The Talking Bull self-appointed Ground Guide Guru, Simon Wright, looks ahead to the upcoming trip to Edgeley Park as Hereford take on Stockport County in the Vanarama National League North this weekend.
A crowd in excess of 4,000 is anticipated so it should make for a good atmosphere, and with new Head Coach Marc Richards drafting in some new signings ahead of the match, who knows what will happen!?
Our long-awaited trip to Edgeley Park. As United, we last visited in 2013 so this return feels like a closing of a circle, a near-return to the status we previously held, if not always enjoyed. Strange to think of Stocky being marooned in National League North. For all my previous half dozen visits, they were a Division One or Championship side. County were never that well supported, averaging only 6,000 as a Championship side. What they did enjoy was the Tea Party, a one-man fanzine which ran for ten years It was a brilliant publication which won national awards. I remember taking a team of fanzine sellers to Stockport in 2008 and there was poor old Dave selling by himself. I told my team to get on with it and I became a temporary Tea Party seller.
The Hatters have an 80% professional 21-man squad. At least four of that group are home grown and most of the squad have two-year contracts. Look out for striker Matty Warburton with 21 goals last season and already top scoring this season. Also speedy full back or wing back Sam Minihan. I so want to say Mini van. Interesting guy. His Dad played in midfield for CSKA Sofia. Sam had two years with Loughborough University. He was there when the Bulls visited but didn’t feature in either game. He then played 34 times for Worcester in Step 2 before joining Stockie in 2016. He’s now midway through a two-year contract.
Manager is Jim Gannon, aka Big Jimbo now in his third spell in charge at Edgeley Park. Having played nearly 500 games for the club, he’s now managed for nearly 400 games. He holds a full UEFA Pro Licence and apparently knows his way is always best. Last season under Gannon, Stockport reached the Play-Offs only to be knocked out at home by Chorley.
The club put out a Moving Forward document in 2015 with a 5-year plan to get County into the Football League by 2020. Err… they are running out of time. The plan included buying back their ground from the local authority which hasn’t yet been achieved.
County are the clear favourites for promotion, yet early results don’t bear this out. Maybe they are suffering from Cup Final syndrome – we know that problem. Twelve points from their first 10 games, and the 5-1 demolition of FC United apart, comparatively few goals. Binary football! Bradford supporters I met described them as very ordinary. County have endured several key injuries – for instance losing both central defenders before they played Guiseley at home so that could be a factor.
The Hatters are the only club in Step 2 (that’s North or South) to have a higher average support than ourselves. Although the numbers sound impressive on paper, their 2,700 average attendances will feel rather sparse in such a big arena of 11,000 seats. The stand behind the goal alone could hold almost twice that number.
We’ll be in the covered all-seated Popular Side Stand along one touchline, with room for 800 visitors. Access via the huge Cheadle End Stand. We’ll be sharing the “Pop” with some very noisy home supporters. Admission prices here cause shock among supporters of local rivals. Adults £15, students and OAPs £10. Disabled fans are also charged a tenner and may be required to provide written proof. It’s a fiver for youngsters between 6 and 17. The ground is on the flight path for Manchester airport so expect a lot of airborne traffic.
There is no alcohol permitted in the away stand and no clubhouse. But with such a vastness of choice nearby, who’s bothered? Consider the local pubs as being the real heart of Stockport. I’ll just highlight a couple. The Royal Oak in Castle Street is always packed on matchdays and visitors are always welcome. This establishment is a brewery tap for the excellent Joules brewery of Market Drayton. The Olde Vic at 1 Chatham Street, SK3 9ED (yards from the station) is a community owned pub described as “a licensed version of the Old Curiosity Shop”. Six hand pumped beers plus Westons cider. See Talking Bull Good Beer Guide for a fuller list.
For the drivers and non-drinkers, try Olive Café in Castle Street (5 minutes’ walk from the ground) which offers hot drinks and light bites They are rated in the top 15% of the 600 eateries in the town by Tripadvisor.
Street parking only. Be aware of resident only schemes. On my 6 previous visits, I’ve parked on the other side of the dual carriageway near the local pubs.
By Train: Hmm hard work from the Shire. Over 3 hours each direction with a change at Shrewsbury and a bus replacement. That’s a shame as the station is only half a mile from the stadium with lots of refreshments very nearby. Deep-pocketed Southern Bulls will note that most Manchester trains stop at Stockport.
By Reg: Visit Hereford Awaydays Facebook page