‘ Our po­si­tion belies this club’s his­tory’

Jim Gan­non has a plan for Stock­port to rise again, he tells Jamie Jack­son

The Observer - Sport - - Football Sky Bet Championship -

“Sus­tain­abil­ity” is a word Jim Gan­non of­ten uses when dis­cussing Stock­port ’ s up­ward tra­jec­tory and am­bi­tion to be­come fully pro­fes­sional again. The 50 year old – two years into his third stint in charge , hav­ing played 505 games for County – takes his Na­tional League North side to Bar­net in the FA Cup to­day while play­ing the short and long man­age­rial game.

His fi rst four- year ten­ure ended when he was sacked when Stock­port went into ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2009. He was ap­pointed for the sec­ond time in Novem­ber 2011 but fi nan­cial con­straints again proved in­sur­mount­able and he was re­lieved of his post, this time in Jan­uary 2013.

So when the cur­rent own­er­ship, headed by the chair­man, Richard Park, along­side his fel­low ma­jor share­hold­ers Chris Bra­mall and Si­mon Bel­lamy, talk of go­ing pro­fes­sional to try to re­gain the Foot­ball League sta­tus they lost in 2011, Gan­non pon­ders whether a hy­brid sys­tem might be wiser in the short term.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity,” he says. “The fi nan­cial com­mit­ment of go­ing full­time can be huge. You’re sud­denly mov­ing play­ers on to con­tracts for 52 weeks and that cre­ates other chal­lenges. We’ve got some very good part- time play­ers who we can’t af­ford to turn full- time be­cause of their jobs. Some­one like [ the for­ward] Matty War­bur­ton is a school teacher, Ben Hin­cliffe, my goal­keeper, is a lorry driver, and the cap­tain un­til re­cently, Ash Palmer, is an­other teacher.

“So there’s a hard core of very good part- timers, some good full- time play­ers, and a new group – Scott Duxbury, Dan Cowan, Adam Thomas – they’ve got other things go­ing. Try­ing to fi nd that bal­ance is key.”

To reach to­day’s cup tie with John Still’s Na­tional League side, Stock­port have beaten South Shields 2- 1 ( away) , Corby 3- 0 ( home) , and Al­trin­cham 2- 0 ( home) , be­fore a fi ne 3- 1 win at Yeovil in the fi rst round proper.

Stock­port stood 11th in Na­tional League North be­fore yes­ter­day ’ s games, four points from a play - off po­si­tion. Gan­non says: “We had a run of 11 games with­out de­feat [ in all com­pe­ti­tions] and that came to an end at Blyth Spar­tans [ 10 days ago] – that’s the prob­lem we have with the FA Cup.

“It means three league games were moved from a Sat­ur­day to a Tues­day night and when they’re diffi cult away trips like Blyth , Spen­ny­moor and lo­cal der­bies like Ash­ton we’re con­cerned about the ef­fect it will have on our league form . But as each cou­ple of weeks goes by we seem to be stronger. And this week has been free, so we can fully fo­cus on the one game.”

Gan­non holds a Uefa pro li­cen ce and likes to op­er­ate a three- line midfi eld with a pass­ing style. Bar­net are mid- ta­ble in the Na­tional League , so the tie guar­an­tees a non- league pres­ence in the third round .

“I like John Still,” Gan­non says. “I crossed swords with him at Da­gen­ham. He al­ways puts to­gether a good, hard- work­ing side and of­ten uses a 3- 5- 2. They’ve got the usual strong play­ers from the Na­tional League, a cou­ple he knows from Da­gen­ham and Lu­ton, and a sprin­kling of young play­ers who have come through at Bar­net and other clubs . He’s used the loan mar­ket well.”

Gan­non, who be­gan his well- trav­elled play­ing ca­reer at Dun­dalk in 1987, is in Stock­port’s hall of fame. “When you’ve been as­so­ci­ated with the club for 28 years you can’t help but be part of it ,” he says. “I met my wife through Stock­port con­nec­tions and many fans have turned into friends. The club is a spe­cial place for me. I’ve al­ways been true to the sup­port­ers and the be­lief that this is a great club, with a big part to play in the town.”

Gan­non cer­tainly shared in some great days, play­ing in the side who in 1996- 97 won pro­mo­tion from what is now League One and reached the League Cup semi- fi nals , beat­ing a trio of top- fl ight clubs be­fore los­ing 2- 1 on ag­gre­gate to Mid­dles­brough.

“I was asked af­ter the Yeovil game: ‘ Is this the best day of your ca­reer?’ I said: ‘ I played when we beat West Ham [ De­cem­ber 1996], Black­burn [ Oc­to­ber 1996] and Southamp­ton when Matthew Le Tissier scored [ Jan­uary 1997].’ We beat Mid­dles­brough at the River­side [ March 1997], so I’ve had some in­cred­i­ble mo­ments .

“Our cur­rent po­si­tion belies that his­tory. We have to keep an eye on what we want to achieve . I’ve al­ways been a medium or long- term thinker – it’s not just about be­ing pro­moted from this league, it’s about be­ing com­pet­i­tive at the next level and as­pir­ing to get back in the Foot­ball League.”

Un­der Gan­non’s man­age­ment Stock­port surely have ev­ery chance of ris­ing again.

‘ When you’re as­so­ci­ated with a club for 28 years you can’t help but be part of it’

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