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Getting To Know Stockport County

By Jacob Greenwood

Attention turns away from the league (thank goodness!) and towards the FA Cup this weekend as The Cards travel to Stockport County for their Round One tie.

After a string of poor results, Garry Hill’s side will now be focusing on how to overcome a County side that will certainly be ‘up for the cup’ under experienced manger Jim Gannon. Despite sitting in mid-table, the side from Greater Manchester had an impressive October, losing just one game to Kidderminster Harriers and winning their four other games.

Although they are in step two of non-league, County, as an ex-league side, are still widely seen as a ‘big club’ and even have a side named after them in China. A big crowd is expected on Saturday as they look to revisit some teams they were more familiar with on their journey in the higher tiers of English football.

torquay
Woking Overcome Torquay in the 4th Qualifying Round

We talked to Sam Byrne from Stockport News about the club and what Woking fans can expect on Saturday.

Stockport will always been seen as a ‘big club’ thanks to their history, previously in Division 1, how have fans adapted to being a non-league team, are they just happy to have a club?

As you allude to in a question below, initially many probably thought County would be straight back up – firstly from the National League into the Football League, and then from the National League North back into the National League! So relegation into non-league in 2011 was gutting for the whole club, and while attendances both home and away have remained some of the best in non-league (and even better than some L2 and L1 clubs), I don’t think it’s the fans “adapting” to non-league. Just die-hard football fans doing what die-hard football fans of any club do.

You won’t find a single County fan who will claim to have truly enjoyed any part of non-league football – but as things got worse and worse both on and off the pitch over the last few years, an air of resignation and of being battered into submission from the fans seemed to appear, which is probably mistaken by some as acceptance from the fans of where the club finds itself.

When Stockport got relegated from The Conference it was though that they would come back up pretty soon, but it hasn’t happened, what has been going on at the club?

It’d probably be quicker to tell you what hasn’t happened at this club over the past few years than what has! Summing things up as briefly as possible, we dropped into non-league with Ray Mathias in charge – he’d steadied the ship on the pitch somewhat in League Two and fleetingly gave us a chance of survival, so most were happy with him staying in charge. But over that summer, a ‘consortium’ of Liverpool-based businessmen got their foot in the door and somehow were allowed to point Didi Hamann as manager with Mathias shown the door, before signing a boat-load of Liverpudlian players. The consortium, and Hamann, rather predictably left the club just two months later and County were left with a sinking ship which was now sinking even faster than before. So much has gone on over the past decade, and every single fan will point to a different issue being the most problematic, but that consortium being allowed to play Football Manager with the club despite no alleged evidence of any funds or backing was a big factor in things going even more wrong.

We swiftly dropped into the Conference North, and although there’s been three seasons of mid-table finishes, club legend Jim Gannon is back in charge with owners who are now steadying the ship off the pitch and doing their bit to tie up all the different debts/loans etcetera.

You’ll speak to some fans who won’t agree with that at all and who will argue that these same owners were some of the same people who were also in charge during our decline, and that gradual progress in the sixth division isn’t really progress – but the majority (in my opinion!) do support what’s currently going on. So that does just give you an idea of not just the issues on and off the pitch, but the differing views of the fanbase as well. I know I said it’d be a brief overview, but that’s almost impossible!

County currently sit in mid-table, what is the aim for this season in your opinion?

As mentioned, Jim Gannon is back in charge and he will have the support and patience of the vast majority of fans as he rebuilds. We really struggled last season under Neil Young with a high turnover of players and a rotten run of mid-season form, and Jim pretty much completely rebuilt the squad over the summer, so while the play-offs are the goal (Fylde will surely run away with the one automatic spot!) I imagine a season where County may just miss out on a play-off spot would be accepted by the fans, as long as progress on the pitch is being achieved. It’s a very tight division with any of around 9 teams going for the play-offs, but that will be the goal.

Coming from step two of non-league, County have already had a few games in The FA Cup this season, how did they get to round one?

