Sunderland vs Tranmere: EFL Trophy run shows we can compete with League One sides, says Mark Palios

Tranmere Rovers chairman Mark Palios says the club’s EFL Trophy run has benefitted their league form and has demonstrated their ability to dispatch League One opposition, ahead of their Wembley clash with Sunderland.

The Merseyside club, fourth in League Two and challenging for promotion back to the third tier after their relegation last season, face Lee Johnson’s side, who have revived their own bid for a return to Championship by earning 13 wins and registering only three defeats in all competitions from his 22 games in charge.

Tranmere have made regular visits to Wembley in recent seasons, achieving back-to-back promotions firstly via the National League play-offs when they dispatched Boreham Wood in 2018. They then repeated the feat a year later with a 1-0 triumph over Newport County in the League Two play-offs in front of over 25,000 fans.

The club head into the tie following a 2-0 win over League One Oxford United in the semi-final and have won four of their six games since that match on February 16.

Ahead of the game, Palios told Sky Sports News: “It’s fair to say that we have a reasonable amount of experience in the team, and whilst we respect opponents we don’t actually fear anybody.

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“We know if we turn up and play to our best we can certainly compete with League One teams.

“The last nine or 10 times we have played League One teams we have actually beaten them. So they will have respect for Sunderland which is a great club and has great potential on the field and are on a great run at this moment in time so we understand that, but we don’t fear anybody.

“I think it [the EFL Trophy run] contributes to the atmosphere around the place [Prenton Park].

“While some of our fans saw the cup run as the thin end of the wedge in terms of [playing against] Premier League B teams or U21 sides, I think the reality is that if you are in it then you have got to play to win and what it does do is give the opportunity to Keith (Hill) to make sure that the whole squad is match fit.

“It’s been tremendous actually as a contributor to the league form that we’ve seen.”

With fans absent from this year’s final, Palios admits it is a shame thousands of supporters are unable to travel down to the capital from Merseyside to watch the game.

But the chairman says fans have been proactive in turning a “negative into a positive” by helping raise £40,000 so far via virtual ticket sales ahead of the game, proceeds from which will go into helping the local community around Prenton Park.

When asked if supporters will be missed at Wembley on Sunday, the Tranmere chairman said: “Absolutely, and our fans are not as numerous as Sunderland’s fans but still numerous enough to make a difference and very vocal.

“And of course with the Sunderland fans as well it would have been a fantastic atmosphere.

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“But it sort of symbolises the club really. What we have done over the course of the pandemic is that we were determined that whilst football had gone away [for fans], the football club hadn’t gone away.

“So a lot of community work was being done and the fact that the fans aren’t there has meant they have turned a negative into a positive and they have had virtual tickets from which our guys have raised over £40,000 which will help feed people and help all the things we do in the community.

“It’s one of the things which should remind people of what football clubs can do for their communities.”

Watch Sunderland vs Tranmere live on Sky Sports Football from 2:45pm on Sunday, kick-off 3pm.

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