaten for the first time in 14 League One outings and Tranmere celebrated an eighth away win of the campaign that enabled them to hold on to top spot in the division.
Manager Ronnie Moore, remarking on the incident this week, said: “There’s a great spirit of togetherness with these players. It goes right through the camp. That’s why the likes of Ian Goodison will talk and try to help people with the benefit of all of his experience.
“That’s why I call them the Dirty Dozen. They feel they are all in it together.”
Taylor, 22, a graduate of Tranmere’s youth development set-up, gained an education in the centre-back trade at Goodison’s side over the first three seasons of his career and now has 140 senior appearances under his belt.
During the early part of this season, Taylor had a new partner at his side in Ben Gibson, a young centre-back signed on loan from Middlesbrough to cover for an injury to Goodison. More recently Taylor has been guiding 18-year-old West Bromwich Albion loanee Donervorn Daniels through his first experiences of league football.
Taylor’s recent performances suggest he is growing in stature as the senior partner.
Moore said: “Ash is taking a bit of responsibility, although he is only a young lad himself. Ian Goodison took him under his wing and got him going and Ben Gibson and Ash had a good understanding when they were playing together during the early part of the season. Now Donervorn has come in. They are a young pair. Don is getting better and Ash is becoming more dominant.”
Moore believes Taylor is blessed with the ability to be a centre-half who can play from the back. He also wants the 6ft 3ins youngster to physically impose himself on opponents more forcefully.
“We want two centre-backs who can dominate consistently,” Moore said. “Ash and Don can do it but they don’t do it enough. They both want to play a bit. At 6ft 3ins tall they should be able to dominate some of the centre forwards at this level and I don’t think that’s happening enough. But they are improving.”
Moore’s own development as a player included spells as a centre-back as well as a centre forward.
Early in his career, during the 1970s, he played alongside the former Liverpool giant Ron Yeats at the heart of the Tranmere rearguard.
He said: “It is nice to be able to play but the centre-back’s main job, first and foremost, is to go and head it, to put your team on the attack by winning the long balls. That’s what centre-halves were like when I played with Ron Yeats and it’s still true today.
“As you go up through Championship level, you find centre-backs there who can play. They are comfortable, they are athletes. But the vast majority at League One level are 6ft 3ins players who can head it. They can’t really play.
“Anything that goes behind them they will kick out of play nine times out of 10, whereas at Championship level they bring it down, play and pass. Ash has got that part of his game no problem. Once he gets the dominant part, he will move on to big money.”