George Ross is a man who at neighbours Preston North End is a club legend. Heralded as one of their greatest players of all time, against him not a bad word could be spoken.
At Southport he has the unfortunate distinction of holding one of the worst managerial records of any manager in our history. But is that a fair way for Sandgrounders to remember him? In my view, probably not.
Taken out of context, statistics can be damning but then, taken out of context so can any statement. The early 80s at Southport were not exactly the best period of time to be involved with the club. Still reeling from the shock of being dumped out of the football league a few years earlier we had seen almost as many off field changes as we had on field. We’d have done as well to announce the board to the crowd, never-mind the team. In fact, with the amount of turmoil we had been in, announcing the crowd to the team wouldn’t have been too far away if it had not been for the actions of a small group of people, whom have been largely documented elsewhere.
When he re-joined Southport in 1983, Ross may have struggled to recognise it as being the same club that he had joined ten years previous. His original signing had come following the club’s fourth division championship success and he had been appointed captain of a third division side. In 1983 we were a struggling Northern Premier League side with dwindling crowds and no money. It wasn’t the sort of environment that a two time FA Cup Finalist was used to.
George Ross was born in Inverness on 15th April 1943. He signed for Preston North End as a junior and made 386 league appearances for them between 1960 and 73, before his move to the Sandgrounders. He left the Sandgrounders as a player after adding 31 more appearances to that total and went on to play for Washington Diplomats, Telford United and Morecambe before returning to Southport as a coach under John Johnson in the 1982/83 season.
When Colin and Deric Hall’s involvement with Southport had ended at the end of the centenary season John Johnson had been part of a consortium which had taken over the running of the club and he still remained a director.
Gary Culshaw was chairman and 3 new directors, Charlie Clapham amongst them, had joined the board in January 1983. In March however Johnson called time on his involvement owing to ‘numerous personal difficulties’ and both he and Len Traynor resigned from the board.
Up until this point George Ross had been acting as coach under Johnson but following his departure he took up the reins as caretaker on 26th March. As I hinted earlier, context is everything. One of the stars of the team Tommy O’Neil was out of action as were Alan Wilson, Lawrie Walsh and Ray Redshaw. Ian Innes had been with the club for nine months and unable to play until April also. Injuries to a number of key players are difficult to absorb when you are operating on meagre resources.
He only won one of his 9 games in charge but he was still appointed Manager officially at the end of the season.
Within thirteen days of his full-time appointment however he had resigned.
Russ Perkins was to kick off the following season.
He maintained his interest in the game coaching his local Preston amateur team, Fulwood, while continuing to live in the town and working for many years in the logistics section of the British Aerospace factory.
He was founder chairman of the Preston ex players Association in 1998 and continued in the role until 2013. He was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award by Preston in 2009 for whom he continued to work as matchday host in the corporate lounges and giving ground tours of Deepdale.
He died on Saturday 7th May 2016, aged 73.