Battle-Hardened Port Don't Plan To Be Caught In The Storm

There’s never a good time for a crisis to come, but Liam Watson knows some moments are probably a little less devastating than others.

Ask anyone at Southport how they would have coped with the current situation a few years ago and there may have been some awkward shifting in seats as they struggled for an answer.

As every club study in detail its balance sheets as the global pandemic takes its hold, there’s not a chairman anywhere expecting an easy ride.

Port manager Watson is all too aware no club will escape these most testing of times totally unscathed.

But battle-hardened, the sun is still out in the seaside town on Merseyside.

Damage limitation is already in place but the 49-year-old fears some are going to end up harder hit than others.

The experienced former AFC Telford manager, a NHS worker for 18 years before going full time in football back in 2013, has told us how his club plan to cope.

“Forgetting about football for a moment, this is clearly not a good time for anyone - we’re going through something nobody ever has before,” he told us.

“It’s impacting on every single person, it’s hugely important to consider people’s mental health and the longer this goes on, the more we have got to do.

“As Southport’s manager I look at what football is faced with and think that if this came a few years ago then it could be a very different story for this club.

“It would have hit us very, very hard. That’s not to say it won’t be very challenging, but we’re now better equipped. We have had a difficult few years but - thankfully - we have a board in place that grasped the enormity and reality of the situation when they arrived.

“Ian (Kyle) and the others involved have been onside and supportive. For the first time in a long while the club was on course to break even. We’ve had a year of getting our house in order.

“Would we have survived this before? I’m not sure. Football is a volatile, unpredictable industry.

“Some clubs are really going to be hit at all levels of the game. That’s the reality we’re being faced with, but it could actually be the smaller clubs who come out the other end in a better place.

“There are some fantastically well run clubs in the National League North. Look at Leamington and their manager Paul Holleran - the man bends spoons and every year they’re nowhere near trouble.

“I don’t think you can ever be prepared for something of this size of this, but I don’t believe we will be as damaged as some, and as we could have been a few years ago, by the coronavirus.”

Watson is Southport’s most successful manager since the club left the Football League, and he is managing in a division he has won three times already.

But this season they have rarely escaped mid-table - something not totally unexpected, the manager said.

“It was always going to be a challenge, everyone knows just how competitive this division is and has been for a number of seasons now,” Watson adds.

“We’ve got a small squad and that was tested to the max when we played Chester and lost four players in just one game.

“Then, after that, our next games were against Altrincham, Chester again, York, Boston and AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy!

“We never really recovered from that, but we’ve kept going and going and there’s a good little group here. We’ve done everything we can.

“We’ve had to tighten our belts to get back on and even keel. That’s football, we’re in a stronger place now than we have been for some time which is great news for everyone here.

“A lot of people have worked very hard to give the club that kind of stability - it’s something Southport should be proud of.

“It’s given us a great chance of getting through the current crisis and you can’t hope for any more than that.”

Where next?

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