Written on March 8, 2017
IT seems STOCKPORT COUNTY are leaving nothing to chance as they aim to finally end their exile in the National League North this season.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Chorley left them outside the play-off places on goal difference, with only 10 games of the regular season left, and both County manager Jim Gannon and their fans are doing their utmost to ensure the Hatters clinch a top-5 finish.
This week the club have taken significant steps to strengthen their short-term and long-term future. Gannon has recently boosted his squad by signing left-back Connor Hampson and forward Sefton Gonzales from Curzon Ashton and Stalybridge Celtic, respectively, and the Hatters’ boss said after last week’s defeat at Kidderminster that County ‘need perhaps one or two more to come in for those who are not delivering’.
And thanks to the fans’ generosity, the Hatters have plucked another player from one of their local league rivals. FC UNITED announced on Tuesday morning that midfielder Harry Winter had left for County, whose playing budget has been boosted by another £5,000 donation from supporters. The Players’ Fund has made the contribution with the transfer window due to close in less than 3 weeks’ time.
Gannon said: “I really appreciate all the support that is coming from the fans at this stage. At every game we’re feeling the support around the ground, but the Players’ Fund highlights the hidden work that goes on behind the scenes to go above and beyond the normal duty of fans. I am a big fan of the members and volunteers of Help the Hatters and the Stockport County Supporters Cooperative, who contribute so much to the club, and I wish to thank them very much for everything they’re doing to improve our stadium, its atmosphere and its feel.
“The excitement is building, and with the window closing later this month it’s an opportune time to provide the Players’ Fund resources. The board have given me great backing this season, and with this extra lift from the fans it shows the part we are all playing in bringing success back to the club.”
Winter is the latest plater to be signed by County after impressing against them. Jimmy Ball scored against the Hatters for Stalybridge in August before moving to Edgeley Park. Gonzales then rejoined County last month after proving a handful for their defence in the return fixture.
Ball has gone on to become the Hatters’ second highest goalscorer with 7 from 30 games and the attacking midfielder this week signed a 2-year contract extension to 2019. The 21-year-old, who played for Gannon at Northwich Victoria last season, becomes the latest player to commit their future to the club beyond the current campaign.
“I feel it’s a very positive step for the club as we consolidate the team and continue apace with the team building for the coming seasons,” Gannon added. “Jimmy has been a very good addition and developed well over the last 6 months. Given his age, football ability and athletic profile I believe that there is still tremendous growth within him and I believe we are the right club for the realisation of his full potential. There is a lot of work to be done over the next 6, 12 and 18 months but I believe Jimmy has all the attributes to become a League player if he continues to work hard at his game.”
Winter now comes into Gannon’s midfield options after impressing in County’s 2-1 home win over FC UNITED last month. The 27-year-old then helped the Reds do County and Salford City a favour by beating 3rd-placed Kidderminster 1-0 last Saturday. George Thomson’s 1st-half strike made it back-to-back wins for FC, moving them 11 points clear of the drop zone in 13th.
The Reds signed Winter from Chorley in November 2015 and he went on to score 6 goals in 60 games for them. FC manager Karl Marginson has explained to fans that Winter wasn’t contracted because “both parties were happy to continue the arrangement on a pay-as-you-play basis. However, the offer that Stockport made was something that Harry could not turn down and as a club we will not stand in anyone’s way if a player wishes to progress their career elsewhere.”
A statement on the club website added: “I’ve known Harry for a number of years so was delighted when we signed him last season at a time when we were going through a tough patch. It took him no time to get settled in and he immediately made the role of midfield general his own. He’s a quality, dedicated, hard-working team player who possesses great energy and physical presence.”
FC are now a point behind 12th-placed CURZON ASHTON after the Nash drew 0-0 at home to 9th-placed Brackley last Saturday. The Nash visit Stockport this Saturday while FC are at home again as they welcome 8th-placed Tamworth to Broadhurst Park.
Tamworth won 2-0 at home to SALFORD CITY last Saturday but the Ammies remain 2nd on goal difference – level with Kidderminster and now Chorley – as they prepare to visit Brackley this Saturday.