County manager James Gannon has now completed the reorganisation of his current squad and the re-engagement of existing players. The club is pleased to announce that Chris Smalley, Max Cartwright and Adam Thomas have agreed new professional contracts for the 2017/2018 season. Young Adam Etches has also signed a new two-year deal to extend his contract to include the 2018/2019 season. Squad players George West and Harry Brazel have also been offered non-contract terms for next season. However, Josh Amis has not been offered a new contract and has now been released.
James said: "The decision-making on these remaining players in the squad was a lot more difficult, with us taking into account the part they've played, how they're developing and what part they can play in next season's team and squad.
"I felt the signings of Chris Smalley and Max Cartwright will strengthen the defensive options of the team and provide depth and competition for central defensive positions. Chris was a consistent and improving performer in last season's team again, and formed a strong and steady central defensive partnership with Michael Clark. However, I was also impressed with the improvement in Max after his loan spell at Ashton United and he returned a much stronger and more confident player. I'm trusting in the growing maturity and mentality that Max has shown, which I feel will be the foundation of his further development and growth at the club. Max stepped in for the final games and acted as a very capable deputy for Chris, and he also provides the option of a balanced three man central defence, which is a system that has worked well for us in some important games.
"With regards to Adam Thomas I felt it was right to provide him with the chance to establish himself as player at the club after the loss of last season to injury. He showed glimpses of his ability in matches where he played and scored despite an underlying serious injury to his ACL. Adam has also shown great character and professionalism to get through a difficult period for any young player, and towards the end of season we were impressed at his progress and presence back on the training ground. In some regards Adam feels like a new signing and we trust that he'll return to the form that earned him Player of the Year at his previous club at this level, and repay the faith we have shown in him.
"Similarly, we feel that young Adam Etches, who is a very talented young player, deserved a further year to his contract that will ensure that he has the time to develop and grow at the club after also suffering a serious injury and he's shown remarkable maturity in the way he has dealt with everything.
"George West and Harry Brazel have been offered non-contract terms. They've both shown an ability to be consistent performers in levels below and now the challenge for them in pre-season is to step up and earn a place within the 16-strong matchday squad. We feel they have good athleticism, great enthusiasm and real talent, but may need a little more time to adapt to the demands of this level and the increasing requirements within our first team as we look to progress next season on the field.
"I'm pleased with the shape of the squad as we close the door on last season. We have a solid group of good, hardworking professionals who proven themselves at this level. There is a good blend of experience, athleticism, energy and potential with the current team of 15 players returning for pre-season, but we're now looking to recruit at least five very strong Conference North players. The main targets will be the three or four attackers that will provide the presence, penetration and creativity to get goals. We're also considering an experienced leader type centre back and a strong left-footed central midfielder to complement our current team players. Talks with target players are progressing fast and positively, and we expect that agreements in principle will be made during the coming week or two with our main targets.
"I believe we're entering an exciting time at the club where we have a real sense of optimism and achievable progress."
Details of all the new signings will appear first on www.stockportcounty.com