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Dietmar Hamann Surprises Stockport County

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David Meller

I had been reflecting on the state of my club, Stockport County, a club bereft of resources, mired in internal politics and with a set of confused and embarrassed supporters. But then I received a message from a fellow supporter. "Didi Hamann and Robbie Fowler new managerial team tomorrow. I'm not making that up," he said. There were rumours that Liverpudlian businessman Tony Evans was about to buy a controlling share in the club, with Hamann being brought in to replace manager Ray Mathias, who had been the club's official manager for just six weeks. But we had heard this sort of investment and takeover talk before. There was the consortium led by former Manchester City player Jim Melrose in 2009 – a failed deal that almost killed the club – and, more recently, the New York-based businessman Mike Newton, who later backed away. Meanwhile, boardroom statements explaining how negotiations were on-going with various parties were cynically ignored.

This was different, however. On July 4, BBC Manchester tweeted that Mathias was set to be sacked the following morning. A press conference had also been arranged for the next afternoon to reveal future plans. At 2pm on July 5, Evans and Hamann arrived at Edgeley Park. Evans was installed on the board, his consortium were working towards gaining a controlling stake of the club and Hamann was announced as manager, with Mathias asked to stay on as his assistant. At time of writing, Mathias was still considering the offer and Fowler has gone to off to play in Thailand.
 
Still, a two-time Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich and member of the 2005 Liverpool Champions League-winning side, recently on the coaching staff at Leicester, had come to manage one of the most shambolic clubs currently in English professional football. This is despite Sven-Göran Eriksson pleading with him to start higher up the football pyramid. "It is a great challenge and it's only one division below the Football League," he said. "It's a big club and if you are not up for the challenge in football you won't reach the heights you want to." With that, many supporters' hearts were won.

But the investment and the Hamann appointment weren't all. Days previously, supporters were fuming over Stockport Council's decision not to continue a sponsorship deal with the club – a loss of around £40,000 to the club's finances. Now, a new deal with a local law firm is in place for an undisclosed amount. While it would have been nice to have a sponsor-free shirt this season, the money will certainly come in handy.

Perhaps the most satisfying moment of all was the news of Hamann's bids for three players, including a £100,000 offer for Bury striker Ryan Lowe. The fact the club is now bidding for players instead of relying on free transfers and loans is amazing – from penniless to this in the space of a single day. Nevertheless, some supporters are still cagey over Evans – and rightly so. His previous business ventures include an insurance company that collapsed with debts of over £1 million. And after the numerous disappointments over the last two seasons it isn't surprising that some are sceptical.

This is sure to boost season-ticket sales, however, (1,500 have been sold so far), particularly with the new home shirt to be given away with every season-ticket purchased this month. For the moment, there is positive expectation around Edgeley Park. The supporters remain confused but now it's a confusion caused by surprise and, for once, hope. Forest Green away now looks that bit more attractive.

 

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