The close season of 1990 was marked by the death of John Church, the former Chairman and latterly President of the club, who had fought long and hard to keep Southport afloat in the League. He was 80. A popular choice to succeed him as President was Jack Carr, one-time director and wholehearted supporter and benefactor. At the same time the theatrical firm Apollo Leisure took over as the club’s official sponsors and another happy association was forged.
If a lack of continuity had been the problem twelve months earlier, things could hardly have been more different in 199o-91. With barely a change to the side, Southport carried on where they had left off and, but for a disastrous month of September, enjoyed a season of great progress. September had begun with a 2-1 Morecambe victory which ended a run of 16 consecutive League games without defeat; there followed a fourth successive first qualifying round F.A. Trophy exit at Emley (also 2—I) and a week later came what was surely the nadir of Kettle’s long reign; Southport went out of the F.A. Cup to the lowliest of opposition, suffering the humiliation of a 2-0 defeat at Bucks Park, the home of Bootle F.C.
The signs were hardly auspicious, but the arrival soon afterwards of the experienced defender Kevin Mooney from Bangor City had an immediate impact. A month later the ebullient goalkeeper Paul Moore was signed from Alvechurch and — with twin strikers Holden and Whitehall (and later club captain Stuart Bimson) gaining recognition in the H.F.S. League’s representative side — the recovery moved on apace.
In fact Southport suffered from too much success; by late March they had passed the 100 goals mark in all matches and were in with a good chance of finishing
runners-up to leaders Witton Albion; but their involvement in several cup competitions led to fixture congestion and fatigue and fifth place was the final outcome. Overall they reached four semi-finals, losing just one, and the three finals provided some spectacular entertainment.
The first came at Maine Road Manchester when Southport lifted the H.F.S. Loans League Cup by virtue of a 4-1 victory over Buxton, with both the `Steves’ — Holden and Whitehall — scoring twice; eight days later Goodison Park was the venue for the Liverpool Senior Cup Final and the team went one better, destroying a strong Marine side 4—o. It was a pity that the hat-trick of trophies could not be attained as Southport, defensively weakened by key injuries and a suspension, went down 3-2 at Aylesbury to Dover Athletic in the final of the new Premier Inter-League Cup. Nevertheless, with renewed interest in the town, the next season was eagerly awaited. Yet these achievements failed to produce the launch pad for the hoped-for promotion challenge;
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