Special Feature: Why The Quiet Life Now Suits Southport

We all remember this time last year. The World Cup was about to start, the sun was shining and we didn’t yet know exactly what joy those next few weeks would bring us.

Southport seemed in a hurry to get things done so they could kick back and watch it all unfold.

New manager - well, returning manager. Players signed and re-signed on what seemed like an almost daily basis. Even their stadium was given a big lick of paint. The good times appeared to be coming back.

It’s safe to assume the summer of 2019 so far is more the softly-softly approach.

After overworking the loyal white bird a year ago, the only real sign of life on the club’s twitter feed has been videos of the club’s pitch renovation.

Liam Watson hasn’t just taken the last seven weeks off. He’s been keeping his powder dry for a reason.

“It’s different, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s been a quieter summer - last year there was a lot to do, which is usually the case when a new manager comes in.

“It was a year of dismantling things. For example, at one point last season we had seven central midfielders!

“We had 26 contracted players. I put my emphasis on a smaller squad built on spirit and flexibility, so I knew we had to get the numbers down.

“Now, we have 13 players committed to next season and ideally we want to run with 19.

“We know who we want and roughly when it’s going to happen. We have agreements for season-long loan deals pretty much done but we need to wait a few weeks before we can make any announcements at other clubs’ requests.

“We’ve got players who have agreed to play for us, so it’s very much just a case of sitting tight - we’re really comfortable with the situation. I know where I am.”

Southport fans already know bringing good players in quickly promises nothing.

After the excitement of a busy close season twelve months ago the club’s painfully slow start had them on the backfoot early.

A recovery in the second half of the season lifted the mood, but a National League North finishing position of 14th was about right.

Owner Phil Hodgkinson has left after completing his takeover of Huddersfield Town and that, says the manager, means things have to change a little bit.

“Phil has left and the budget has been cut back, but it’s still a lot better than what I used to have here!” joked Watson, now in his third spell in charge after first starting back in 2003.

“I’ll never make money an excuse - I’m happy with what I have got and I think we can make the side more competitive next year because of it.

“There has been too much shouting and screaming here over the years, too much noise about the club - and not all of it good.

“Now we can try to go about our business and look to build on the second half of the last season, where we were showing signs that we were better than our position suggested.”

He says there is was a bond created between fans and players in the last few months - and that’s what he wants to take into 2019-20.

Their Lancashire Cup win at Bolton offered evidence of that and now the boss wants the club to push on.

“The fans now have a relationship with their team, and that hasn’t happened enough here for a while,” he said.

“We’ve got a hardcore group of players now who have come together and who we wanted to keep together. Everyone can see that.

“So we’ve not had to go out there and bringing in loads of players. We’ve got signings pretty much done so we’re tackling it another way.”

Where next?

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