He's The Talk Of The Town - Bryan Hamilton

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Tranmere's Bryan Hamilton talks to Colin Benson

They run special buses from Hamilton Square to Tranmere's Prenton Park on match days. But is another Hamilton, Bryan to be precise, who is the talk of Birkenhead right now.

The 33-year-old Northern Ireland international, recently installed in Tranmere's managerial chair, has quickly provided tangible proof of his influence.

Rovers wallowing at the wrong end of the Fourth Division, were dangerously close to becoming an insignificent outpost in an area that simply vibrates with the passions of the game. But now Prenton Park is responding to the subtle skills of Hamilton both on and off the park.

Eighteen goals in their last seven games isn't bad for starters! Especially when they only scored seven in the opening sequence of eight games.

"I am pleased with a lot of our play although obviously it is not completely right," says Hamilton, "but the character of the side is very good and that has pleased me no end."

For the man who played an instrumental part in Northern Ireland's Home Championship title win last May, the dual role of player and manager has softened the path into managership, yet even so it was an emotional wrench for him to leave Swindon Town.

"It was strange to come here as a manager," he says. "It was a very funny feeling, I can't really explain it. It was a very empty feeling. But everybody at Tranmere has been absolutely fantastic to me. From the girls in the office to the players, the Board and the supporters they have all made me feel at home.

"And I can only say a big thank you to everybody at Tranmere and I just hope that in return I can help them progress to better things.

"It is hard playing and managing but I enjoy it and I have a good man beside me, Eddie Robertson, who is very quick to pull me in line and tell me offi I do things wrong. So that does not worry me too much.

I think I will know when the time to stop playing comes. I hope it is not for a long while, but at the same time I am sure we have got good players at the club who will pull Tranmere through.'

When I suggested earlier that Bryan's path into management had been easier, I was of course referring more to the psychological bridge that has to be crossed when a player eventually hangs up his boots. In terms of a player manager the stresses and demands put upon him by the club are even greater.

"I would be telling lies if I suggested that was not so," agrees Hamilton, "but at the same time I enjoy it so it is not a burden.

"I like the involvement of playing and the involvement of coaching and so far I like the management end of it too.

"There is a lot more on the administration side than I thought. What with all the paperwork and so on and you could never imagine what comes through the post. But you have to deal with it all as quickly as possible, and hope that you can maybe improve the image, although it does not need an awful lot of improvement at Tranmere. But I hope I can be a good manager and represent the club as well." I asked this likeable Irishman if he had found any specific weakness he would like to sort out. The answer was encouraging for Rovers fans. "There is no main thing as such," replied Hamilton. "The club is very well organised, we have a very good office staff, a good social end and if there is one big weakness it is the fact that we are in the Fourth Division. And hopefully we can put that right. "After only a few days here I realised that there is a lot of talent in the club. We have five teams and a lot of young boys coming through and I feel that potentially Tranmere Rovers are heading for a very good time." Of course for little Tranmere, the shadows of Anfield and Goodison Park loom menacingly over the Mersey, but Bryan Hamilton does not feel threatened in any way. "If I think I am going to compete on an equal footing with Liverpool and Everton, then I will lose badly," he observes, "but I think it is important to remember they are there.

One big advantage

"If you are aware of problems they are not so bad. And anyway I have one big advantage and that is that at both Liverpool and Everton not many youngsters have the opportunity to play first team football.

"I feel that at Tranmere I can maybe offer them that and this is my selling point for the club. To the parents and the fellows who want to play professional football, I tell them there is always the possibility that they could be playing in the Fourth Division very soon, because I want to bring the young players through.

"It is the way that clubs like Tranmere survive and I see this as one of the most important parts of my job.

"I am ambitious, I hope quietly ambitious. I was always known as a bit of a chatterer in the dressing rooms and so forth and I just hope that I can maybe bring out a lot of the points that the many people along the way have taught me. And at the end of the day if I have made a success of the job, then it will be a tribute to those people."

Bryan spent the bulk of his playing career at Ipswich under Bobby Robson and you can get no better master than him. Add to that his experiences with Gordon Lee at Everton, George Petchey at Millwall and Bobby Smith at Swindon together with a host of Irish team bosses and Bryan Hamilton can certainly claim to have been well educated in his chosen profession.

He says: "I hope the people I have met and the contacts I have built over the years will help me. It is a difficult and there is no way I can do it on my own, so do depend on them."

Meanwhile the Fourth Division is graced by his presence, although I feel sure that it won't be long before they have to lay on extra buses from Hamilton Square, to see Hamilton's successful Rovers.