The physio who became a manager
Tranmere's match at Southampton on Saturday takes place exactly one year since chairman Peter Johnson sacked John Barnes and put long-serving physio Les Parry in temporary charge of Rovers.
Johnson told Parry he would run first-team affairs until he had appointed a "proper manager" but the Tranmere chief found that to be an unexpectedly difficult task.
One experienced figure was offered the position but subsequently told the chairman that he could not keep Rovers in League One unless he was given the resources to strengthen the team.
Rovers had no money and so the weeks rolled on with Parry in charge. Shortly before Christmas, he was given the job until the end of the season.
Parry's appointment generated plenty of headlines. A physio at Rovers since 1991, he had not played the game professionally and did not have any managerial experience.
Yet he kept Rovers up last season - a 3-0 victory at doomed Stockport on the final day of the season guaranteed the club's League One survival - and subsequently signed a one-year contract in the summer.
I wanted to know how a physio had managed to establish himself as a manager in a notoriously fickle and fragile industry. What I discovered is that Parry is a remarkable and incredibly hard-working individual, whose route into management is probably unique.
Parry was both manager and physio for a large chunk of last season.
Parry started his working life as a trainee shipwright at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead and was named 'British apprentice of the year' in 1974. He eventually left to become an airframe fitter at British Aerospace but hated his new job.
"I jacked it in and did an 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet', working in Germany for a while," Parry told me.
When he returned to England, he went to university in Salford, studying physiotherapy. He also acquired a qualification in sports science and eventually opened a clinic to run a business training health and fitness instructors.
By 1991, he was working part-time with the Rovers reserve side and got his big break two years later. A change in regulations in 1993 required that all first-team physios who run on the pitch to treat players had to be fully qualified. The incumbent at Rovers was not and left, with Parry stepping up.
Parry gained a reputation as a knowledgeable and dedicated physio, who pushed his subjects hard but often ensured players returned to fitness ahead of schedule. Former Rovers boss Ronnie Moore described him as the best in the business.
But all the time Parry was working as physio, he was watching and observing, even helping out with training sessions if his own workload was light.
"I listened to 900 or so pre-match and half-time team talks, I watched a manager prepare for a game 900 times and listened to him on the bench, observing why and when he made changes," said Parry.
"Throw in my involvement with reserve games and that is probably 1,500 games. In many ways, I am not equipped to be a manager but, then again, I cannot think of anyone else with that type and volume of exposure."
What he learnt must have had a positive impact because Rovers picked up five wins and three draws from 14 fixtures before Parry was given the job for the remainder of last season on 16 December.
Parry has been surprised by how much time a manager spends dealing with the media and has noticed that the nature of his workload has changed. He often worked seven days a week as the club's physio - he once did 274 days straight - but he now watches a game most nights and reckons he puts in longer hours if slightly fewer days.
The peak in working hours came before Christmas, when Parry was combining his job as physio with the managerial position. He was also trying to finish his PhD dissertation.
"I would study from four in the morning until seven because I would get a bit of peace in the house then," he told me.
The 52-year-old would then take training before assuming his physio duties. At the end of the afternoon, he would put his manager's cap back on as he took in a game to monitor potential loan signings or check out forthcoming opponents.
It sounds like an insane workload but it paid off because, in addition to keeping Rovers in League One, Parry graduated in July from John Moores University after successfully submitting his 120,000-word study on the effects of de-training following injury in professional football.
Parry had undertaken his qualification with a view to eventually becoming a lecturer but, as things have worked out, it helped him to decide whether to accept the manager's job permanently in the summer.
In one sense, Parry had a lot to lose if he accepted the role. He had been a popular figure with the club's supporters during his time as physio. He lives on the Wirral and is a life-long fan of the club. For example, Parry talks with great pride about a photograph of his son as mascot that appeared in the Liverpool Echo.
If he accepted the job permanently and the situation soured, it could damage forever his relationship with an institution that has been a major part of his life.
"Even so, it was not a hard decision to accept the job," said Parry. "After all, I had already done 19 seasons without a weekend with the missus. And if I did lose my job, it would not be the end of the world because I now had my PhD."
Parry told me that the worst part of the job so far came towards the end of last season when he had to inform some trainees that they would not be offered professional contracts. The Rovers boss found it more difficult than telling 11 professionals that they were being released. The pros at least had a career to reflect on and could seek employment elsewhere. For the bulk of the trainees, he was extinguishing a dream.
There was a great humanity about Parry as he explained this to me and I could not help but think that his perspective had been forged as much by what has happened to him outside the game as during his involvement in it.
This weekend he will meet up with an old friend in Nigel Adkins, who is now in charge at Southampton. Adkins, like Parry, is a son of the Wirral and a former physio who has since made the step up to management.
It will be a tough game for Parry's team, who are 21st in the table, and the manager is particularly concerned by the club's lengthy injury list.
However, returning them to fitness is no longer his job as Steve Walker is now the physio at Rovers.
Unexpected as it might be, Parry is a proper manager now.