Stockport County have signed Tranmere Rovers winger Darren Stephenson on a two-year deal.
The 24-year-old spent the previous three-and-a-half years with National League North rivals Chorley, scoring 21 goals in his final season with the Magpies, including both games against the Hatters.
Born in Jamaica, Darren began his career at Bradford City, making his debut as a teenager, before joining Southport.
Last season he spent time on loan with National North champions AFC Fylde, during a season hampered by injury. But now fully-fit Darren becomes the latest exciting addition to Jim Gannon’s squad for the new campaign.
Jim said: “It’s great to finally sign Darren after quite long and complicated negotiations and transfer dealings. Darren is a player I’ve admired since he played against my Northwich Victoria team, when our tier 8 team knocked Matt Jansen’s side out of the FA Cup at Victory Park.
“Darren catches the eye with his skill, pace and ability to raid in off the left to score goals. His flourish of goals at the end of 2015/2016 earned him a great move to Tranmere, but with difficulties at Prenton Park limiting his first team opportunities we are able to provide him with a great opportunity to establish himself again as a top player and goal scorer at this level, and then move forward with our shared ambition to play at a higher level.
“Darren is another very important part of our team building. As a wide attacker with pace, skill and goals, I feel he’ll be a great replacement for Danny Lloyd. With his preference to play off the left or left-centre, he adds balance to our new look frontline alongside central striker Jason Oswell, right-sided attacker Adam Thomas and ‘number 10’ Matty Warburton. What I also like about Darren is his ability to adapt to playing as an inside forward or second centre forward if we change systems to have a stronger central presence in attack, such as in variations of 4312/4132 or 3142/3412 playing systems.
“Darren is a key signing that shows our intent to build a competitive side capable of challenging again this season for the play-offs and promotion. He has great experience at this level and is a proven goalscorer in the Conference North. He is the type of player we haven’t been able to attract before, but a lot has changed in the last year. We are a club that has become much more attractive after the stability and progress that was brought last season. Players believe we are ready for success and there is a growing trust in the coaching and playing environment at Edgeley Park.
“Darren brings further quality to our team and given his age, ability, potential to develop and desire to be a full time, he is also hungry to be part of the club’s future as we look to progress to a full time set up. The potential for the club to make a transition to full time football in the coming seasons has had a significant impact on our consideration of players to attract and offer two-year deals to. A two-year deal for Darren was easier given his background. For this season we remain a part-time side, but to attract, retain and develop the best players we will need to grow the club’s football structures to match any playing progress we make.
“This season’s first team and its new-look attack is taking shape but we are conscious of continuing our recruitment to ensure we have more depth, quality and tactical options within the squad. We are continuing discussions with a number of attackers that we trust will provide at least one more player with different qualities to complement and supplement our signed attackers. Discussions are also ongoing with clubs and players regarding the availability of players, but we expect those signings to be closer to the start of, or during, pre-season.”
Darren added: “I am delighted to be joining Stockport County, and to get the chance to work with Jim Gannon and Mike Flynn, both legends of the club.
“Another huge attraction about County is the incredible fan base, which all players are aware of, and I can’t wait to play in front of the huge crowds at every home game.
“I promise I will work as hard as I can to try and help this club get back to where it belongs.”