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Jim Gannon hopes his ‘worried’ Stockport players can enjoy West Ham challenge

Soccer – Blue Square Premier League – Stockport County v Barrow – Edgeley Park
(Image credit: Dave Thompson)

Stockport manager Jim Gannon believes it is a natural for his players to be “worried” ahead of the visit of West Ham in the FA Cup third round but he hopes they can enjoy the occasion.

The Hatters have seen off Sky Bet League One Rochdale and Vanarama National League rivals Yeovil to reach this stage of the competition for the first time since 2007 and have been rewarded with a plum home tie against top-flight opponents.

Gannon, who played for Stockport when they beat West Ham in the 1996-97 League Cup, insists it is rational for some of his side, who have never come up against a Premier League side before, to be on tenterhooks before Monday’s game.

“There’s going to be natural concern and stress, they’ll be worried about West Ham, naturally,” he said.

“All I want from them in this game is to play the game and enjoy the occasion as well. If they play the game as well as they can then they’ll enjoy it a lot more, it’s a great occasion for them.”

Gannon, who played close to 500 games for Stockport and is in his third stint as manager of the club, fondly recalls the two clashes against the Hammers nearly a quarter of a century ago.

County would in that season go on to claim promotion to the First Division – now the Sky Bet Championship – and drew 1-1 at Upton Park in the fourth round in November 1996 before winning 2-1 a month later in the replay.

Iain Dowie scored a peculiar own goal at Edgeley Park, heading into his own net despite being under no pressure, as County prevailed before going on to reach the semi-finals of what was the Coca-Cola Cup.

Gannon, a boyhood supporter of West Ham, said: “I was somebody who was on terraces of Upton Park from 1976, I never dreamt I’d play for West Ham or play professional football on that pitch, but County made that possible for me.

“I still remember the feeling now from that game. To get a draw and get West Ham back to Edgeley was extra special and there was a bumper crowd.

“I think Iain Dowie was marking me at the time and I lost sight of the ball, but I always say that if he didn’t head it in the goal, he was heading it to me anyway.

“I enjoyed those great experiences playing against Premiership sides. Now it’s a turn for my players and this might be their first time playing against a Premiership side in a serious competition.

“I hope they enjoy it as much as I did at Upton Park.”