Just as the 1980-81 season opened, Giller and secretary Gordon Brown walked out leaving the club in a state of turmoil.
A series of crisis meetings was held with the day-to-day running in the hands of an emergency committee of dedicated supporters. By the time club solicitor Richard Barnett had drawn up a register of shareholders sufficient to convene an Extraordinary General Meeting, the club had already been dismissed from the F.A. Cup in the first qualifying round, an ignominious 3—I home defeat at the hands of lowly St Helens Town.
The E.G.M. on September 18th 1980 was largely inconclusive, but a new board was formed comprising former Chairman John Church (elected in his absence) and supporters Len Cox, Brian Bennett and Stuart Gordon, though the last named subsequently withdrew. In due course the new board, acting on legal advice, requested the F.A. to conduct an investigation into the affairs of the club which left much to be desired. There was little the new directors could do except to promote the new lottery and dispense with the services of Stuart Imlach who had been assisting Allan Brown. There were weeks when the players went without wages and by mid-November there was an announcement that if £25,000 were not found right away the only course was a voluntary liquidation.
At this stage there appeared the first vestige of hope; it became known that a prominent Lancashire businessman had made an offer to help the club, though liquidation would now probably be inevitable. At a shareholders’ meeting on December 17th the brothers Colin and Deric Hall (partners in a double glazing firm) emerged as the unlikely saviours; what had in fact happened, it later transpired, was that they were the ‘front men’ for Chorley F.C. chairman Jim Tolson whose bid to take control of Southport was thwarted by the N.P.L. itself who saw his proposed merger of the clubs as a back way into the League for the Chorley club.
To their great credit, the Hall brothers stood firm even after the enforced withdrawal of Tolson’s backing and at a reconvened meeting on January 14th 1981 they effectively took control. Only two shareholders present voted against a voluntary liquidation and a committee comprising Leon Rapaport, Cec Rimmer and Billy Bingham was established to oversee the winding up. The Halls guaranteed to keep the club going and to see it once more viable in what was its Centenary year.
Allan Brown’s services were dispensed with (the team was currently languishing in next to bottom place) and groundsman Charlie Powell found himself in charge of the team for a brief spell until new manager John Johnson took over. Johnson had been on Southport’s books under Bingham around 1967 but never made the Football League side. The brothers staved off one other half-hearted bid from a consortium headed by ex-Skelmersdale United and Blackpool Chairman Bill Gregson and set about establishing a new limited company — Pinewise Ltd —which traded under the name Southport Football Club. Two late draws at the finish ensured that the club once again avoided the re-election issue.
Much criticism was subsequently heaped on the Hall brothers by supporters who failed to appreciate their role in the club’s survival. Had it not been for their determination and enthusiasm at a time when none was forthcoming from else¬where Southport F.C. would simply have gone out of existence midway through 1980-81. They kept things going for approximately twenty months until the time and effort spent at Haig Avenue had repercussions in their own business which necessitated their withdrawal, albeit too late to revive their firm. Those who malign the pair would do well to remember this; the writers themselves were closely involved with the Halls during their tenure of office and formed the opinion that they were principally guilty of little more than naivety.
The Sandgrounders: The Complete League History of Southport F. C., by Michael Braham and Geoff Wilde (Palatine Books, 1995). ISBN 978-1-874181-14-9