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Mike Walsh

33 games in charge, a 27% win record and a calamitous seven-month reign, Mike Walsh inherited a team sitting ninth in the Football Conference only to abandon them in Northern Premier League freefall.
Although Southport had stumbled into a serious rut before he took over, the prospect of relegation in the 2002/03 season should never have arisen. However, instead of halting the disastrous slump that led to the demise of Phil Wilson, the downward spiral gathered momentum under Walsh, continuing well into the following season.
A long-term friend of Chairman Charlie Clapham, the appointment proved to be an error of judgment and could have had long-lasting consequences for the club. Although an amiable character, Walsh was clearly not up to the task.
During a prominent playing career – the highlights of which included lengthy spells at Bolton Wanderers, Everton and Manchester City – Walsh was capped four times by the Republic of Ireland. He spent five seasons as manager of Bury, presiding over one relegation and four unsuccessful forays into the play-offs, before stints in charge of Barrow, as assistant manager at Swindon Town and scout at Sunderland. 
Walsh was named Southport manager on 29th January 2003, two days after Wilson had departed. He was initially appointed for the remainder of the season but signed a three-year contract on 10th April 2003, becoming the club’s first full-time manager since 1978, although the playing squad remained entirely part-time. 
His permanent deal was completed four games before the end of the campaign – a very questionable decision given that his eleven league matches in charge had produced two wins at the time and performances showed no indication of improvement. Walsh’s reign began with an unbeaten run of four games in all competitions, and a penalty shoot-out win against Dagenham and Redbridge ensured progression into the FA Trophy Fifth Round, only for Southport to suffer an ignominious exit from the competition with a defeat by Gloucester City, of the Southern League Division One South and West.
As his team became hampered by injury, Walsh failed to acquire the experience and strength desperately needed by a forlorn looking squad. Everyone knew what was at stake, but the season ended with four straight defeats, with a spiritless 3-0 loss at Stevenage Borough on the final day plunging Southport into the relegation zone for the first and fatal time.
A much-needed overhaul followed, but the wrong players were recruited. Despite the arrival of a number of fresh faces for the start of his second season, they were no more accustomed to the requirements of the Northern Premier League than Walsh himself. Southport won their opening four games in comfortable fashion, but the serious cracks soon became apparent, as they lost five of the next six matches, and Walsh mustered just one further win.
An abject FA Cup display away against league rivals Vauxhall Motors heralded the end, as the Sandgrounders were eliminated in the Second Qualifying Round for the first time in 12 years. Walsh was sacked on 29th September 2003 and the wreckage he left could easily have been irreparable.
Walsh’s only job in football after leaving Southport came at Swindon Town, where he returned as assistant manager in July 2004, lasting seven months. He now runs a restaurant in the port of J’vea, Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

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