We’ve had one of the more comfortable routes into the First Round, it has to be said. Three home ties in the three qualifying rounds, with only one of those coming against a side in the same division, and three 2-0 wins.

Hyde and Bishop Auckland from divisions seven & nine were swept aside quite routinely at Edgeley Park in the second and fourth (final) qualifying rounds, but the biggie was Salford City at home in the Third. Some County fans probably had a bit of a chip on their shoulder about the ‘media darlings’ of Salford after their Cup exploits on the BBC last season, so the 2-0 win and rather dominant performance was quite sweet. That provided everyone at the club with a lot of confidence as Salford were quite fancied and would have been confident of a win themselves.

How big a game is this for the club?

It’s massive. I think it’s fair to say nobody would dub Stockport vs Woking as a glamour tie for either side, but the occasion itself is big. It’s the first time since 2012 that we’ve reached the First Round proper, but as a National League side at the time, we were drawn away at Southend in what was probably the worst possible draw we could have got, and a 3-0 defeat beckoned. We’re just on the back of a run of four wins in five games now, so confidence is high all around, and many are looking at your away record and league position and fancying the win. I know Woking are pulling out all the stops to get fans travelling in big numbers, and I’m sure you’ll rightly fancy the result as well. As we discussed on Twitter, County are really pushing their reduced admission prices and trying to get as many fans through the gates as possible, so a big attendance could also be on the cards. So it will hopefully be a big atmosphere for what is a big occasion despite the tie on paper not looking the best!

Who will Woking have to watch out for on Saturday?

Easiest question you’ve given me! Danny Lloyd, the left-sided attacker signed from Fylde over the summer. 9 goals and 8 assists in 17 games so far this season for County. He’s proven a real fan favourite so far, and County will always be confident of a result home or away with him in the side. He was actually left out of the squad altogether last weekend in a 0-1 home defeat to Kidderminster with Saturday’s Cup tie in mind!

In midfield, Lewis Montrose – a former League Two title winner with Wycombe – has a touch of class and can look head and shoulders above this level when he’s on his game.

Finally, what’s your score prediction?

A: It’s a really tricky one. County could well be the bookies favourites, which is probably a bit harsh on Woking if so! I’m sure you guys will expect the win no matter your league position, just as I’m sure County fans would do against a lower division side. Jim Gannon will inspire confidence in the home fans due to his prior Cup exploits – he guided Northwich to the Second Round last season, where they were actually 2-0 up at Northampton only to lose 3-2 in the final eight minutes. He managed ten FA Cup games last season at Northwich – four more than Man Utd played, who won the entire competition!

I don’t much fancy a long Tuesday night mid-November trip to Woking (no offence!) so rather predictably, I’ll go for a 1-1 draw and a replay to follow!

Image from David Holmes. Find a full set on wokingfc.co.uk
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Tubbs Impressed With Woking Character After Fightback Earns A Point

By Jacob Greenwood

On-loan striker Matt Tubbs was pleased following a debut goal during Woking’s 3-3 draw with Eastleigh and believes The Cards have enough to get out of trouble.

Second half goals from Dealno Sam-Yorke and Luke Kandi saw the home side battle back from 3-1 down to draw against Ronnie Moore’s promotion chasing side. After the game Tubbs, an the ex-Spitfires player, told BBC Surrey it was a tough fixture but that Woking fought well to come back into it and take a point:

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Kandi Celebrates Earning Woking a Point

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but the lads dug in today and showed character. To be 3-1 down against a team who could win this league (and get a draw), the character was unbelievable.”

The 32-year-old kept Woking in the game when his glancing header made it 1-1 and despite being happy with a point, he believes Woking could have taken all three.

“If the game went on for ten more minutes I think we would have won. It is a good point and it will be an even bigger point if we can beat Bromley on Tuesday. The second half performance was great and if we can take that into Tuesday, get a result there, then we can go in to Sutton with confidence.”

