Former Southport FC star Steve Pickford revels in past FA Cup glories

THE YouTube footage is a little grainy and his neighbour taped over his copy of the match with gardening show Groundforce, so thankfully Steve Pickford’s memory is crystal clear.

Two goals and a man-of-the-match performance on November 16, 2002 from ‘Syd’ helped Southport to a memorable FA Cup first round win over Second Division Notts County, etching Pickford into club folklore.

Over three and a half thousand fans and the Match Of The Day cameras were witness to one of the finest cup shocks in the Sandgrounders’ recent history when Phil Wilson’s men overturned a 2-0 deficit to claim the scalp.

Though relegated from the Nationwide Conference at the end of the campaign, Pickford was far from a one-game wonder, lost to the annals of non-league football.

Instead, the midfielder signed from Stalybridge Celtic, would claim the Players’ and Fans’ player of the season accolades as well as exorcising the ghosts of the drop by playing a pivotal part in the 2005 Conference North winning side and the subsequent survival in non-league’s top flight the following year.

Unfortunately a victim of the Yellows’ move to full-time football the season after, Pickford still holds Southport in the highest regard, labelling his time at Haig Avenue as the best of his career.

With the team of 2009 on the brink of getting through to the first round, thoughts of Pickford’s heroics will no doubt have resurfaced with many this week.

Pickford said: “Out of my whole time spent in football, the years I spent at Southport was my best time. In my career I have never really gone any further than non-league level, I played a few games for Doncaster Rovers, but playing in the Conference with Southport was as high as I really played.

“It is a belting club and the people behind the scenes are great, I loved it there and when I came back last season I got a standing ovation from the fans which meant a lot.

“Do I get tired of talking about that FA Cup game? Definitely not. I did have the video of it but my neighbour taped over it with something like Groundforce so the last time I watched it was two months after the match. The day was just the best, I had my mates texting me after the final whistle saying radio commentators were comparing me to Thierry Henry and there was a lot of attention from the national newspapers, though they seemed more interested that I am mates with Ricky Hatton.

“I couldn’t wait to get home and watch the highlights but I went to a house party, so I had to ask the guy whose party it was if I could sneak off and watch it in another room. More and more people kept coming into the room and were saying ‘is that really you?’.

“I won the league a few years before we won it with Southport and it was very much the same thing, there was no way we were the best squad in the league but we had good team morale and played for each other.

“I still keep in touch with Liam (Watson) and am regularly on the phone with big Earl (Davis). I have a lot of time for the lads and Liam is the best man to man manager I have ever played for.”

Now plotting a Blue Square North title chase with Port’s rivals Droylsden, Pickford revealed this campaign is likely to be his last as the demands of semi-professional football create strains on family life.

Pickford said similar responsibilities forced him to leave Southport in 2006 for Hyde United when the club went full-time but now at the Butchers Arms Ground, Steve says when The Bloods visit Haig Avenue in March, it could provide a fitting farewell to a decorated non-league career.

Pickford added: “If we don’t win the league this season then I want it to be Southport, but it would be nice to go out with a win. When we come to Southport it could be a big game.”