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County Warfare: Part Two

With the football season approaching its midway stage, Jamie Summers addresses the continuing problems at Stockport County

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Image: Tom J Bullen
Image: Tom J Bullen

Every football fan wants their team to be top dog; whether it's reaching the top of the Premier League, getting promoted into a higher division or going on a giant-killing cup run, everyone wants their own slice of the cake. Football doesn't always work like that though. For every carrot, there's a stick. For every winner, there's a loser too.

One of the best things about sports comment pieces is the ability to share opinions, have debates and bring an insight into the teams and sports that we are passionate about as individual writers.

But sometimes, we get it wrong. Over summer, I wrote a comment piece entitled 'County Warfare', in which I tried to assess the problems being experienced by my club, Stockport County. After three relegations in the last four seasons, I said that; "In Ian Bogie and assistant, Alan Lord, Stockport once again have a very good management team; if anyone can lead the club back up the league ladder then they can."

I was wrong. Very wrong.

After dropping into the Conference North for the first time in their history, the standard pre-season optimism turned out to be a damp squib, as Stockport began life at their lowest level in disastrous fashion with a brutal 4-1 thumping at home. That was followed up by one point from the next three matches.

A fourth defeat in the opening five games, this time a 3-1 mauling at Harrogate Town, turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Ian Bogie resigned immediately after the game, with the club stranded at the foot of the Sixth Division.

Bogie's legacy at Stockport is undoubtedly one of failure. He was brought in at the tail end of 2012/13 and given the impossible task of keeping a club up that was in reality already doomed. But his record of just nine points from twelve games in charge is poor by anyone's standards.

His replacement, Alan Lord, is a good man with the club at heart, having been a member of staff for a number of years. But despite a modest change in fortunes with four wins on the board, results are still poor, with County hovering dangerously above the relegation zone once again.

Looking on Twitter recently, I saw one supporter describing the club as a 'catastrophuck' - which is one of the best phrases I have ever seen. My initial comment piece was called 'County Warfare' because of the ugly civil war that has engulfed the club in the last year, with the board and fans constantly at loggerheads.

Despite the resignation of hugely unpopular chairman, Lord Peter Snape just over a week ago, things still look incredibly bleak at Stockport County. On the pitch, the team looks fragile and unable to compete with the majority of teams in the league. Off the pitch, the chief executive, board and shareholders remain reviled amongst the majority of fans for the way the club has collapsed since exiting administration in 2010. In the past, when people asked who I supported and I said Stockport County, they were pleasantly intrigued. Now I get a look that has 'you poor bastard' written all over it.

Image: Tom J Bullen
Image: Tom J Bullen

Put quite simply: after five years of being battered on an almost weekly basis, the fans have understandably had enough. More and more are throwing the towel in with every defeat, and the ones who remain are at best grossly disillusioned. Even after so many demotions recently, the fans are still served up with a team that cannot compete and looks likely to drop further.

I'm not one to ridicule any club for their stature, but this season we were dumped out of the FA Cup by a side whose name I have forgotten. I think this season was probably the first time ever that supporters of any club have chanted 'you're not fit to wear the shirt' three games into a season. At times, County fans resort to gallows humour to lighten the depressive mood; after all, sometimes if you don't laugh, you might just cry!

However, it's not just because of the poor quality of football that the fans have seen enough (honestly, the football on offer at Stockport has probably been shit for the majority of its 130-year history). What's more the issue is the crisis in confidence created by County's dismal collapse recently.

This is a football club that just over a decade ago was in the Championship. Now though, it's in the Conference North and is seemingly up a particular creek without a paddle. It's no longer the Football League club that the fans are used to it being; in fact, it's a million miles away from it. Yet also, it doesn't suit the Non-League mould either. In short, there's no sense of belonging. Stockport County is now a club that just doesn't fit in.

The ambition has to be returning to the Football League, back to the place where, stature-wise, it should be. In 2011/12, the club was in huge debt and a bout of austerity was probably necessary. But two years on, that austerity continues without bearing fruit and the prospects of ever getting back to that promised land of League football are becoming fainter by the month.

Most fans see no way out until the current owners of the club have been cleared out and someone else starts afresh. Where there was once a proud Football Club which seemed able to stand up to adversity, there is now just a hollow shell and haunting reminders of the past. After falling from League One in 2010 to the Conference North in 2013, it seems like the decline isn't over yet. I'm told that the next level down is called the Evo-Stik league, which probably sums it up very succinctly.

For many Stockport fans, any change now is just too late. It's like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic; the layout might change for a while, but the ship is probably going to sink anyway. It should at least be a valuable lesson to football. Relegation seems likely again, and it'll probably be the sad ending of a tumultuous 131 year-old story.

In my first 'County Warfare' comment, I predicted that Ian Bogie would lead Stockport County back to the Football League. I was wrong.

Fingers crossed that I'm wrong in this comment piece, too!

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2 Comment

Danny Welbeck Posted on Sunday 25 Aug 2019

Sack the board!


Jim Posted on Sunday 25 Aug 2019

Shup Andy.


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