It’s been a rough couple of seasons for Stockport County but with Dietmar Haman in charge and some cash in their pocket things could be looking up for The Hatters.
After being demoted from the Football League, sit-down protests, and a sustained period where a priest was probably on call to perform the last rites on the club, there is finally cause for the faintest whiff of optimism at Edgeley Park.
It’s the silly season in football – do you love it or hate it?
After the last couple of years I'm really glad of the break in routine. In terms of transfers though it has been an interesting one. We started the pre-season with something like seven professionals and expected to fill the squad with cheap has-beens and never-gonna-be's. But out of the blue we appear to be in the process of being bought by rich Scousers, and what we thought was a false dawn actually wasn't (well, not yet). We seem to be prepared to start throwing silly money about by Blue Square Premier standards. A £100k deal for League one striker Ryan Lowe seems to have gone quiet but in many ways it was a statement of intent. At this time we've only signed five players. One stands out as potentially excellent (McConville), two sound steady (Gritton, Miles) and the other two are complete unknowns (Can't remember their names).
This summer what are you hoping to read every time you check your club news each morning?
Positive stuff. After two successive relegations, this last couple of weeks has been in complete contrast. A PR agency have been charged with promoting the club and seem to have done a good job so far, we've got a big name manager and hopefully after our worst time ever, people will start thinking of us in a positive light again. If we can get that right the rest might just follow. In terms of news of signings, at this level it seems the solid/promising combo is what we're going for. It'd be nice to see a couple of defenders arrive though. If I hear we've signed a left sided centre half who would head a ball of dynamite I'd be happy to read that tomorrow.
What do you inevitably end up reading instead?
I'm fully expecting it all to go t*ts up. That's what usually happens. We haven't had an owner in my lifetime that has left us without some kind of negative legacy. Even when we were ace in the 90s the owner left us vulnerable in terms of ground ownership. But fingers crossed we'll carry on doing what we've been doing and when it does go t*ts up we'll have had a laugh. As we were a slow death was all anyone could see. There's still plenty of doubt surrounding the new ownership and who is behind it. So if you're reading this a few months down the line, don't say I didn't tell you it'd all fall apart. I hope I'm wrong and think everyone will get behind the owners, we've just not got much collective confidence in football club owners. It says more about the past than the present.
Got much cash in the kitty?
In contrast to what we were told at a fans forum a few weeks back it seems we have more than most at our level. That's how it should be of course, we have a large fanbase in comparison to most down here and it should follow that we might have a few extra quid to throw about. That doesn't always translate into instant success of course, in fact it rarely does. But our spending power should be decent. We had initially been told we had next to nothing so to be paying fees rather than nabbing frees it suggests we've got a little to play with. Fingers crossed we invest well.
Hulking midfielder? Tricky winger? Giant defender? What types of players would you like to sign this summer?
A mixture of all three please, ideally with a grade 1 haircut all over and black boots. No tarts, just big men who kick things but can pull out a trick or two. At the time of writing, defensively we have one decent centre-half, two right backs that were inconsistent (at best) last season, although one of them is young. History suggests when a team gets relegated their first priority for rebuilding is sorting the defence out. Obviously we've been signing midfielders and strikers instead. I'd like to see a solid centre-half, an attacking left back and a big monster to kick people about the centre circle in midfield.
What types of player will you end up signing instead? An U21 Moldovan left back instead of Spanish international forward perhaps?
These questions aren't really tailored for a Conference club are they? Suffice to say we'd take the Moldovan left back. As things stand we need players, full stop. I expect we'll make a couple of late loan signings to plug the gap although our new manager and owner have expressed a desire not to rely on borrowed players. As we get closer to the season I think there’ll be decent players more willing to recognise that them being free agents no longer works in their favour. Supply and demand is weighted more towards the former at this level and the days of average League Two players pulling over a grand a week are over, thank God.
Hamann can make himself a hero here and give himself a genuine springboard to go on and one day fulfill his dream of managing Liverpool.
Who wants to leave the club and what’s your attitude towards them?
We don't really have that problem. There have been a couple of departures in the shape of Tansey and Turnbull, last season’s midfield duo. Both came through the ranks, both will do well elsewhere and both went with most of our fans blessings. They had probably come to the natural end of their spell and we were pleased for both to get decent moves I think.
Who has been the biggest t*sser of this transfer window?
I can't really think of one. Egos aren't exactly thin on the ground even at this level but I can't see a Modric situation developing here. If a bigger, better club wants one of our players and they start acting up, maybe we'll see this t*sser of which you speak. Until then though, they all seem grateful to be getting paid to play football.
Reckon you’ll be stronger or weaker next season?
As a club I'm hoping the new leadership will filter down and we'll be stronger. We dithered like f*ck last season from top to bottom. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing more wins than defeats after the last couple of years. For now I'll be grateful for going to the match without it being a massive chore. It'll be nice to get a bit of a reward for sticking at it last season. Although we're a league lower, even a mid table finish would be better than last years relegation from the league. Who we're playing isn't as important as it might seem. A win is a win whether it comes against Hayes and Yeading or a slightly bigger League Two club.
Any other news?
I've got this far without properly mentioning our new manager, Dietmar Hamann. He's the second German to manage us and like Bert Trautmann he's played in a cup final with a broken bone. Didi scored a penalty in the Istanbul Champions League final with a broken foot while Bert famously broke his neck and played on. Just thought I'd get dibs on that bit of trivia before anyone else mentioned it. Not sure whether he'll turn out to be another big name who can't quite get to grips with inferior footballers or if he'll end up a hero. Our last foreign manager was elevated to sainthood long before his untimely death. Hamann can make himself a hero here too and in doing so give himself a genuine springboard to go on and one day fulfill his dream of managing Liverpool. That'll be a million miles away when we face Forest Green Rovers in our first game though.
What has been the best ever bit of business your club did in the transfer window?
Not sure whether the transfer window had kicked in properly when we blagged Sheffield Wednesday for a million in return for Shefki Kuqi but at the time that seemed like we'd robbed them. He did really well here and we were his first English club but even as a supposedly 24 year old we all had him down as at least 32. He's proven us wrong though, playing most of his career higher than us. In contrast, getting £800k for Liam Dickinson seemed like a decent enough deal at the time. It seems even better looking at how he's failed to settle anywhere since leaving us. Our best signings have been the likes of Alun Armstrong (in for £30k, out for £1.6m), Chris Marsden (in for nowt, out for £500k), Kevin Francis (in £50k, out for £750k)...in fact under Danny Bergara and Dave Jones there were too many to mention. The best recent example was plucking Anthony Pilkington from non-league Atherton Collieries and getting a fee of £550k a few years later. At the time we were disappointed with that but his recent move to Norwich saw an undisclosed sell on clause get invoked, some say earning us as much as another £500k. No wonder we've started suddenly splashing the cash.
And the worst?
We've never really spent daft money. We've made plenty of bad signings of all shapes and sizes. For example two of our worst ever goalkeepers are Tim Flowers and Brad Jones. The former came to us on loan and his heart just wasn't in it, he let loads of goals in. The latter was a young kid but the last I heard he was in the Liverpool squad having signed from ‘Boro for about ten times more than we've ever spent on anyone. Rickie Lambert is a hard one to take. Signed for £350k, sold for something like 25k. He's gone on to realise his potential hugely. Eddie McGoldrick remains my worst ever signing. He came to us on loan from Man City shortly before we played against them. We should have known he'd be terrible when they said he was allowed to play in the game, but when he told local radio his ideal result would be a draw it cemented him as the biggest crank ever to wear our shirt, and as a result my worst ever signing.
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