As two very special and unprecedented events at Stockport County’s Edgeley Park get underway, it hardly seems five minutes since supporters were celebrating promotion to the National League.
Just eight weeks have passed since that magical day away at Nuneaton and now Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott take to the specially constructed stage tonight and tomorrow, followed by Stockport’s own Blossoms on Saturday. These events will certainly carry on the wave of good feeling and the buzz in the town since promotion at the end of April.
Yet for Jim Gannon and his players, the festivities have long since ceased as thoughts have already turned to what will be a difficult campaign as the step up to the fifth tier of English football is made. Indeed, the boss has already re-assembled his side for pre-season training, two weeks before many other teams in the division.
“They are sound guys,” the boss revealed. “They just come in and you can see there is a focus on working hard in pre-season, giving themselves the best chance of having an equally good season next year.”
For many newly-promoted teams, there is a danger that the previous season’s euphoria can very quickly come crashing down when faced with the realities of playing at a higher level. However, this is something that Jim is well aware of in meticulous preparations.
“I think it’s one of the biggest jumps in football,” he continued. “A lot of people talk about the Championship to Premiership but I think those gaps are closing. I think this is the biggest jump. When you go from what’s regional football to national football, when you go to a majority of part-time football to a full time league with all the criteria that the FA impose on clubs at that level, it’s a massive step up.
“Only the best clubs that are investing well or have strong management and teams have done well. So hopefully we can replicate the likes of Salford and Fylde, Harrogate and Halifax, who have consolidated at that level.”
“I think we know we are in for a tough season,” the manager admitted. ‘But I think as a club, the size of our club and the quality of our group in terms of staff and the players, I think we will be an asset to the National League. I think we will add to the National League and I think the National League will add to us in terms of helping us grow.
“Over the next 12, 18, 24 months, we want to see this club grow into real contenders, not just contenders but challengers and then hopefully back in the Football League. It’s taken us three years of hard work, and I think people underestimate how hard I’ve worked and my staff have worked over the last three years to get this building.
“It didn’t happen overnight, it wasn’t one season’s work, it was three season’s work and whatever we achieve to get to the Football League will take a lot of work. Some of that work has already been done in terms of what has been put in place and now we just need to build on that.”
One major development of the side over the summer is the signing of highly sought-after forward Alex Curran. The 20-year-old has enjoyed two fantastic seasons at Colne, firing in 22 goals in 44 appearances last term after having netted a similar 22 in 46 the season before.
“With Alex, we think we have got a player with an outstanding C.V. Over the last two years he’s been one of the main players, he’s a regular goalscorer, provides regular assists and I think we’ve provided a great platform for him.”
Always one to look for footballing positives, Jim ended the interview by adding that the wet English summer we have been experiencing is “good for the pitch” with the boss eagerly awaiting this weekend’s events.
Come rain or shine, there’s so much to look forward to at Edgeley Park, starting with this weekend’s music.