30 November ~ When Stockport County were first placed in administration in May 2009, one of the first acts of the administrators carried out was to lay off Jim Gannon. It seems odd that the manager of a football club was seen as an unnecessary expense (although it was, as they were to admit, the company's first football administration) but details of Gannon's remuneration leaked out, and given that his generous basic salary was augmented by bonuses such as a cut of transfer fees as well as a share of the club shop profit, you can see where they were coming from.
But they had sacked a club hero. Gannon was a former player who was signed as part of the late Danny Bergara's renaissance in the 1990s. He started as a goalscoring midfielder (52 in 383 games in total), converted to a central defender and was an integral part of the incredible side of 1996-97 that won promotion to the second level.
Gannon pursued his coaching badges and left his first managerial job, at Dundalk, when the County manager's job became available following the sacking of Chris Turner. He was appointed, with the club adrift at the bottom of League Two, in January 2006. An incredible escape from relegation was achieved in the final game of the season, and in his second full season in charge, he managed to achieve what Bergara hadn't managed in four attempts – winning at Wembley in the 2008 play-off final.
This confirmed Gannon's legendary status at County, status which was not tarnished after the administrators forced his second exit from the club; if anything, it was strengthened, as many of the more excitable fans enjoyed making claims that he had unfinished business at Edgeley Park. Colourful, shall we say, managerial spells at Motherwell, Port Vale and Peterborough followed.
There have been regular rumours of his return every few months since he left, and a couple of weeks ago, with the club in a complete mess – certainly on the field, and quite possibly off it – the distress call finally went out. Gannon has now been reinstated, with a new job title of director of football. In his case, this means not only managing the team but seemingly being involved at board level. Last night's 7-0 defeat at Grimsby is a sign of the work that needs to be done.
What he can bring to the boardroom remains to be seen, but he is clearly an impressive manager, who worked miracles in his first spell at County. At the same time, however, he is a person who can visibly indicate disapproval, during a game, of a sponsor's man of the match choice; he is a man who will refuse to give interviews to Sky TV because of problems with his own personal telly account; and he is someone who will depart the team coach at a motorway service station on the way to a game after a row with his assistant.
An impression of how Gannon is regarded by County fans would depend on who you asked. Those who dealt with him during the days we owned the club would give a much more negative view than those who simply watched him on the field or in the dugout. There are far more of the latter, however, and the reaction to His Second Coming makes the phrase seem wholly apt. Time will tell. Dave Espley