New vision for ‘sleeping giant’: Stockport County’s fresh additions united in ambitions for future legacy

By Matt Davies

Darije Kalezic is the only man to take Stockport County forward as the club moves towards new chief executive Ryan Mcknight’s vision of building a legacy for the future.

McKnight has put his experience to good use already, and has attracted manager Darijo Kalezic and assistant Stuart Watkiss to the club.

Both have considerable experience in the game, as Kalezic has managed in Holland and Belgium and Watkiss has coached across all levels in England.

McKnight – unveiling the two men he believes will lead the Hatters for the rest of the season and beyond – insisted they were the ideal candidates to lead the club forwards.

“From my perspective he [Kalezic] was the one individual that really slotted perfectly into the vision and philosophy that we’ve got for this football club,” said McKnight, who has taken up his role earlier than expected.

“Between the two of them I think that’s as comprehensive as you can get and we’re extremely excited about what they are going to bring to us,” he added.

“Not only till the end of the season, but hopefully beyond that.”

Kalezic led De Graafschap to the Dutch second tier title in 2010, and maintained the club’s status in the Eredivisie the following season.

The 43-year-old also managed Belgian side Zulte Waregen for a brief spell in 2011 and McKnight was delighted to have attracted the experienced Swiss-born Bosnian to County.

“Darije’s CV alone explains everything you need to know about the guy and the fact that he’s decided to come here to Stockport only compounds that,” said McKnight.

“He’s one of the bright young coaches/managers in European football, highly recommended, highly talented, highly successful already, and it’s incredible we’ve got him here at Stockport County.”

The new manager echoed the sentiments of McKnight, who used his links with Raymond Verheijen at the football academy in bringing Kalezic to England.

“I had a good meeting with Ryan and Spencer [Fearn] and immediately saw that we share the same visions and are also on the same page,” said Kalezic.

“I believe that Stockport is a sleeping giant and soon enough they will come back to where they belong.

“The vision of how they want to do it is the right vision.”

The long term vision of McKnight and Spencer Fearn, and the other members of the Stockport board is to move the club towards a self-sustainable position.

McKnight insists the current board deserve credit in working towards that goal and feels that it can be achieved during next season.

“We are working towards a self-sustainable position as quickly as possible and we are going to be striving to do that as quickly as possible next season,” he said.

Recognising past mistakes and seeing where other clubs have been successful is the first stage of the process for McKnight.

But the short term target for the club is to move away from the relegation places in the Blue Square Bet Premier League and to get results as soon as possible.

Kalezic is aware of the situation the club finds itself in but feels that the current crop of players – with a couple of additions – can do enough to climb up the league.

“The priority is going to be that firstly we think about the short vision, to go from this place [20th in the league], some places up, and then we work towards the long vision,” said the Bosnian.

The new manager insists his footballing philosophy is similar to that found in Holland, but he appreciates that style might not necessarily suit the Hatters.

After studying hours of video footage of County games this season, the Bosnian has decided to work on organising his side into playing in a way that best suits them.

“I will let the players decide how we are going to play,” he said. We want to screen the qualities of the players and use the qualities.

“We have to play players in the right position and play players how he wants to play, not like how I want or anybody else.”

Both coaches are signed on contracts until the end of the season, and McKnight insisted that both deals were done in the best interests of the football club.

“It’s the right thing to do for the long term vision of the football club, said McKnight. “Should everything go as we hope it does, there is the option there to continue it forward and we want these guys to be part of where this football club is going.”

Alan Lord, Jim Gannon’s former assistant manager who led the club to victory against Forest Green Rovers in a caretaker role last week will extend his five year stay at the football club.

Lord will join the project in a scouting capacity, tracking possible targets and watching opposition and McKnight maintained he saw the Hatters man as an important part of the clubs’ plans.

“We’re delighted about that, why wouldn’t we want to keep somebody with Alan’s attributes and experience and knowledge of the football club and the players of this region attached to Stockport County?” said the CEO.

“Alan was very keen to do that and we’re delighted he wants to be involved.

Image courtesy of zoominnl via YouTube, with thanks

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