Southport FC Former Players Association (Port Online)

On This Day: May 17th

Reproduced with Kind Permission from:
The Complete Non-League History of Southport Football Club 1978 – 2008, by Trust in Yellow (Legends Publishing, 2008). ISBN 978-1-906796-01-3

Etched in the history of Southport Football Club are a number of landmark days, but of all the achievements and special occasions, no date evokes fonder memories than May 17 1998. Carved deep into the club’s fabric, ingrained in the minds of everyone for whom it was the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition. ‘We lived the dream today,’ said Brian Butler, captain of the team that achieved the distinction of the first to represent Southport on the grandest stage of all. Forever it will be ranked as one of the club’s finest hours.
Although the pain of defeat in the 29th FA Challenge Trophy final was particularly tough to take given the noble performance which could easily have produced the most famous win in Southport folklore, it proved to be one of those rare moments in football when the magnitude of the occasion eclipsed the result. After 117 years in existence, Southport had finally embarked on the road to Wembley Stadium; the Venue of Legends, the home of heroes, albeit in this case fallen heroes.
Alas there was no silverware, no tangible reward for a valiant effort, but the archive of memories, the unique sense of pride and privilege, stretches far beyond the final scoreline. For the entire afternoon, Southport toiled against a much-fancied Cheltenham Town, but dreams of a Wembley victory were ultimately shredded by a late sucker punch landed by Jason Eaton. Among the many individual emotions, nothing captured the tide of feeling better than the front page of following day’s Daily Post. ‘You did us proud,’ the headline read, as an image of a solitary Butler, slumped disconsolately on the pitch, adorned the whole page.
In 19 attempts, the Sandgrounders had never previously ventured beyond the third round of the FA Trophy, Non-League football’s premier knock-out competition which was introduced by the Football Association in 1969, let alone dreamt of a Wembley final. In fact, the closest they had got to the Twin Towers was an appearance in the FA Cup fifth round in 1966. And although Southport reached the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy in the three successive seasons after playing at Wembley, the class of 1998 are yet to be emulated.
Few experiences make the hair on the back of the neck stand on end like the sight of Butler and Paul Futcher emerging from the tunnel at the East End of the stadium, leading the team as they strode into the Wembley sunshine, replicating the famous walk of so many footballing greats and onto the hallowed turf. ‘It does not matter how many times we come back to Wembley as a club, this is the one everyone will remember,’ Southport Chairman Charlie Clapham said. ‘The older supporters I know look upon it as a day they never thought they would see while the younger ones can associate their club with success and can look forward to more.’
For the 10,000-strong contingent of Southport supporters – the young and the old, the ardent and the fair-weather – it was something to behold. A capacity crowd had crammed into Haig Avenue for the semi-final second-leg against Slough Town, and in the month prior to the final the entire town was captivated by a wave of great anticipation, a temporary shop opened on Lord Street as the club became the talk of the town. On the morning of the match a fleet of coaches transported the mass exodus of fans on an unparalleled scale.
Although outnumbered by an estimated 17,000 Cheltenham fans, the travelling Sandgrounders were not outclassed: a sea of gold and black contributing in no small measure to a vibrant atmosphere, the fans as determined as the players to savour the occasion. True, Wembley might have seen better days – indeed the old stadium hosted only two more Trophy finals prior to demolition – but to have finally made it to the Home of Football was priceless.
Basking in the 90 degrees sunshine, Southport fans arrived from mid-morning onwards to make the most of an unforgettable day: the thrill of a walk down Wembley Way, the sight of the Twin Towers and a lap around the outside of the grand old stadium. The inside of football’s national theatre: the faded grandeur, the sweeping splendour, the characteristically lush playing surface and the memories. The stage where history had been shaped, where legends had been formed, and our players would grace it in front of our very eyes.
Sporting flags, scarves, face paints and replica shirts, the colourful throng roared their team on with non-stop support from the start, right through until the Southport players reluctantly exited as gallant losers. While the players deservedly earned plaudits for a wholehearted display, so did the supporters. ‘Futcher’s weary troops were given an appreciative ovation by their followers, decked out in black and gold on a glorious summer’s afternoon,’ reported the Daily Post. ‘The Haig Avenue faithful had rallied their side from the start, trading good banter with their rivals from the Cotswolds, refusing to give up hope after Cheltenham’s goal.’ It was a carnival atmosphere, the attendance of 26,837 the best FA Trophy final crowd in five years. ‘And although they’re outnumbered, it’s the Southport fans you can hear,’ Sky Sports commentator Alan Parry told the television audience.