Speaking on Woking’s chance on survival, Tubbs believes he has already seen enough from the team to suggest that they won’t be facing relegation this season.

“I saw it (that Woking have enough quality to move up the league) on my first day when we played Bournemouth U23s (in a friendly), it was a really good performance. I came away from that game thinking the league position was false, there are some really good players here and we showed that today.”

 

Imagea by David Holmes. A full set can be viewed at wokingfc.co.uk

The BBC Surrey interview can be heard – here

Getting To Know Tranmere Rovers

By Jacob Greenwood

Woking head to Merseyside on Saturday as they go in search of their first away win of the season at Tranmere Rovers.

Garry Hill and his Woking side are likely to be in high-spirits after back-to-back wins against Torquay United and Wrexham lifted them out of the relegation zone. However, The Cards will visit a Tranmere side who will be looking to prove a point after the departure of manager Gary Brabin last weekend.

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Woking Celebrate Beating Wrexham 2-0

Tranmere narrowly missed out on a play-off spot last season and had made a good start to the 2016/17 campaign until defeats at Aldershot Town, Lincoln City and Sutton United saw the club dismiss Brabin.

We caught up with Rovers fan Kenny Orr to find out what is going on at Prenton Park and what Cards fans can expect.

Gary Brabin – named manager of the month (for August) on September 2nd, out of a job by the 18th of the same month. This seems weird from an outsider’s perspective, but the fans seemed to have lost faith after a good start?

I can imagine from the outside looking in, it must seem crazy, but I’m relieved Brabin has gone. Last season we setup not to get beat rather than going for wins and we didn’t reach the play-offs which was a failure in the eyes of the supporters. We were told that a more positive approach would be taken this season and it never came, even when we won. Games were becoming laborious and extremely frustrating.

Who would you like to see come and take over the vacant management position?

There is a strong rumour about Nigel Adkins, who is an ex-player/coach, as well as being a Birkenhead native. He’d be a hell of a coup but part of me just can’t see it happening. If not, I’d like to see Tony Grant (ex Everton/M.City & now coaching) given a go as he apparently has a good reputation.

Want I want to see us avoid is a long ball merchant. I’ve had enough of it after Micky Adams and Gary Brabin.

Tranmere ended last season well and just missed out on the play-offs but were damaged by a difficult start. What did you make of the standard of football and what were your highs and lows?

The standard of football is ok and not too distant from League 2. The frustration for me is how many teams will automatically go for a physical approach to most games. It’s prehistoric and unnecessary in my eyes, it would be good to see more individual skill and nous on show.

Highs – beating Chester at home with a big crowd and solid performance was great.

Lows – Losing to Wrexham at home towards the end of the season killed our faint playoff hopes. Our home form was woeful for most of the season.

A good start to this season means Tranmere are still up the right end of the table. Would fans be happy with the play-offs or has the aim got to be automatic promotion?

Most fans expect a good crack for the automatic place, settling for the playoffs now would be seen as a major lack of ambition. The playoffs are always a lottery and we haven’t won one of them since 1991!

Who will Woking have to watch out for on Saturday?

James Norwood is always a threat and our most exciting player. He’s scored a few already and it would be good too see him played up front rather than being exiled out wide now that Brabin has gone.

Finally, what is your score prediction?

1-1. I can’t see a great change under an assistant manager being given control. Our players seem very low on confidence too, so you’re visiting at a good time.

Images by David Holmes. A full set can be found at wokingfc.co.uk

Woking Plan Sole Testimonial

By Jacob Greenwood

It was confirmed last night that Woking are planning to play a testimonial fixture for Giuseppe Sole.

The 28-year-old left Kingfield in the summer after spending ten years at the club and is set to return once more for his final bow. At Monday’s meeting with the supporters, director of football Geoff Chapple told fans Sole’s match could take place this year with Bournemouth being a possible club that would visit Kingfield.

