Stockport County manager James Gannon has secured a hat-trick of quality signings to complete his squad ahead of the new campaign.
There are two new faces in Gary Stopforth, a midfielder from near-neighbours and newly-promoted Salford City who has enjoyed three successive promotion campaigns, and highly-rated 22-year-old defender Sam Minihan from league rivals Worcester City.
There’s also a welcome return for centre-forward Kayode Odejayi, who has agreed a new deal to remain at Edgeley Park.
The powerful Nigerian international flourished in the second half of last season and ended the campaign strongly, making a total of forty-three appearances.
Gannon said: “The consideration for the prime central attacking role was probably my most thought-out area for signing over the last few months.
In other areas of the pitch I feel we have great balance and depth with the athleticism, ability and qualities of the players signed. But the main striker is an important one and in the modern game a real conundrum.
The types of strikers seen now are so varied. In the past I’ve always favoured a tall central striker who has physical presence and occasional penetration and real purpose in taking the game to the opposition.”
Big Odejayi scored 5 goals last season, but Gannon says his goals tally was not the overriding factor in the decision to offer a new deal to the popular target man: “I have never fully judged a central striker on goals.
“As the point attacker, or player that acts as target man and leads the line, he often has to have more attributes to his game, the most obvious being a physical focal point for the team to help them get up the pitch. This role often leads to gaining of territory and assisting in goals. In that regard Kay was superior to other strikers last season for us.
In the final sixteen games under my guidance Kay scored four and assisted directly in 5 goals, which compares favourably with our other main central strikers who surprisingly assisted in no goals! And this ratio is even better when considered against minutes played.”
Six-foot-three front man Odejayi arrived at Edgeley Park from Tranmere Rovers last summer following an illustrious career in the Football League, boasting more than 80 league goals and 500 senior appearances.
Gannon also welcomes experienced midfielder Gary Stopforth to Edgeley Park.
The manager said: “I think Gary is a great addition to the squad. With only Lewis Montrose and Glenn Rule as recognised central midfielders I felt that we needed at least one more in the squad. As soon as we were made aware of Gary’s potential availability from Salford, he overtook other possible targets and moved to the top of our wanted list. It was surprise to see him become available but we are delighted to add him to our team of players.”
Stopforth, 30, was previously a real favourite at Ramsbottom United, where he captained the side, before leaving to join Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley at Moor Lane in
January 2015 and became a permanent fixture for their successive promotion campaigns.
Stopforth made forty-seven appearances for the Ammies last season, scoring twice and providing no fewer than eight assists during the campaign.
He also played a crucial role in their run to the Second Round proper of the FA Cup.
The third signing completed this weekend is Sam Minihan, a 22-year-old full-back who played a key role last season in helping Worcester defy the bookies odds and comfortably secure their place in the National League North for another season.
Minihan, who played in the Football League having started his career at Rochdale, is a highly-rated defender who played for Loughborough University in the Midland League before joining Worcester last summer.
In 2015/16, he made thirty-four appearances at right-back, scored one goal and was named City’s young player of the year and also players’ player of the year.
Gannon said: “I’m very pleased to have Sam signed on for the season ahead. The addition of another defender with Sam’s athleticism and ability has given me that extra confidence that we now have great depth and balance within the squad rather than it just being good.
We also now have the opportunity to play other formations that include wing backs or the use of full backs that extend the full length of the pitch, which I am seriously considering. Sam can play full back, wing back or act as a hard working wide or ‘side’ midfielder in a three or four-man midfield. His addition gives us great options down the right side defensively and offensively.
“Sam caught our eye in our game away at Worcester City towards the end of the season, although we were previously aware of his football upbringing at Rochdale. He’s had a fantastic season at Worcester, playing a lot of games and has had great personal success in his first full season at this level.
Given that Sam is only 22, I feel he epitomises the ‘proven but with potential’ box on our recruitment list”.