Background guide on Southport...

Last updated : 13 November 2002 By Martin Baker
Southport eh ? Paris of the North. They really really hate being called Scouseport - which of course simply encourages everyone to do just that. They'll argue endlessly about it, showing you road atlases, quoting post codes and obscure council documents and boundary changes without realising they undermine their case with every word as the whole conversation is conducted in a heavy Scouse accent by someone wearing a shellsuit whilst holding your car's stereo. They even compete in the Liverpool Senior Cup, so Scouseport it is.

Southport is an ex-league club, relegated and replaced by Wigan in 1978. When you get to the ground there is very little evidence of the old league club that once stood there, with plenty of change having taken place in the past 30 years. Out on the main street you'll find the entrance to all of the clubs shops, offices and bars from the main facade which is effectively the back of the main stand. Parking is a little tricky, and is only available as on-street parking - there is absolutely no car park whatsoever. You'll find the welcome in the bar a sincere one, and getting served easy due to the orderly queue that is formed. If drink is not your thing there is supposedly a massage parlour close by where they can release all those pre-match tensions, and where they can ... errr ... perform other services. So we've been told. Once in the ground, there bizarrely appears to be segregation in force for all games, despite the design of the ground and the size and nature of the crowds making this an irrational decision. As a result you're stuck on a open terrace where there is zero atmosphere and where if you are playing in the winter, the sunset makes viewing the game a near impossibility.

With the exception of their more elderly support you'll not find anyone to talk to about those League days, as they spent 15 years in the Northern League without ever threatening to do anything except drop further until 1992-93 when they suddenly won promotion to the Conference. During their first three seasons they threatened big things, finishing third, fourth and sixth, but since then they have drifted and began flirting with the relegation zone until the departure of ex-manager Paul Futcher, who took them to a losing FA Trophy final at Wembley, and the appointment of former Liverpool and England defender Mark Wright as boss.

GFormer Liverpool center half
Mark Wright
Wright's impact was immediate, dragging the Scousers up to a respectable 9th in the season he was appointed and then keeping them on the fringes of the championship race behind ourseves and Rushden the following season, though never really threatening to overtake the leaders. He had an uneasy relationship with Southport chairman Charles Clapham however, insisting that a part-time club - which Southport still is - would never again win the Conference and that if the club's ambitions was to match his own then full-time football was the only option. On gates averaging around 1,300 however Wright's ambitions were never going to afforded by the Scousers and it was no surprise to anyone - least to all Scouseports long-suffering supporters - when Wright resigned that summer to take over at 3rd Division Oxford United.

Club mascot
The Scousers turned to Phil Wilson, who had just taken Stalybridge Celtic up to the Conference. With no money to spend, supporter unrest abounding, and more player movement in and out of the Haig Avenue than virtually any other team in the Conference, he had an unenviable job to do in his first season at Haig Avenue - an eventual 15th place finish was, in retrospect, a considerable achievement.