This website is your guide to everything you need to know, and a lot you probably don’t, about the history of Southport Football Club.
Think you already know it all? I’m confident you will find something on this website that you didn’t.
If you’re a relatively new supporter or think you might need a little refresher, what better place to start than with a brief summary of the past 150 years.
A brief summary
The original Southport Football Club began as a rugby team in 1872 playing at a ground on Manchester Road and wore red, black and amber jerseys. After an unusually harsh winter this original club ceased to function in 1879, Southport Wasps then playing on as Southport Football Club for a further year before disbanding themselves. A year later the club was reformed although the new side played only three games of the 1881/82 season before switching to association football under the guidance of former Welsh international Thomas Burnett.
On Saturday 12th November 1881, wearing all-red jerseys, Southport took to a field on Scarisbrick New Road against Bootle “second” in their first match under Association Rules.The town’s first association club merged with another amateur club, Southport Wanderers, in the summer of 1886 after financial problems had left them unable to continue under their own steam, and they continued for 2 years until in the summer of 1888.
In the year the Football League was formed, moves were made by a number of influential local gentlemen and the captains of the majority of the local sides to form a brand new professional football organisation capable of representing the town. The first meeting held to discuss the new club was held on 2nd June 1888 and the town’s first professional football club was to become named Southport Central Association Football Club.
Central initially played at the Sports Ground on Sussex Road, the home of the Southport Athletic Society. After 1 year Central moved to a new ground on Scarisbrick New Road, which had been home to Southport Olympic Rugby Club, and remained there until 1905 when they moved to their present home on Haig Avenue, then known as Ash Lane.
Southport Central joined the Lancashire League in 1889 and later the Lancashire Combination before becoming founder members of the Central League in 1911.
In 1918 they were taken over by the Vulcan Motor Company and played as Southport Vulcan for one season, the first club to use a sponsorship label as part of their name. When the Vulcan Motor Company withdrew their support, the club reconstituted as Southport Football Club, the name under which they have played ever since.
Southport, under Secretary Edwin Clayton, successfully applied to join the Football League in 1921 upon the establishment of the Third Division North, and were captained by Jimmy Fay, one of the founding members of what is now the Professional Footballers Association. Southport achieved their highest ever League placing of 4th in the third tier on two occasions, 1924/25 and 1938/39.
In the FA Cup Southport became the first Third Division North club to reach the sixth round in 1931, losing away from home against the mighty Everton 9-1. A season later a Haig Avenue record gate of 20,010 saw the Sandgrounders draw in the 4th round with Newcastle.
With the Football League interrupted by the war, Southport featured many guest players who were stationed nearby, such as Scotland captain Danny Blair.
The Football League was restructured to remove regionalisation in 1958 however Southport struggled to compete and finished bottom of the Fourth Division in its debut season, 1958/59. With no automatic relegation Southport were successfully re-elected.
Southport reached the 5th round of the FA Cup in 1965 after defeating Cardiff City before losing to Hull City. Southport achieved their first promotion as a Football League side, in 1966/67 under Billy Bingham and went on to achieve the club’s highest ever League placing (post-reorganisation) of 8th in the Third Division in 1968/69.
After relegation back to the Fourth Division in 1970, promotion back to the third tier was earned when the club lifted it’s first, and only Football League championship as Fourth Division Champions in 1972/73, under Jimmy Meadows.
Sadly, the second promotion lasted just one season. Off field mis-management led to a series of twenty third place finishes, in 1975/76, 1976/77 and 1977/78. The club failed to secure re-election when Chairman Walter Giller failed to canvass for votes, and on a second ballot at the Café Royal on June 2nd 1978 Southport lost their Football League status after fifty years. Their last home Football League match was against Huddersfield Town on April 22nd drawing 1-1 while their last ever Football League match was away to Graham Taylor’s Watford, losing 3-2 in front of 10,089 supporters.
