“It’s strange,” says manager Jim Gannon, who played over 400 games for the Hatters and is now in his third spell in charge.
“But to my little lad, Stockport are a Non-League team. He doesn’t understand that I played for them in the Championship, beating the likes of Man City!”
Yet if a rematch with Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez may be inconceivable, a return to the Football League is certainly not.
It isn’t the budget-beating eighth-place finish secured last season, Stockport’s first at Step 1 since relegation in 2013.
Nor that Gannon has finished each of his ten campaigns at Edgeley Park in a higher league position than the last.
It is the investment of local businessman Mark Stott, the return to full-time football and six months of statement signings that have transformed the Hatters into bona fide title contenders.
Port Vale striker Richie Bennett. Stevenage’s Alex Reid. Salford duo Liam Hogan and Lois Maynard. Hartlepool defender Mark Kitching. James Jennings and brother Connor.
Most eye-catching of all the arrivals is John Rooney, whose 17 goals from midfield last season earned Barrow promotion and scooped a Player of the Season gong at the National Game Awards.
Between them, those eight players boast FIVE promotions to the EFL – and none of them come cheap. Does Gannon agree, then, that Stockport are now amongst the division’s high rollers? “We’re not pretentious about what we are,” says the 51-year-old.
We’re not making £200,000 signings. We’re not paying out four grand a week in wages. We’ve not tried to psychologically intimidate anybody by blowing them out of the water financially.
“We haven’t got the biggest budget in the division by a long way. But, yes, we’ve got the opportunity now to compete at the upper end of the league with the kind of budget you need to do that.
“The players we’ve signed are good players. They know the National League. They know how to perform over a long period of time.
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July 26, 2020