THE 2023/24 League Two season could not have been any better for James Jennings.

Stockport County - his home-town team and the club he now works for - lifted the title while two of his former sides, Wrexham and Mansfield Town, were both promoted alongside The Hatters.

“That’s not bad, is it?” said Jennings. “Three of the clubs you used to play for all winning promotion and us winning the title obviously tops that with me being a Stockport lad.”

Jennings joined his home-town club from Wrexham in 2020 but played only 31 games for the Edgeley Park outfit before being forced to hang up his boots at the age of 34 due to a knee injury.

“It was down to wear and tear of my left knee,” added Jennings, who had captained Wrexham and become a firm favourite with the fans during his 134 appearance Racecourse spell.

“I could have carried on playing; I had another year on my contract but it was a case of ‘do I want a kick about with the kids in the garden’ and that was far more important to me.”

Jennings then became a jack of all trades involved in coaching, sales, marketing, you name it before being handed the Head of Professional Player Support role.

“It’s very much a 24/7 job. Players can be quite demanding at times,” joked Jennings. “My phone is always going but it’s a role that’s getting more popular at a lot of clubs.

“We help players re-locate, help set up bank accounts for younger players, help them with media commitments. It’s a challenging job but I love it.”

Jennings, whose brother Connor also played for both Wrexham and Stockport, admits that he sees so many similarities between the two clubs.

“Both sides have massive turnouts; the towns are working class and full of football-mad fans,” he said.

“We’ve both had success and hurt and pain over the years but in the past few seasons there’s become a real rivalry between both clubs.

“But despite all that rivalry there’s respect between Stockport and Wrexham.

“There’s also a real connection between the owners of both clubs and the supporters and that’s crucial if you’re looking to progress.

“Wrexham have got the Hollywood owners and it’s a great story but our owner is a great guy too and he’s put a lot of money into the club. We’ve both been blessed on that score.”

Jennings was also pleased to see Stockport and Wrexham be promoted automatically and not have to go through the lottery of the play-offs.

“We were six minutes away from winning at Wembley 12 months ago but lost out to Carlisle,” said Jennings. “We’ve bounced back so well from that.”

Jennings also suffered play-off misery with Wrexham back in May 2019 when Eastleigh beat the Reds 1-0 at The Racecourse in a play-off semi-final.

“It was just a bad refereeing decision that cost us that night,” added Jennings, who was at The Racecourse for the final game of the season where Wrexham won 2-1 the week after Stockport had sealed the title by winning it in style with a 5-2 victory at Notts County.

He also took in the Tranmere game at Wrexham where brother Connor was in the Rovers’ team.

“It’s always good to go back to Wrexham, I had some great years there,” added Jennings. “I had absolutely no reason to leave but when you’re home-town club offers you a deal, it’s something I couldn’t say no to.”

The Jennings’ would team up in the County line-up and James is just thrilled to have his brother around after he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.

James recalls the day when the extent of Connor’s complaint first surfaced.

“He’d been talking about pain in his shoulder and was thinking he’d just need it re-pinning,” said James.

“We were having an attack defence drill in training and I yanked his hand and he just dropped to the floor.

“I told him to get up in no uncertain terms and when he did he was white as a sheet.

“He was sent for a scan and the doctor told him ‘I’ve got bad news. We’ve found a tumour.

“He went to see a specialist in Oswestry and was told it was 50/50 when he went in for the operation.

“It was during Covid time so he had no-one there with them. Thankfully they had a shoulder donor and it was sent over from America and, thankfully, the operation was a success.

“The recovery was slow; he was in a sling for three months but he came back and scored on his return and it’s great to see him still playing.”