‘ Our position belies this club’s history’
Jim Gannon has a plan for Stockport to rise again, he tells Jamie Jackson
“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’