The club stabilised on the pitch under former reserve team manager Harry McNally who having assembled a talented squad by November 1978, saw the club finish in an excellent fifth position. Considering at one point the club looked dead and buried this was a remarkable achievement. The board’s refusal in the spring of 1979 to take up an invitation of a place in the new Football Alliance (the forerunner of today’s National League) primarily on financial grounds i.e. travelling costs, impacted badly, losing players and supporters.
The early 1980’s were dark days from which the club only just survived after various Board re shuffles and financial crises. Charlie Clapham took a place on the board in 1982 and became chairman in 1984. He had the financial acumen that had been missing – a long term vision and with careful negotiations plotted the club slowly out of its rising, near crippling debts. He was to become one of the longest serving chairmen in the pyramid and the club became financially secure, something not apparent for most of the club’s chequered history.
After over a decade in the Northern Premier League, the club won their second league title in 1992-93 under former Liverpool player Brian Kettle.
Paul Futcher’s 1997-98 squad achieved a first for both the club and the town – a Wembley FA Trophy final. Futcher, formerly the most expensive defender in British football, at the age of 40, achieved a personal lifetime ambition by running out on the Wembley turf. The town rallied with over 10,000 enjoying a wonderful day. Whilst Steve Cotterill’s Cheltenham scored a late winner it was Southport who took the plaudits but not their chances.
In November 2002 after going unbeaten in their first seven league games the club became FA Cup giant killers once again. In front of a 3519 gate a rousing 4-2 performance coming back from 2-0 down destroyed Notts County in front of the Match of the Day cameras. A disastrous run of just 2 wins in 15 Conference matches however saw Southport spectacularly slump to defeat and relegation at Stevenage on the last day of the 2002-03 season, ending ten years in the top flight of non-league football.
With the club struggling to re-adjust to life back in the Northern Premier League they turned to ex Runcorn player manager Liam Watson, a former England semi pro-international.The appointment of Watson in autumn 2003 re-energised the club. Liam, the youngest manager in the club’s history, signalled a new era at Southport. Watson radically restructured his playing staff in rapid time and lifted the National League North title as inaugural champions in 2004/05.
After a successful first season in the National division the club declared its intention to return to full time professional football in the summer of 2006. Watson departed and was replaced by a series of short term appointments before returning to a club in crisis, once again back in the National League North in 2008.
Watson was once again able to achieve the unthinkable as Southport battled it out on and off the field with Fleetwood Town in 2009/10 and sealed the National League North title on the final day of the season at Eastwood Town in front of 750 jubilant fans.
Watson departed again in 2013 and under former player Gary Brabin an FA Cup Third Round appearance at Derby County’s Pride Park in 2015 saw the club get within 30 seconds of bringing The Rams back to Southport for a replay with a very late penalty going against the heroic Sandgrounders.
After flirting with relegation in six out of seven seasons, relegation finally became in reality in 2016/17.
As the season neared its end, long serving Chairman Charlie Clapham stood down handing control to supporters James Treadwell and Adrian Shandley. The club came under the directorship of Phil Hodgkinson and Ian Kyle following the decision of Adrian Shandley and James Treadwell to stand down as directors within 12 months. Hodgkinson himself departing the club less than two years later to take over at Huddersfield Town leaving Ian Kyle as Chairman. Liam Watson who had by this time returned for his third spell as manager, was joined by Steve Porter to lead a new look board in the summer of 2019.
1872 – The earliest club, named Southport Football Club, was formed as a Rugby club.
1881 – The first of many amateur association clubs in the town was formed in 1881.
1888 – the first Professional club was formed, as Southport Central.
1918 – the club was taken over by the Vulcan Motor Company and renamed for one season only as Southport Vulcan.
1919 – After withdrawing their support, the club was reconstituted as Southport Football Club, and successfully applied to join the newly formed Third Division North in 1921.
1921 – Southport Football Club were members of the Football League between 1921 and 1978.
1978 – Southport unsuccessfully applied for re-election to the Football League in 1978 and have played Non-League football since.