Hatters desperate for fresh investment
6 January ~ It's four years since Stockport County supporters marched through the snow into Manchester city centre to lobby the club's administrators, Leonard Curtis, as debt threatened the club's existence. The debt didn't kill the club but it may as well have done. Instead, it began a period of agonising and embarrassing decline that led to County falling out of the Football League and beyond. Over the last four years or so, shareholders, owners and potential owners have come and gone – too many to mention here.
The same goes for managers although you may remember the appointment of the late Gary Ablett, Dietmar Hamann and the Swiss-Bosnian Darije Kalezic, who lasted just two months. The nadir came during an afternoon in Kidderminster, where the club fell out of the Conference and a Stockport fan thumped an opposition player. It completed the fall from the second tier to almost complete irrelevance in just 11 years. I say almost, though, because practically four years to the day since the original Manchester march, another march took place.
The "Sea of Blue" march on December 21, organised by supporter Steve Gibbon and backed by the supporters' co-operative, brought around 500 fans together as they took their message to the streets of a town now dominated by shirts of a lighter blue complexion. The aims were to persuade the club's "silent" shareholders to write off their loans and hand their shares to those still investing in the club, Chris Brammall and Richard Park.
The march also took aim at the club's chief executive, Ryan McKnight, whose inexperienced decision making – from appointing Kalezic, sacking ground staff, downsizing the club and failing to bring in additional funding – is resulting in many supporters staying away from Edgeley Park. Indeed, enthusiastic mentions of money from China and rumours that Salford City Reds owner Dr Marwan Koukash was set to invest have come to nothing. Without any additional funding, getting out of the Conference North will be nearly impossible. Manager Alan Lord is currently hamstrung and the club hangs precariously in the lower half of the table.
The march hasn't brought any concrete results off the pitch yet. The club is still without a chairman after Lord Peter Snape resigned in November and the silent shareholders are still silent. But once again, the supporters have shown how they are the primary asset of the football club. Despite being in the Conference North, around 2,000 fans still attend home games and there is a dedicated away following some Football League clubs would cherish.
With a stadium that still isn't owned by the club, all potential investors have is a name, a group of passionate fans and some also-ran players. Despite a colourful and largely proud history, most would think that it was not worth the bother but someone out there could yet be the force behind arguably English league football's greatest comeback. David Meller