Jamie Summers – @JimSummersNews
Hi Jamie, so sum up County’s season so far in a paragraph?
Dramatic! It started off terribly to be honest. There’s a saying that it’s never boring following a club like Stockport County, but that’s exactly what the first thirteen games of the season were – intensely boring. Under former manager Simon Rusk, the results were poor and the football was amongst the worst I’ve ever seen at County. Since he was moved on and replaced by Dave Challinor, things have improved massively – we’re playing well, we’ve had a memorable cup run and our league form is really strong going into Christmas.
How’s your recent form been?
Our form is excellent at the moment. Since the new manager arrived, we’ve picked up ten points from four league games, drew at Bolton away in the FA Cup, then thrashed them in the replay at Edgeley Park, and most recently we were narrowly edged out by Rotherham 1-0, after giving them a really tough test. With the exception of the Rotherham game, we’re scoring lots of goals too.
What’s been your highlights of the season up to this point?
Without a doubt, the two FA Cup games against Bolton Wanderers – we took an incredible 5,000 away fans to their place, and the atmosphere was immense as we deservedly earned a draw. Then the replay at Edgeley Park was one of those special games you talk about for years. The electric buzz around the place as we scored the fifth against a full-strength League One team was fantastic.
Who are your key players and why?
It’s quite tough to pick out individuals really. Scott Quigley and Paddy Madden are our most potent threats up front, and both are a real handful for any team at this level. Their goals are crucial for us. Since he joined, Ollie Crankshaw has been a revelation on the wing and adds pace and dynamism to our attacking threat. At the back, Ashley Palmer remains the mainstay he’s been for us since our time in the National League North. But for me, the unsung hero of our team is Ryan Croasdale. He’s a wonderfully gifted footballer, who makes us tick in the middle of the park and does all the underappreciated simple stuff that you need.
How was ex-Gull Whitfield doing before injury?
Ben has shown some great flashes of talent since he joined. He started off slowly, but seemed to find his groove in recent weeks, and it’s a shame he picked up the injury when he did. I think he could have a real part to play when he’s back up to speed, though there’s a lot of competition. I can see why Gulls fans were disappointed to lose him in the summer!
What are your thoughts on the new manager Dave Challinor?
Dave Challinor has been superb since he joined. Some people (me included) weren’t too keen on him when he was an opposition manager, but he’s come in and seems to have just clicked straight away. Challinor replaced Simon Rusk, whose short-lived tenure was dire. He was a nice bloke, but his style of football was soul-destroying and in the end, there was practically a mutiny after a run of poor results and even worse performances.
Challinor came in and immediately made us look a completely different side. We’re exciting to watch, attacking, and you get the sense, finally, that our expensive and hugely talented squad is being allowed to demonstrate its potential. The results have been great, but more importantly, watching County is enjoyable again. He seems to get what we’re about and there’s loads of excitement around the place.
How has Challinor set the team up in recent weeks?
He’s very attack-minded, which is great to see. We tend to set up with Scott Quigley up top, and someone playing off him (often Paddy Madden), and we make use of the pace of our wingers to good effect. We’re playing much more positive football since Challinor arrived, and it’s shown in our goals – since he arrived, we’ve scored 19 in seven matches, and that includes three matches against League One teams! We do tend to struggle for clean sheets though – because of our expansive style of play, we do give away chances.
Do you fancy your chances for promotion?
I do. If you’d have asked me six weeks ago, I’d have said we didn’t have a chance – in fact, likelier to go down than up. Things have really changed though and suddenly we find ourselves a couple of wins away from the top of the table. We’d need to be very consistent to win the title, but I think at the least we’ll make the play-offs and put in a much better display than last season’s disappointing effort in the semi-final.
Will many Hatters supporters make the trip down?
It’s difficult to say. As a fanbase we tend to like a trip to Plainmoor, and we generally travel in good numbers. It’s a bit of a shame it’s so close to Christmas, which will probably put some people off, but I’d expect us to have a few hundred there.
And finally, what’s your prediction for the game at Plainmoor?
We’ve had some really entertaining matches between us since our promotions back into the National League, and I hope it’s another good match-up on Saturday. I don’t think either side has been quite having the season we’d hoped for so far; I’ve been surprised that Gulls are in the bottom half after last season, though you’ve had some decent results.
I’m feeling really optimistic at the moment though, and our away record this season has been brilliant… so at the risk of looking stupid on Saturday, I’ll go for a 2-1 County win.
A CLASSIC ENCOUNTER – STOCKPORT COUNTY (H) 2006 by Danny Burnell
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