Blue Square Bet
Published 17th April 2012
• PROMISES 4 OR 5 SIGNINGS IN EVERY TRANSFER WINDOW NEXT SEASON
• YOUNG, HUNGRY PLAYERS DESPERATE TO PLAY FOR SCFC WILL BECOME THE FUTURE OF THE CLUB
• TWO NEW SIGNINGS ALREADY SECURED AND SOON TO BE UNVEILED
EXCLUSIVE By ADAM MOSS
There were clear blue skies over Edgeley Park on Saturday when Jim Gannon’s Stockport County secured their Blue Square Bet Premier status for next season with a 1-1 draw against Braintree Town.
But while the County faithful were packing The Armoury pub to raise a drink to their saviour, the very man who prompted those celebrations and that huge, tangible sense of relief felt by the entire football ground at 4.45pm, wasn’t resting on his laurels. “We have got through one of the biggest challenges this club has ever faced,” Gannon said - the words delivered without flourish or decoration.
It’s no exaggeration to declare that had Stockport County been relegated this season, it could easily have sounded the death knell for a club whose proud history deserves far more than plunging down the professional football ranks like an ageing middleweight boxer looking for an unlikely resurrection.
Gannon, more than any connected with Stockport County, feels the weight of this huge expectation.
But his determination to put County back where they belong – in the Football League – is infectious without being unrealistic.
Jim Gannon has a plan.
He knows history won’t win games for Stockport County. Teams – packed full of the right kind of players – win games. Teams, not individuals. So, while the annals of County’s history is stuffed to the brim with stories of what once was, he is determined to give the fans achievable goals of what will be.
With that in mind, while County’s 12th man – the club’s large, fiercely loyal fanbase – was knee-deep in Robinson’s Bitter and on its 100th out-of-tune rendition of club anthem ‘The Scarf My father Wore’ by 7pm on Saturday, Gannon was tying up the fine-print of deals to bring new heroes to the club; heroes he is convinced the Cheadle End will fall in love with next season.
“My rebuilding process is far from done yet,” he says.
“Towards the end of this season we have started to see the green shoots of a team that was beginning to show a bit of character. They will get better and better with time. After seasons of mismanagement we are getting back to a policy of good, hungry, dynamic young players who will grow into a team of great value.
“The Cambridge match (County lost 1-0 in a dour, lacklustre affair) was the turning point for us because we had a large crowd at Edgeley Park that day and I felt the players had totally let the fans down.
“After the game I made it abundantly clear to all the players they need to want to play for this club and get involved with the spirit of both the club and the community.
“We have a much reduced transfer budget for next season, especially compared to that Didi Hamann had when he was in charge. We will use that budget wisely. Only signing the right kind of player for Stockport County. Players who are well equipped to play at Conference level.
“During the summer break we will see a number of players leave the club and a number of new players come in.”
So what, exactly, does Gannon look for in a new Stockport County signing?
“I look for football intelligence, a versatility in the way someone plays. Players like Danny Hattersley and Anthony Pilkington. Players who have never had the silver spoon of the larger clubs or the footballing academies; they have played in unglamorous teams because they have an innate hunger for the game. They want to play football.
“They have to be young, have scope for development, a good physical profile and be looking a year or so ahead with potential growth.
“Even having all that might not be enough to make them a Stockport County player – there are those who despite having all the above don’t have enough desire to improve, develop or relish the experience of playing for this club. Even with great coaching they don't show the right stuff. There are players like that at this club and they will be leaving.
“We are limited by the finances of this club and are already financially committed to 12 players here but, there will be five new faces at least this summer – more if we can free finances up.
“I aim to bring in five new players who can go into the first team squad – players who are strong, Conference-quality players, well-equipped to play regularly at this level.
“Every transfer window from now on will see four or five changes. It will be another year I think before we see a Stockport County team that I’m happy with, one developed the right way by us.
“We have a well thought-out plan. I have already signed one new player on a pre-contract deal and I am in the final detail of negotiations with another on a similar pre-contract deal. I am making a strong play for another player for next season and am still targeting a further two players.
“The two pre-contract signings are coming in from the Conference North and they are coming here because they want to play for Stockport County. They understand what that means and that it involves a commitment to me, the club, their team-mates, the fans and, also, to the community.”
Gannon is no mug when selecting horses for courses. He sees a bright future for the club as long as they are financially astute, learn the lessons from the horrendous financial mismanagement of the club in the past few seasons and choose players who come to Edgeley Park to better themselves and the club.
One of his best signings of the current season has been left back Sean Newton, who he persuaded to join County’s relegation battle from, then, higher placed Blue Square Premiership rivals AFC Telford Utd.
“Sean Newton cost me £1,000,” Gannon declares. “Hattersley didn’t cost us a fortune either. They were both desperate to come and play for Stockport County. These are the kind of players we need here next season.”
Next season will be different. As the County faithful regularly declare ‘In Jim We Trust’. That faith will not be misplaced, Gannon assures me.
“Every player who comes here will be given a great education in football and, as a result, next season will be very different,” he says.
“There is no reason we cannot be scratching away at the play-offs at the very least with the team we are putting together. I am building a team who will be well equipped to do this over the duration of 46 games. It will be exciting times for the fans and I would say to all of them – thank you for your incredible love and support of this club – do not write us off for next year.
“I care deeply about this club. The fans can trust that I will make sure the wrong kind of people will not be involved at Edgeley Park next season and we will do the right things with the team.
“We are at the start of the road back to the Football League.”
An exclusive by Adam Moss.