At Tranmere Rovers, a change in transfer policy is underway.
Currently competing at the top end of League Two and in search of promotion back to the third tier, Micky Mellon’s side are taking a new approach regarding their recruitment.
As well as continuing to target individuals with relevant experience at EFL level, the Whites will be looking much closer to home as they move into the market for a different profile of player.
Eager to make the most of their Merseyside links, loan deals for Everton and Liverpool’s brightest youngsters are now being pursued.
Rovers’ intentions in this department were laid bare after securing a season-long loan for Liverpool forward Paul Glatzel, which they followed up by securing the services of Blues midfielder Lewis Warrington last month.
Attracting talent from both Premier League clubs proved to be somewhat of a challenge when Tranmere fell into the National League seven years ago, but the dynamic has now changed.
Tranmere chairman Mark Palios is fully aware of the benefits forging such partnerships will bring and believes Prenton Park has gradually become an attractive proposition for sides when choosing where to send stars to gain first-team experience.
“When we first came in, the issue was that we were struggling in League Two and then fell into the National League for three years,” he told the ECHO.
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“At that time, although people thought we would get the benefit of Everton and Liverpool being on our doorstep, the issue was not to do with our desire to bring players in but rather they didn’t want to come to non-league.
“It was a question of being realistic and waiting until we got back into the Football League.
“Once we got back in and then got to League One, we quickly got into a position whereby you start to say ‘We should be able to attract players out of the under-23s system’.
“Over a period of time, we were migrating out of our own academy system and we’ve got our last year of that this year.
“We’re trying to focus on a development area much closer to the first-team squad, rather than having this massive gap to jump from the academy system. I’ve never been a fan of the academy system for Tranmere – it may work for other clubs but, for us, it doesn’t.
“One of the things you do in the second phase of a turnaround is to extract organic potential and part of the organic potential for us is we have two massive Premier League clubs right on our doorstep,” continued Palios.
“I know that there has always been a relationship between the clubs. When I came through, it happened to be a stronger bond with Liverpool. When I moved on from the club as a player, the relationship with Everton became a lot closer.
“We’ve always had a better relationship with Liverpool since I’ve been here as chairman as it is multifaceted.
“There is the existing agreement we have with the Women’s team, which sees them using our training facilities and playing at our ground, and there are also the pre-season friends between the clubs.
“The relationship with Everton, we would hope can develop. We are talking to them about the community work they do because they’re a very good community club, so we try to cooperate with them on that. This is a key area we think we can both benefit from.”
One figure who has played a key role in bridging the gap between Tranmere and its two local teams is former Everton striker James Vaughan.
The 33-year-old saw out his playing career at Prenton Park, retiring at the end of last season, and now holds the position of sporting director at the club.
Vaughan makes clear that presenting ‘clear pathways’ for prospective signings has built bonds with Everton and Liverpool, who felt confident the Whites would maximize development potential.
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Still a respected figure at Goodison Park for his contributions during his early career, the ex-Blues forward is now hoping to further strengthen his connection with a club he made a total of 60 first-team appearances for.
“Relationships are key,” Vaughan admitted when in conversation with the ECHO.
“You shouldn’t have to play the players who are coming in on loan but, if they don’t, what are we doing to make them better regardless?
“Not everyone can come in and be the best player in your team and they may not be in the starting-eleven for different reasons, but we are making them better.
“When Glatzel arrived, it was a tough start for him. But within that period, the coaching staff were working on him on a daily basis. In fairness to the boy, he has worked so hard, done exactly what is asked of him and is now a really influential figure in our team.
“In my point of view, it would be about then communicating that back to Liverpool and making sure they understand what we’re trying to do. The message we’re getting from them to improve him is exactly what we’re doing.
“Once you do that, you start to build trust between clubs. The likes of Everton and Liverpool see that you can send us a player and we will look after him.
“Whether he plays or not, we’re bringing him in to play. If they don’t, we’re still improving their asset. On top of that, we’re developing them for our squad and making it stronger.
“When we were speaking to the clubs, we had clear pathways for them and detailed what we expected them to do. They understood that we weren’t just taking them as another body in our squad.
“They had a lot more confidence sending him to us, knowing we had a plan.”
Glatzel has caught the eye with his moments of brilliance within the final third, meanwhile Warrington has already proved to be a major hit among Tranmere supporters having slotted straight into Mellon’s midfield department.
Expanding on his role in helping complete a deal for the influential Everton under-23s star, Vaughan added: “We had good conversations with Everton, where we stressed that this was bigger than just one player.
“They were open about creating a relationship with us. We gave them the reasons why we were signing Lewis and what we were hoping he would come in and do at Tranmere.
“The manager and I have watched Lewis and understood him. We knew that, culturally, he would be a good fit for us. The things that we could tell Lewis about how we had seen him play, how he would fit in and be successful what was important for him to hear.
“I’ve been there myself as a young kid, you get sent on loan because someone recommends you rather than a manager and the club in question actually wanting you as a player.
“Lewis realized that we wanted him and he wasn’t just another body being added for the sake of it.”
Turning such temporary switches into permanent moves now represents the next challenge for the Whites.
Warrington is out of contract at Everton in the summer while Glatzel has one year remaining on his deal, so what comes next?
“There is nothing better for Warrington’s development than going from game-to-game at the top end of the division, in a team going for promotion and the drama that comes with every match. It is so much more meaningful than an under-23s game,” explained Palios.
“Developing the player is mutually beneficial and we can actually extend that into a try before you buy, enabling us to see if he can handle this standard – then we can make the move. Warrington is a good example of how it can work well.
“Whether that turns into a permanent for us depends, first of all, on the club. We are not going to try and poach him. It then depends on the player. Ultimately that all rests on what we do with the player while he is here.
“If it is the parent club’s desire to keep the loanee, we will work with that. We are not about nicking players off them.
“But if there is a sensitive decision to be made that sees him stay with us and we’ve seen him, liked him and established whether he has the Tranmere identity of working hard and closing people down, we will try and get him if the club will let us
“We won’t do anything that will hurt the relationship between the clubs.”