For my Mum and Dad. For my brother, Nathan. For Patrycja. For Dave. Thank you x
By Ryan Ferguson
Exactly three years ago, with a single tweet, Planet Prentonia was born as the definitive hub of Tranmere Rovers opinion, history and culture.
Today, with a heavy heart, I announce the conclusion of our journey, as Planet Prentonia is laid to rest.
This was an idea that existed vaguely in my mind for a long time, as I became frustrated with the formulaic reporting and bland stereotypes of a lazy mainstream media. The perception of Tranmere as a poor, unimportant sibling of Liverpool and Everton offended me. The view of Birkenhead as an inconsequential afterthought, squinting indignantly across the river at the skyscrapers of that grand metropolis, drew my ire. The general failure of anybodyto capture the true essence of this hard-nosed town and its star-crossed football club inspired me to act.
Together, we explored the real soul of Tranmere Rovers Football Club.
When I launched Planet Prentonia – first with a Twitter account, then with this actual website – the grand old dame of Borough Road was mired in a perpetual state of crisis. For the first time in almost a century, Tranmere Rovers was a non-league football club, gawping into the darkest abyss of its vast existence. A fanbase accustomed to rubbing shoulders with giants, and occasionally slaying them, faced the grim reality of fixtures with North Ferriby United, South Park and Solihull Moors. But still we carried on, still we loved those sainted sons, still we wrote of dreams and dramas.
Slowly, but surely, our Rovers were resuscitated. We stooped to the lowest league position in the club’s history. We experienced the smallest ever attendance for a competitive first team match. We even lost 4-1 to the semi-professional minnows of Woking. Yet salvation eventually arrived, as the stars aligned in wonderful poetry. It took three attempts and multiple broken hearts, but Tranmere finally hauled themselves back into the big time with success at Wembley, ending English football’s longest draught of success.
Together, we have seen it all.
I’m incredibly proud of Planet Prentonia. We have accrued over 85,000 visits to the website, close to the population of Birkenhead. We have accumulated over 15,000 views on YouTube, close to the capacity of Prenton Park. And we have attracted almost 4,000 followers across social media, close to double the typical attendance at a Chester home game.
We have gained over 2.5 million impressions on Twitter; earned praise from several club legends; and even caught the attention of present-day executives.
On a personal note, Planet Prentonia has given me some fantastic opportunities, as my work was picked up by the Liverpool Echo and BT Sport asked for my opinions. Moreover, this website led directly to a major change in my career, as the Tranmere-supporting owner of North Star Environmental offered me a permanent position that has since morphed into a Commercial Director role.
I’ve been very fortunate. Things have come a long way from those early days, when I started a simple blog from my bedroom. I couldn’t even afford Microsoft Office back then, relying instead on free alternatives such as OpenOffice to write increasingly passionate articles. And write I did. About the vaunted Cowshed. About the enigmatic Ivano Bonetti. About Bert Cooke and Dale Jennings, Johnny King and James Norwood.
I traced the story of Bruce Osterman, among the first Americans to own an English football club. I delved deep into the Norse-Viking heritage of Tranmere Rovers, analysing our etymology and iconography. I tried my best to promote our role in the development of Dixie Dean, one of the world’s greatest strikers.
We even chronicled a Tranmere Rovers promotion, that rarest of cathartic joys.
I’ve enjoyed every minute.
However, Planet Prentonia was great in its own time. Things have moved on. From a technical design perspective, the website is outdated. Our hobbyist roots are too strong to enable any professional transformation. It’s too late in the day for that and, besides, I don’t have the inclination.
The march of time is inexorable. As we grow up, our relationships change. This extends to football allegiances, too. That fiery passion always remains inside us on some level. That football-loving kid continues to exist. Every now and then, its expression becomes more vociferous. When Oldham are in town, for instance. But the steady accumulation of responsibility- as we think about careers and houses and marriages – alters the landscape irrevocably.
No matter how intense our devotion, we eventually see that football is merely an accoutrement of life. It is not life itself.
Once upon a time, Tranmere losing a match elicited some incredible reactions from me. I would sulk in my bedroom, angry for days. I would slam and thrash about, frustrated at our unfulfilled potential. I would compose particularly loquacious tweets deriding Jeremy Butler.
It took a mental breakdown and several miracles to clarify my priorities. My battles with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder have led to many changes in lifestyle, and that includes a healthier relationship with football.
Of course, Tranmere is still one of the most important pillars to my happiness, and I yearn for more success. When that ball hits the net, and that crowd roars its obstinate defiance, those hairs still stand on end, those goosebumps still wrinkle up the arm.
This is still Tranmere Rovers, trickling through the blood. Deep down, just like you, I’m still instinctively convinced that we will find a way to lose against Southport in a few weeks’ time, precluding a date with the mighty Tottenham Hotspur. There are just other things of more importance that need my time and attention now. I’m too old to be blogging about Steve McNulty’s fluctuating body mass index or James Norwood’s receding hairline. It’s time for the next generation to articulate that beautifully innocent passion. It’s time for me to enjoy football for its simpler pleasures, standing next to my dad and brother in a shared, endless passion.
I believe this club has enormous potential. I always have and I always will. Just how far it goes, and how fast, is dependent on the genuine ambition of those in charge. Good stops great, and we should never feel comfortable with our achievements. Not until we’re back in the second tier, pushing for the first. Not until we’re all the way back.
All that remains is for me to thank you, the brilliant supporters of this project. The way you were so open to Planet Prentonia, allowing me to experiment and indulge whilst pushing the boundaries, is incredible. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for every kind comment and phrase of support, every smile and public handshake. I thank you for your passion and loyalty, excitement and interest.
I thank you for helping to revitalise Tranmere Rovers, this thing we hold so dear.
Alas, Planet Prentonia has been and gone.
I’ll see you on the Kop.