Sole, who now plays for Hampton & Richmond Borough and Leatherhead on a dual registration deal, made 352 appearances for Woking, scoring 111 goals.

Sole Celebrates At Kingfield 

Getting To Know Lincoln City

By Jacob Greenwood

The wait is over, football is back!

For the first time since late April, Woking welcome a National League outfit to Kingfield as the top tier of non-league gets underway for the 2016/16 season.

Cards fans will see a new-look side as only five players from last term are still at the club with notable names departing. However, with signings such as Delano Sam-Yorke, Max Kretzschmar and the loan signing of Dennon Lewis, the Kingfield faithful seem to have a positive outlook on the much changed squad.

Saturday’s visitors, Lincoln City, have also seen big changes this summer and most notably this saw Danny Cowley join as manager. Cowley took Braintree Town to the play-offs last season and this has lead to the bookies putting The Imps up there as one of the favourites for the title.

We talked to Lincoln fan Jack Mulhall to find out more about what has happened over the summer and what we can expect from Saturday’s guests.

It’s been a busy summer at Sincil Bank with a new gaffer coming in. After a great season with Braintree Town, what do you expect to see from Danny Cowley?

For me, Danny is the perfect appointment at absolutely the right time for Lincoln. His methodical approach is something I’ve never seen from any manager we’ve had. Preparation is important. His model is next-generation stuff, taking a huge interest into the sports science side. It’s clearly worked on a part-time basis and I, and most others, are excited to see how that transforms into full time.

He has already made some signings, can you take us through those?

Danny was quick to bring in the trio from Braintree (Habergham – Left back. Woodyard and Miles – central midfielders). They’re clearly players he knows and trusts and from what I’ve seen they are real ‘ball at the feet’ players. Nathan Arnold has signed and that’s a great addition for me having featured heavily in Grimsby’s promotion. We missed flare last season and he should bring that. We have strengthened in attack with Adam Marriott and Jonny Margetts coming in. Both have found the net in pre season, both with points to prove having had tough seasons last year. I expect one more to be brought in before opening day, and I’m hoping it’s a centre half to partner Jamie McCombe.

Matt Rhead bagged 18 in 31 appearances last season so it is no surprise that there are clubs interested in him. How important will he be if you can keep hold of him?

For me, Matt is hugely important to next season, albeit if I don’t expect him to feature as much. He offers so much in both boxes. Last season, he scored with his left, his right, his head and an overhead kick. You sense it’ll be whether Matt wants to be here or not rather than whether a club can tempt us with four Yorkie bars and a KitKat. Barrow seems the most likely option with Paul Cox keen on his former player. I’d be disappointed to see him leave. (It seems that Matt and Lincoln weren’t interested in the chocolate bars as since talking to Jack, Matt has signed a new deal at Lincoln)

What is your expectation on for the season?

Like every year, I’m full of optimism. Like every year, this one feels different. I think we’re good enough to mount a promotion challenge and expect a top seven as a minimum..but who really knows!

Lincoln will come up against Delano Sam-Yorke on Saturday. How do you reflect on his time with yourselves?

He initially came on loan. A player I rated heavily. Signed on a permanent deal and never really got going. I think the style was negative to his game. I wasn’t disappointed to see him depart and sense his heart is always down south. He will score goals though, there’s no doubting that.

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Sam-Yorke Celebrates a Pre-Season Goal

Finally, how do you think Saturday’s game will play out and what is your score prediction?

There’s something about Kingfield I really don’t like (maybe because our only win there comes against Hayes and Yeading). It’s a real unknown challenge too, opening day is always tough to call. That said if you can’t be confident on opening day, you’ll never be confident again. 3-0 away win!

Images by David Holmes. A full set can be found at wokingfc.co.uk

Carter Looks Ahead To Season After Positive Pre-Season

By Jacob Greenwood 

Woking’s newly promoted academy graduate Charlie Carter has admitted he is ‘buzzing’ for the new season to get underway next Saturday when Lincoln City visit Kingfield.

