The Paddy Madden story reveals a lot about Stockport County and their desire to get somewhere in a hurry.
In football’s post-pandemic world, many clubs will be running on 40 per cent lower wage bills, using academy players to fill their squads, bumping players on to one-year contracts or pay-as-you-play deals.
But last month, Stockport signed 31-year-old Madden from Fleetwood Town on a three-year deal and wages thought to exceed £3,000 a week. The League One side had no particular wish to sell their second top scorer.
Paddy Madden’s (playing for Fleetwood) story reveals a lot about Stockport County
‘We want to get back to the EFL as soon as possible,’ said Stockport chief executive Jonathan Vaughan. ‘Many clubs will be really struggling now but you will still see those with the means to go for their ambitions still spending. The length of contract offered security.’
This is what an owner with resources and resolve like Stockport’s Mark Stott can bring. Madden’s contribution in a relatively unfamiliar No 10 role on Saturday, against another side who want to see the back of the National League, revealed the value of the investment.
He was ice-cold in the small pockets of space in front of goal, using the wisdom of his years to propel passes, gesturing where others should be and generally cohering a strike force that looks stronger than any other in the pack of clubs chasing a place in League Two.
Stockport signed Madden on a three-year deal and wages thought to exceed £3,000 a week
Stockport’s CEO Jonathan Vaughan said they want to get back to the EFL as soon as possible
Wrexham’s discomfort was compounded by all the goals coming from players once on their books.
Alex Reid — who pounced on Tyler French’s error to score the first on 14 minutes and doubled the lead with a close-range header — was released back to Fleetwood after a loan spell here.
John Rooney, who scored the third from the spot, left the Racecourse for Guiseley after suddenly finding himself left on the bench by manager Dean Keates when one start away from a pay rise owing to a clause in his contract. Reid was the game’s outstanding player by a distance. Rooney ran things behind the forwards.
It has helped Stockport’s return from the bleak days bumping around National League North to have retained Football League levels of support. The 6,300 they drew for a 1-0 win over Spennymoor United lives in the mind.
But extremely bold calls have helped. ‘Having a clear idea of your aim and seriously backing your judgment,’ as Vaughan puts it. The Madden deal was not the only one. Parting company with legendary manager Jim Gannon when fourth, three months ago, was in the same category.
Parting ways with manager Jim Gannon (above) was another big decision made by the club
The set-up seems less of a fiefdom under Simon Rusk, hired from the Brighton Under 23 set-up
The set-up seems less of a fiefdom under Simon Rusk, hired from the Brighton Under 23 set-up — itself a calculated risk. The team are more balanced and offensively more ambitious. Forwards Macauley Southam-Hales and Tom Walker were constant threats. The side are still fourth, nine points off top side Hartlepool with three games in hand.
There has been a more insubstantial kind of progress for Wrexham. The razzle dazzle is beginning to reveal itself, two months after the club transferred into the ownership of Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
The club’s live stream of games has considerably more zip. The world of LED advertising has reached the Racecourse pitch perimeter. Rolling messages for a local roof truss firm and potato purveyor are mixed in with the brand of humour we’ve come to expect from the Americans since their first message to fans saw them extol the products of main sponsor Ifor Williams Trailers as a possible Christmas gift.
There has been a more insubstantial kind of progress for Wrexham despite the takeover
Surreal perimeter ads like Saturday’s — encouraging fans to stop watching Netflix’s Bridgerton and disclosing ‘Ryan is Superstitious; Rob is averagely stitious’ — go down well. But they’re perhaps best dropped when the team are 3-0 down without a shot on goal.
It’s on-field progress that’s sorely missing. Without the suspended Jay Harris, 33, the side lacked any craft or creative thrust and the defence looked vulnerable.
The arrival of respected Burton Albion commercial director Fleur Robinson as Wrexham chief executive in June offers hope; the opportunity for a clearout and fresh start at a club which has gone through six managers in as many years and sorely lacked a CEO.
The club would be wise to bring back Brian Flynn, their successful former manager and a shrewd talent-spotter, to help oversee the football side.
Stockport’s development seems much more fully formed. ‘It’s not so much about the relationships of players on the pitch,’ Rusk reflected. ‘It’s about everyone — whoever’s in, whoever’s out — having an understanding of what we’re trying to do.’