Hedgegrower Gets Excited about County 2017/18 !

I have to say that, even for me, I am getting more than a touch excited about the season that beckons......

Last season was the best for a long time , and offered, if there is anyone out there still needing it, clear evidence that things, under the expert guidance of James Gannon, are on the up at Stockport County.

It was massively reassuring to see . early doors, that JG had ensured his top performers from last term were signed up again, and this was the basis we could see ,within days of the season's end, of   a good...settled squad.

At that stage we had the following committed to at least another season...

Ben Hincliffe
Ian Ormson

Michael Clarke
Scott Duxbury
Sam Minihan
Connor Hampson
Harry Winter
Jimmy Ball
Adam Etches
Max Cartwright
Chris Smalley
Adam Thomas

And Harry Brazel and George West were on non contract terms.

The most striking thing for me about last season was the consistently excellent play  from the defence. Back 4....back 3...it mattered not , and neither did a change of personnel overly effect matters.

In this respect the partnership twixt Michael Clarke and Chris Smalley stood out. The duo gelled from the off completely annihilating the doubters who would have it that` they were Evo Stik defenders  out of their depth'. 

This nonsense was proved conclusively to be just that by a multitude of composed showings that grew in cohesive clarity as the season progressed.

Equally impressive for County , whether played as a fullback in a 4, or as a wing back in front of 3, was Sam Minihan, and his absence due to injury late in the season did have an effect. 

On the other flank County have an abundance of options. Personally I like Scott Duxbury in either LFB or LWB roles ,but JG also has Connor Hampson and Max Cartwright to call on . Having said I like Scott Duxbury's contribution, I was massively impressed by how Cartwright shaped up when thrown in at the deep end late in the season. Max did well and is defensively better than either Duxbury or Hampson, whilst offering cover at CB where he shone under pressure!

At this point I realise that I am in danger of forgetting the last line of our defence, and it is easy so to do as that unit gives us so little to worry about .

In stating that in Ben Hinchliffe and Ian Ormson we have two of the best keepers around, certainly at this level, I am stating the b######g obvious, but it is worth saying . Ben was outstanding throughout the season whereas Ian did brilliantly when thrown in at the deep end- his string of saves at Worcester...err sorry.....Bromsgrove coming quickly to mind , saves that kept our promotion hunt alive.

In midfield JG , before his recent activity in the transfer market, had Harry Winter  set up as his defensive midfielder ,with the interesting Harry Brazel battling for consideration on non contract terms.

 I like both of these two and expect Brazel to surprise a  good few with the cool of Winter`s contribution  giving  JG's exciting side a solid base so important to success.

In attack the survivors from last term are Jimmy Ball,  two returning from injury namely Adam Thomas and Adam Etches, and youngster George West( non - contract). JG has faith in all 4 and that is good enough for me.

So, that was a magnificent situation ahead of JG's moves to bolster the squad, and we all looked forward to seeing what he could come up with.

The first 2 signings by James  were Matty Warburton and the returning Stephen O'Halloran in that order.
Taking former County favourite Stephen O'Halloran first.

Stephen's former clubs included  Aston Villa, Wycombe Wanderers (loan), Southampton (Loan), Leeds United (loan), Swansea City (Loan), Coventry City, Carlisle United. JG had prised him away from media darlings Salford City , but the Irishman was no stranger to County fans who knew him as a dependable defender, and a decent bloke too!

The addition of Stephen will give JG options, so expect us to play a back 3 more than once this term!

On to James's first signing next .........  Matty Warburton from Curzon Ashton.
Matty, a prolific scorer for CA ( 13 in 16 late last term) and  Maine Road for whom he netted for fun with regularity, he scored the only CA goal in the 3-1 County win last season, from the spot.

He looks an exciting prospect offering mobility and forward thrust in the number 10 role largely lacking last season. Looks a belting signing !

Jason Oswell was JG's next signing......

                    ...... and having notched 51 in 91 in the Welsh League for Newtown AFC, the 24 year old looks a fair bet to ease County's goal scoring worries with Danny Lloyd now playing  in the FL  for Posh.

Videos  offer evidence that Jason can score with head or feet and his direct style might just work a treat for us in 2017/18.

With Danny Lloyd gone, there was an obvious need for a left sided attacker with a nose for goal, and who should JG turn to but Darren Stephenson of Tranmere Rovers- a quick, powerful player with an eye for goal, who can terrorise defenders through the centre or from the left flank.

Born in Jamaica, and starting his career at Bradford City, Darren built up a reputation as a sharp operator in the opposing teams last third , his best season probably being his 21 goals in his last season at Chorley. 

Injury has restricted Darren's progress somewhat, but now hopefully fully fit he should fit in nicely as we set our sights again on the National Premier.

Sam Walker was the next to sign , and once again JG signed him from Salford City.

Sam looks to be another fantastic signing by James, his skills  and  ability to score from mid field , ( 41 in 200 games for Curzon Ashton) just what we need.

Yes....Lewis Montrose was excellent, but scored just 1 goal,  expect to see Sam scoring much more regularly than that, whilst perhaps vying with Matty Warburton to take the spot kicks.

With all his signings, and his trusted charges from last term, James has  set us up with a really balanced squad, and I make no apologies for enthusing as I have in this article.

Can you wait for the season to start?

I cant......watch out for the match reports starting with the opener when County visit Cheadle Heath Nomads on July 8.



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Linotype Cheadle Heath Nomads 0 Stockport County 3 ( Friendly- 8 July 2017)