‘Like the good old days’: Stockport County on the up as Hatters eye FA Cup berth

Stockport County go into Saturday’s FA Cup qualifier against Bishops Auckland with plenty of optimism after their recent run of results.

The Hatters have won four out of their last five games in all competitions and last week they attracted a Conference North Premier Division record attendance of 3,800 to the game against Salford City at Edgeley Park.

County are hoping that their fans will give their side the boost that they need to get in the next round of the competition.

Club commentator and County director Jon Keighren told MM: “The last three games have been absolutely unbelievable. The manager said he felt something change during the Fylde game a few weeks ago.

“The fans were brilliant that day and ever since then there’s been a real buzz around the stadium and the atmosphere has been fantastic since then.

“People have commented that it’s been like the good old days.”

ALARM BELLS: Stockport County went into administration in 2009 and were then relegated three times between 2010-13

Fortunes off the field are also much healthier than they have been in the last 10 years as the club has adopted a safer policy after the instability that has plagued them in recent times.

After going into administration in 2009, Stockport were relegated three times in four years between 2010-2013 from League One to the Conference Premier North, and the playing staff had to change to a part-time club that only trains twice a week.

“Our decline in the last 10 years has been quite alarming,” said Keighren.

“We’ve been reducing our losses at the club in the last two or three years though and we have steadied the ship.

“Now I think we’ve got the right people in the boardroom, the right people in the dugout and the right people on the playing side.

“When the directors put money in now, it is for the investment of the playing staff rather than paying bills like they used to have to do.

 “We have also budgeted to be knocked out of the first round of every competition so the prize money we have got this year is a bonus.

“One of the good things is how we seem to have gotten the supporters back onside again.”

Since his arrival on the board in May 2013, Keighren has implemented a plan to get the club into the football league and also make them more successful off the pitch with commercial growth and work in the community.

“If we get promoted, we want to consider full time status as a club,” he said.

“We want to be back in the football league by 2020. Our future is challenging but it’s exciting.

“We are working hard to build a structure that can take the club forward. In terms of making the club more profitable and attractive for investors we need to get out of this league. 

“We are doing the right things in terms of engaging our supporters and local businesses. We aim to generate £1.5 million in commercial revenue over the next five years.

“We are also hoping to engage with 80,000 school and college students by 2020 through the healthy living and leadership initiatives that we run.”

Asked about whether the FA Cup is more important than the league, Keighren, who is approaching 1000 games of commentating matches in the next couple of months, found it difficult to answer but concluded that “the league is more important.”

James Gannon’s men go into the game after back-to-back wins against Salford City in the Cup and the league and are hoping that their form can drive them into the first round proper with a win at Edgeley Park and set up a clash with a big league team.

Bishops Auckland are currently three tiers below County in the Northern League Division One but they have started their campaign on a high so far this season with eight wins in their last 11 games and possess a centre forward in Andrew Johnson who has scored 17 goals. 

The tie on Saturday has also been described by Bishops Auckland as their biggest game in the last 20 years.

Keighren said: “Look at their form. They’re absolutely flying! They have won five games in the competition just to get at this stage so we have to treat it seriously.

“Teams that come to Edgeley Park see it as their Wembley and raise their game so we can’t take it lightly.”

In the last round of the competition, The Hatters won 2-0 with goals from Danny Lloyd and Michael Clarke on Saturday in a closely contended match in which the home side’s prowess in front of goal made the difference.

The last time County qualified for the first round of the FA Cup was four years ago when Southend United knocked them out in a 3-0 defeat.

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