Manager Jim Gannon has provided the following update on the contract situations of the playing squad:
This is a period of unprecedented difficulty and transition at Stockport County. As we are all acutely aware, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused great distress in all walks of life, including the football industry at every level and across the whole country. All businesses remain extremely challenged in an environment of such uncertainty about the future, but we can rest assured that our football club, with Mark Stott as the new owner, remains robust and ready for the challenges ahead.
We have all come a long way in the last two seasons. The club has progressed greatly to move from regional part-time football to the edge of the national professional game at League level. Under the previous owners and board of directors, last season had three targets at national level – to compete, to consolidate and to challenge. We carried forward the majority of our squad from 2018/2019 season and they adjusted and grew into a competitive team that we feel added to the National League. The additions of good loans in the autumn supported the ‘old guard’ and help consolidate our position in the league as we turned into the New Year in the play-offs.
2020 brought a massive change at the club, but slowly and surely the positive effects of new investment helped reap the results that saw us return to one of the top form teams. We entered the play-off position after the final competitive game and were positioned well to challenge hard for promotion.
As of today, we still remain unclear as to the final resolution of the 2019/2020 season, and this creates a difficult back-drop to the reshaping of our squad at this stage. However, the formalities and rules regarding the decision and announcement of retained and released players remains fixed, despite this season having not officially been resolved or finished. Therefore, we must still fulfill our obligations to the FA, the National League and to all members of our staff and players in relation to our intentions for next season and beyond. This is a difficult task, and with the added uncertainty of when next season will start, we are almost forced into a ‘holding’ position whilst we await guidance and a clear understanding of the future shape of football at professional levels.
Our new owner Mark Stott and the current Board of Directors remain steadfast in their ambition for the club, and their vision for the exciting football future of the club remains firmly held. Initially this was/is to maintain a strong push to be included in the play-offs for the 2019/2020 season. Thereafter, the plan for next season and beyond is to operate as a full-time professional football club with an appropriate high-level training facility and a well-supported structure to ensure that our staff and players have the environment for progress and success. We remain fortunate to retain such a positive and optimistic outlook for our future.
In light of such big changes, this was always going to be a very difficult off-season as we prepare for both full-time football and look to assemble an increasingly competitive squad of professional players to match the owners ambitions for the club. There will be undoubted changes to take place to both the shape and playing profile of our players going forward.
We have been served extremely well by many players over the last few seasons and their involvement has seen them become Champions last season and play a part within a progressive and successful team at this level. Therefore, we must give serious consideration for those players.
As a staff we know them well as people, professionals and players and they are good for the club. Our fans identify with many of them as they have become known, respected and appreciated over a large number of games. Many of our players are also heavily invested in our community, schools and fans projects. As a club we are also mindful of the need to retain our identity and retain a strong core group that share our commitment to the club and our values. The new performance identity will be respectful of this important core, and we must ensure that future additions are again good people, professionals and players that will enhance our identity and promote professionalism and a search for excellence at the club.
Currently, we have five professional players contracted for next season; Liam Hogan, Lois Maynard, Jordan Keane, Alex Curran and Richard Bennett. Liam, Lois, Alex and Richard were signed on terms of a full-time, professional player. With regard to Jordan Keane, positive talks and agreements have been reached regarding improving the terms of his contract to reflect the change of status as he makes a further commitment to the club as a full-time professional.
The club is also pleased to announce that we have taken up the options to extend contracts for a further year of the young developing players Festus Arthur and Jordan Downing.
The club has had constructive and ongoing talks with Ash Palmer, Ben Hinchliffe and Adam Thomas regarding new contracts for 2020/2021 season. It was felt that these players had contributed significantly to the season and, given their profile and positional ability, that they would represent the club very well again next season.
We must be respectful to the timing of the contracts, as all these players have work commitments outside football. The chance to go full-time with the club is an exciting prospect for both them and the club, and there is a positivity about the potential improvements that might be realised by the players as they concentrate their time and energy as full-time professionals.
During this difficult transition period it has been agreed to extend the current contractual terms of the players on a rolling basis, until such time as there is clarity on next season. The club at this stage has also decided to continue the contracts on a similar extension basis of Sam Minihan, Paul Turnbull, Nyal Bell, Sam Walker and Elliot Osborne.
We hope to be able to continue discussions with these players regarding their future roles at the club. It was also felt appropriate at the club to continue the contract terms of Darren Stephenson until he has returned to full fitness following his serious injury last pre-season which required surgery in the spring of this year. We wish to allow Darren an opportunity to recover completely from his surgery and return to full fitness and at that stage discuss his future options.
Unfortunately, the contracts of the remaining players; Dan Cowan, Frank Mulhern, Ian Ormson, Connor Dimaio. Szymon Czubik, Tyler Garrett and Liam McAlinden will not be extended beyond the conclusion of this season and they will be released at the expiration of their current contracts. We thank them for their contribution over the season and wish them well in their future careers.
The club can also confirm that Ben Jackson (Huddersfield Town FC), Danny Lloyd (Salford FC) and Eddie Clarke (Fleetwood Town FC) have all returned to their parent clubs. We would like to thank these players, and all the previous loan players, for the part they played in our team. We would also like to thank all their parent clubs with their assistance and help throughout the year in supporting our efforts at Stockport County.