Rough guide to... Stockport County

Cod Almighty | Article

by Pat Bell

6 August 2007

Last season
Ask the non-committed what they remember of Stockport's season and they will no doubt reply: "Didn't they go a few games without conceding a goal?" Indeed, between defeats in the third round of the FA Cup at Watford, and at Barnet on 10 March, the Hatters went nine games without dropping a point or conceding a goal. This mean streak helped them recover from a slow start (they didn't win until September), taking them from the fringes of the race for a play-off place to automatic promotion contenders.

Any hazy impression that Stockport are built on a tight defence is misleading, however. Before that run, they had won two matches by five goals to two, and straight afterwards they conceded fifteen goals in four matches, including a 7-2 defeat by Rochdale. Nor could they live up to the expectations the surge engendered: the Hatters managed just one more win until the last match of the season, when a 5-0 win over Darlington was still not enough to overcome Shrewsbury's better goal difference, and Stockport finished eighth.

Ins and outs
Manager Jim Gannon took over at Edgeley Park in December 2005, when Stockport were at the foot of the league. Since then he has been building the squad, a process continuing with the capture of striker Matty McNeil from Macclesfield, goalkeeper Chris Adamson, who has made 12 appearances for Sheffield Wednesday, and Gary Dicker, for whom they have paid University College Dublin £40,000, after the midfielder had a successful loan spell with Birmingham reserves. They have also secured 24-year-old defender Gareth Owen on a two year deal, after he spent last season on loan at Stockport, and have the services of another defender, Paul Tierney, on a six-month loan from Blackpool.

On their way out from the club are Adam Le Fondre and James Spencer to Rochdale and Tes Bramble to Stevenage. Liverpool have signed 18-year-old winger Ryan Crowther after the winger made just two appearances for the Hatters.

Their expectations
Supporters at Edgeley Park for their pre-season friendly with Cardiff on 28 July had something other than pointers for the new season on their mind. The match was declared a tribute to former manager Danny Bergara, whose death at the age of 64 had been announced a few days before. The Hatters' messageboards have been dominated by tributes to the Uruguayan, who led the club to a promotion and four Wembley appearances between 1989 and 1995, when managers from outside the British Isles were a novelty.

Manager Jim Gannon is doing nothing to lower expectations, highlighting the strength, youth and experience of the squad for next season before saying: "It is looking good for next season." After just missing out on the play-offs, Stockport are yet another side who fancy their chances this time around.

Our expectations
The Hatters' squad is crammed with familiar names, including Anthony Elding, who finished top scorer last season with 11 goals despite arriving in Cheshire only in January, Keith Briggs, who sounds as though he ought to be a Town player but usually scores against us instead, Rob Clare and Adam Proudlock. Judging from the fact they are successfully signing players other teams want as well, my guess is that this team know what is needed to get out of the division, and will finish as runners-up.