Stockport County have signed 27-year-old defender Mark Ross from Chorley.
The move to County brings to an end a six-year association with Victory Park, having played more than 200 games for the Lancashire side.
Mark said: “After a total of six years at Chorley, I can leave with no regrets – it has been brilliant, we’ve had two promotions, and I’ve got some great friends there, but they understand my reasons and they’re all behind me.
“I’ve always had an eye on Stockport County down the years and I’ve been close to signing before but it didn’t quite happen for me. It’s a big club and it feels like the right time, they’re ready to kick on and everyone you speak to in football says they’re ready to progress now. I’ve had quite a few offers during my time at Chorley, but there hasn’t been anything to make me leave – until now.
“Whenever the fixtures come out, I always look out for the County games and I would spend weeks preparing for those, but I want to play in front of those fans every week, not just twice a season. I want to progress the club and be part of that progress, to make some history.”
Mark, who can play at right back or centre back, has played every minute of every game for the Magpies this season: a total of 3780 minutes! Away from football, he runs a successful high street gym called BODY Torq Fitness in Westhoughton just outside Bolton.
County boss James Gannon said: “Mark epitomises the profile of player we need to take County to the next level – he’s athletic and was voted the best right back in the league in 2014. I’ve said before, we need strong Conference North players who have experience of playing consistently well at this level with a track record of personal or team success, and Mark certainly fits the bill.”
Mark said: “I’ve spoken to the manager at length and he says I’ll have an important role at the club – obviously a number of players have left recently so there’ll be an opportunity for me. As soon as he took over at County back in January our lads were talking about it and you could see the results improving every week – I played against Northwich, as well, when Jim was there and was really impressed with them. He’s got a great track record, great experience at a higher level, and I want to play at a higher level, hopefully with Stockport County.”
Before joining Chorley, Mark had a successful spell playing in the USA. He said: “I moved out there on a scholarship at the age of 19, all my mates at home were going to university or getting jobs, so it just seemed right to take the chance, I just wanted to play football.”
Mark spent 18 months at a college in Ohio before joining New Orleans, just two divisions below the MLS. He said: “I combined summer football in the US with playing for Leigh Genesis under Gary Flitcroft during the winter, and I loved it, it was an amazing experience. In the States, I was flying all over the place to get to away games, which was a real eye opener, so I always advise people to give it a go if they get the chance.”
Mark added: “I was a centre half originally, but I’ve been right back for the last couple of years, and I won the award in 2014 at right back. Playing every minute of this season hopefully proves my fitness levels, I worked really hard to achieve that record and last Christmas I set myself the target to get picked for every game, so I’m certainly proud of that. Now I just can’t wait to get to Edgeley Park and play in front of those fans, my sister’s boyfriend is a County fan so he’s already in my camp!”