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Stockport boss has a young vision

By Pete Oliver

Jim Gannon
The average age of Gannon's squad is 22 (Getty Images)
Stockport County manager Jim Gannon's passionate approach to nurturing and promoting young players is again having record-breaking effects at Edgeley Park.

Last season the Hatters set a new League Two best of nine straight wins without conceding a goal.

Twelve months on and their eighth successive away win at Lincoln City last Saturday equalled another League record.

Impressively, that run has been achieved by a team with an average age of less than 22 and is a vindication of Gannon's commitment to youth.

He told BBC Sport: "Any time is a good time for a run but it's not just about this run, the lads have been exceptional for 18 or 19 games.

"The work we have been putting in throughout the season is coming to fruition.

"We are not over-achieving, they are just growing and emerging as the players they are capable of being."

It would be nice for me to see the vision I have for football teams in the lower divisions - of young, dynamic players - to be successful

Stockport boss Jim Gannon

"We decided to put a lot of faith in young players. I am a big believer that the lower divisions should be about dynamic young sides with good, professionally qualified managers.

"Hopefully we can act as a team and role model for other clubs to invest in young players and trust in them.

"We help them become very good professionals in an environment to inspire them to become the best they can and some of them have really grown in that environment."

Notably, defender Ashley Williams, 23, has developed to such an extent that he has just won his first call-up to the full Wales squad, while winger Ryan Crowther, 19, last summer earned a move to Liverpool.

Top-scorer Liam Dickinson, 22, and winger Anthony Pilkington, 19, have both been taken out of non-league, while Michael Raynes, Tommy Rowe and Paul Turnbull are all 19-year-old, ex-youth team players now figuring regularly at first-team level.


Even County's senior players and outside recruits are all in their mid-twenties and Gannon believes that has been a key factor in the club's superb run of away results, which stretches back to Boxing Day.

"When we are away from home the pitch opens up a bit and we can use our athleticism and pass the ball around," he said.

"We are not the type of team which goes away from home to keep a clean sheet and try and nick a goal. We are a dynamic and athletic team, all the attributes that come with youth."

Last season they came up short as their momentum petered out, but Gannon is hoping to stay the course this time and make promotion a tangible reward for the progress the club has made since he took over in January 2006.

see also
Gannon mounts a grandstand start
21 Mar 06 |  Stockport
Gannon unveiled as Stockport boss
17 Jan 06 |  Stockport

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