On This Day: April 14th

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time when things started to turn sour for Chairman Charlie Clapham. He is the first to acknowledge that amongst a certain section of support he had never been a popular figure but following successive years battling relegation the pressure and unrest from a wider group had been growing throughout 2016/17.
With the appointment to the board early in the season of 3 popular figures, Nigel Allen, David Barron and former two time title winning manager Liam Watson, there had been signs that steps were being taken to strengthen the off-field leadership, hinting at a longer term succession plan.
Following the sacking of Andy Bishop after an appalling start to the season and championed by Liam Watson in the boardroom, former England C manager Steve Burr was brought in as manager at the start of September and was received well by supporters. Seen as the best qualified candidate available, fans were patient as he began to rebuild a side widely acknowledged to be grossly underweight for the division. One of the many criticisms that had been labelled at Charlie Clapham in the years since the departure of Mark Wright had been a tendency to appoint a manager that could be viewed as a “cheap” option. Indeed that too had been the view when Liam Watson had been appointed in 2003 even if that appointment had turned out to be a masterstroke. Burr therefore was a noticeably different appointment and various comments were made about him being “backed” heavily.

Burr’s dismissal at the end of January therefore was entirely unexpected. With 11 wins and 7 draws from 30 games, Burr’s spell in charge was not disastrous by any measure and the supporters had not shown any real signs of discontent.
The official statement read:
“Following a disappointing series of results the Board have taken the above decision in the best interests of Southport Football Club to move forward in a different direction. With 19 players recruited during Steve Burr’s tenure and significant financial backing to strengthen the squad the performances and results recently have not shown signs that confirm the club can get to a position in the League that provides the security as required”.

Rumours began to circulate that Burr had applied for the vacant Wrexham job and that either travelling from his midlands home to Southport was proving too much for the experienced manager or that he sought a higher profile role. His subsequent appointment at Stalybridge Celtic cast doubt on both of those rumours and neither have been confirmed officially by any party.

With hindsight Burr’s departure was probably the nail in the coffin for the season as Andy Preece’s subsequent spell in charge was barely better than Andy Bishop’s. By comparison Preece was another relatively inexperienced appointment, even if he had premier league experience as a player. He had been out of management for 5 years and was therefore another surprising choice.

By the start of April it was clear that relegation from the National League was a foregone conclusion, even if not yet a mathematical certainty.

On 11 April 2017 around 150 people attended an open meeting for supporters at the Railway Club on sussex Road organised by the Southport FC supporters trust, Trust In Yellow. Fans raised concerns about the way the club was being run and almost unanimously the blame was laid at the feet of the chairman.

Within 24 hours Trust In Yellow released a statement. “There was a clear message from the meeting that the majority of supporters felt the time had come for major changes in the way the club is run,” it says.
Some supporters discuss protesting at home games by showing Charlie Clapham the “red card” and walking out on 78 minutes, in reference to the year Southport lost their Football League status (which incidentally had nothing to do with Mr Clapham as he wasn’t to set foot inside Haig Avenue for another 3 years!)
Two days later, after a 3-0 defeat at Dover Athletic and with three games left to go relegation to the National League North was confirmed.


Competition: League
Date: 14/04/2017
Attendance: 1563

Southport Line-Up: Craig CheethamRyan HigginsRoss WhiteNeil AshtonRory McKeownRobbie CundyAndrai JonesLiam NolanDeclan WeeksRichard BrodieJamie Allen
Subs: Spencer MyersBen FouldsTom GrimshawJean-Charles Coly (Jamie Allen), Kevin Monteiro (Richard Brodie)

Post-Match, Director Nigel Allen took to Twitter : “The manner in which we have gone down is unacceptable and as a supporter at heart it has hurt for months now. The supporters, particularly those who travel long distances away, have been fantastic and deserve so much more”.

Press officer James Cave drafted and shared a 98 word statement with the board encouraging them to publicly face up to the now confirmed relegation.
Released moments after relegation it read [we promise to] “work tirelessly to ensure a strategic framework is in place to allow the first team to have a much more successful 2017/18 campaign”.

On 20th April Trust In Yellow, as the clubs third largest shareholder, served a section 303 notice to the chairman calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting. A lengthy statement is released alongside the request directly calling for him to step down and transition the leadership of the club to the remaining directors.