19-year-old Carter’s impressive form in pre-season, which included goals against Watford and Luton Town, saw the youngster earn a contract with the first team. Looking back on warm-up games, the midfielder believes that it has been a successful pre-season for himself and the rest of the squad, who have been helping him progress in training.

“It is going positively for me and the squad. We have had a good pre-season and we just need to take it into the season.

“In training they (Keiran Murtagh and Joey Jones) are always trying to help me out and help me progress. They’ve been great to me.”

On his position in the squad throughout the season, Carter is remaining upbeat, even if he doesn’t secure a starting place straight away.

“I am just happy to be in the squad right now. I will just keep working hard and if I get into the starting XI then that is good. If I don’t, I will still be positive because I am young and still learning.”

Charlie was talking to BBC Surrey’s Gary Smith and the full interview can be heard here.

Photos by David Holmes. A full set can be found at wokingfc.co.uk

New Chairman Confirms Woking In A Stable Position

By Jacob Greenwood

After being elected Woking chairman on Thursday, Rosemary Johnson has given her first interview in which she has confirmed the club is in a stable position.

Johnson appeared on The Non-League Football Show to discuss her recent appointment and the ex-mayor of Woking aslo confirmed she was happy to be in the role and will still play a part in The Cards Trust.

“I have been around the club for a long time and I thought I had the some of skills to become the chairman. I am very happy to have been selected by the board.

“I am still involved in the trust (Cards Trust). I still do Boost the Budget, the 400 Club and all the other things that the trust members do.”

When asked about her relationship with manager Garry Hill, Johnson confirmed that the pair know each other well and agreed a good working relationship is important.

“I have sponsored Garry’s kit for three or fours years and I know Garry very well. I have also been travelling on the team coach in the last few seasons so I would agree (the relationship) is important.”

When looking towards the 2016/17 season, Johnson confirmed that, as always, safety is the first aim.

“The first aim is to get to 50 points and then we will build on that.”

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Manager Garry Hill and Chairman Rosemary Johnson

The full interview can be heard on the BBC Radio 5 Live website.

Image by David Holmes.

Banger Follows Smith Out Of Kingfield Door

By Jacob Greenwood

Woking have today confirmed the departure of commercial manager Nicky Banger.

Banger, who came to Kingfield from local rivals Aldershot Town, has departed the club following a ‘restructure’ announced by board member Peter Jordan.

It is already looking like it will be a busy summer off the field for The Cards following the resignation of chairman, Mike Smith, on Saturday. Smith’s announcement came just hours after the final home game of the season and means Woking are on the hunt for a replacement.

Smith had been at the Kingfield helm for five seasons and he oversaw a very successful spell which included The Cards returning to the Conference National.

Playing staff have also said their farewell’s this week with loanees Matt Butcher, Matt Robinson and Cameron Norman thanking the club and fans on social media for their time at the club.

It is also expected that player of the season John Goddard will depart the club after reported interest from several Football League teams. The midfielder received a great send off during Woking’s 2-1 victory over Eastleigh where he appeared to wave ‘goodbye’ to the fans.

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Mike Smith and Nicky Banger have both left Kingfield this week. Picture by David Holmes. 

 

 

Bonus Row Erupts at Kingfield

A row has broken out at Kingfield over alleged bonus agreements.

The news emerged shortly after a Liam Dickinson goal saw the The Cards lose 1-0 to Guiseley on Saturday. Neither Woking players nor management talked to the press following the defeat fuelling speculation over the row.

BBC Surrey broke the news via Twitter stating that:

“@bbcsurrey understands @wokingfc management and players are in dispute with club board over bonuses. (The board) told players they were promised bonuses at end of season, now players told only if finish top 5.”

The club appeared to confirm the rumours early Sunday morning with director of football, Geoff Chapple, stating in an official statement:

“It is never helpful when matters such as these are discussed outside of any club.

This issue will be resolved, and in the meantime the club will not be making any further statements.”

 

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