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The NLP says… be on your best behaviour!

By Alex Narey

I had a chat with Stockport County boss Jim Gannon last week, the reason for the call was to preview this week’s FA Trophy semi-final first leg against AFC Fylde, but like most interviews we veered off track and into other areas.

League affairs and the Hatters’ outstanding run of late had to be discussed; the small matter of an unbeaten 16-game charge that had seen Gannon’s side march from mid-table to the summit of National North before yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at Brackley Town (that was always going to happen once I chose to write this editorial on how ‘great’ they have been).

But putting Saturday’s result aside against another side who have hit form at the right time, winning often becomes a habit.

In County’s case, Gannon claimed there was a combination of factors: the club, which is still part-time, has added an extra day of training to get the very best out of the squad; they have been fortunate with injuries; and the players brought in have gelled quickly. Meanwhile, old-fashioned hard work has been the garnish to these chief ingredients.

But while the Hatters punch away at the top of one table, it is another which they are rooted to the foot of that may well have had the most positive bearing on their season as they prop up the rest in the disciplinary charts.

Before Saturday, Gannon’s side had received just 33 yellow cards with only one dismissal from their 33 games. And this is no one-off; last year Stockport were awarded this newspaper’s award for Fair Play, and Gannon spoke then of the need to maintain standards on the pitch because eventually it will have a positive effect.

They didn’t receive one red card last season, an astonishing achievement in a league as full-blooded as the National North.

Of course, the good behaviour doesn’t always reap rewards; table-topping Chorley are working towards mediocrity when it comes to their disciplinary record this season. But Stockport, along with the side that beat them on Saturday, Brackley, are streets ahead when it comes to keeping players away from the headmaster’s office.

We all love a good tackle and the blood and thunder of this game, but the days of Billy Bremner kicking players for fun are long gone. Good behaviour brings its rewards, and there is something to be said for clubs that leave a lasting and positive mark on you, rather than on opposing players.

The re-signing of Jake Robinson is certainly a coup for Billericay. But you have to ask why on earth he left in the first place.

Well actually, we know the reason why; Billericay were looking to slash their ridiculous wage bill, something they were well on the way to doing during the month of December with a flurry of top players leaving the club. We get that, but for me, Robinson’s exit effectively ended any chance Ricay had of winning the title this season.

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