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Players Commit to County

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Vanarama National League North club Stockport County have announced that goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe and centre-half Michael Clarke have both agreed new contracts which will keep them at Edgeley park until the summer of 2018.

The Hatters have also extended midfielder Gary Stopforth’s deal until January 21st, whilst defender Max Cartwright has signed until the end of the season.

Stopforth was originally due to head off to Australia last week but has delayed his departure until the end of this month.

Manager Jim Gannon said: “Obviously there’ been a lot of negotiating behind the scenes with the Board regarding my own contract, but now that has been settled I’m starting to visualise how the team will progress this season and into next season.

“We’ve extended Gary Stopforth’s contract to January 21 so he can play in the Darlington game – if his departure is delayed for any reason we can just continue it as long as we need, so that was the first bit of business we needed to do for January because it’s a big month. We’ve also secured Max Cartwright for the rest of the season – he’s done a good job since coming on non-contract terms so we want to reward him for what he’s done and keep the defence and defensive midfield lines really secure with the players we’ve got.

“Looking ahead, the only player we’re going to lose is Gary Stopforth, so obviously John Marsden and Kaine Felix will give us opportunities in and around the attacking third if we move Jimmy Ball back.

“With that all settled we then started to look towards next season, we want to secure this group of players because I think they’re growing, so we have taken a really positive step. With Ben Hinchliffe we’ve got one of the best keepers in non-league, whilst Michael Clarke was a great servant to me at Northwich – he was my captain – and he’s come into the team and grown into the role. He’s desperate to be part of this going forward so Ben and Michael were easy ones in the sense that it was a simple decision for them in terms of the offers we made.

“The other contracts will take a little bit more work to make sure everything is right, but I’m really pleased that we’ve started the process now because we’re looking forward to the rest of this season in confidence, but we can also look forward to next season knowing that a strong core and backbone of players will still be here from this team.”

Gannon revealed that his previous coaching experience has helped him to shape his squad this season: “I like to work with players over a long period of time and I don’t give up on players,” he said. “Even going back to Liam Dickinson and Ashley Williams, players of that ilk, you just keep working with them, keep helping them to improve, and that patience and perseverance will pay off and it builds confidence between both parties and I think we’ve seen this current group of players grow together as a team and I’m looking forward to seeing how they evolve. We’ve got some great people on a great journey, but I’m conscious we’ve got to keep working hard if we’re to continue that journey”.

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