Twenty years after being discarded from the Football League, it was fitting that the club should be projected in such a healthy condition, in a showpiece occasion and backed by a fantastic level of support. ‘From the depths of despair to this glory,’ commentated President Jack Carr, it was a poignant milestone. Although defeated, the players were afforded a heroes return the following day, thousands of supporters lining the streets as the players were paraded in an open top-bus. No trophy to display, but plenty to thank them for.
A moment which sums up the emotion of the occasion is captured on the club’s official video. Futcher, the player-manager, having realised a personal dream by taking to the Wembley turf for the first time in a distinguished 25-year playing career, presented his medal to Clapham at the club’s Player of the Year awards evening. As the Chairman struggles to hold back the tears, a packed Floral Hall broke into applause.
In many respects it was the complete cup final experience, televised in the glare of the nation live on Sky Sports, while both teams were together for three days prior to the match, a rarity in the part-time world far removed from those more accustomed with the Wembley surface. Also synonymous with the occasion is the specially commissioned Trophy final song ‘Come On You Yellows,’ recorded by the team with the Houghton Weavers in the build-up to the big event.
For both clubs, each with over a Century of history, it was the first Wembley experience. As the even-money favourites, Cheltenham were more fancied than Arsenal had been at Wembley the previous day when the Premier League champions defeat Newcastle United in the FA Cup final. Cheltenham had recorded two victories over Southport in the final month of the Conference season, ending their best ever campaign as runners-up to champions Halifax Town. For many clubs, winning the FA Trophy has served as the prelude to promotion to the Football League, and Steve Cotterill’s side followed suit, clinching the Conference championship the following season before earning promotion to the third tier of English football in 2002.
Conversely, Southport took to Wembley on the back of their poorest league finish since promotion to Non-League’s top flight in 1993, their Trophy exploits acting as an obvious distraction as Futcher’s side, who had started the season strongly, won just two of their final 17 Conference fixtures, ending the campaign 16th. That said, the Sandgrounders had been rampant in the Trophy, amassing a magnificent 17 goals in seven matches, with Futcher adding well to the squad he inherited, his team boasting greater Football League experience than Cheltenham. Priced at 2/1 they were the outsiders, making their plucky efforts all the more commendable.
Many expected a Cheltenham win to have been a formality. Far from it. For large parts of the match the Sandgrounders dominated, but despite their energetic and enterprising approach in stamina-sapping conditions, their hard graft was undermined by a lack of quality in the final third, the absence of a real cutting edge. It is often said that statistics do not always tell the whole story in football, but in this game the match facts underlined the Sandgrounders’ superiority. Futcher’s side outstripped Cheltenham in terms of attempts at goal 12-5, shots on target 4-3 and corners 6-1, while they controlled 54% of the possession.
Chris Banks, the Cheltenham captain, reflected what seemed to be the consensus of opinion. ‘I thought Southport were the better side on the day,’ he acknowledged. ‘They surprised us and we struggled to cope, especially in the first-half. But towards the end of the first-half we got to grips with them and I thought we were better, although not the best side, in the second-half. We got the vital goal, and it’s goals that count.’
‘I have to give the fullest of praise to Southport,’ added Sky Sports’ Alan Parry. ‘They came here as massive underdogs but didn’t play that way. When they look back on this eventually and slip the video in over the winter months, they’ll realise it was a great day, even though they didn’t collect a winner’s medal.’
At 33-years old, Cotterill, the Cheltenham boss, became one of the youngest ever managers to have plotted a Wembley victory. Clearly a manager whose stock was rising rapidly, he went on to take charge of Stoke City and Burnley.
For Clapham, the Southport Chairman since 1984, it literally was a dream come true. When, at the outset of the 1997-98 season, he dreamt of a Southport appearance at Wembley, little did he know that the campaign would end with a famous day beneath the Twin Towers. Fittingly, Clapham’s first ever visit to Haig Avenue, in November 1982, was to see an FA Trophy tie – a 2-0 win over Gateshead. Reaching the final could not have provided more of a marked contrast to the state of the club he first saw teetering on the brink, in a state of disrepair.
Futcher, the player-manager, had experienced many things in football, but appearing at Wembley was a personal landmark. He enjoyed a prominent playing career spanning more than 750 professional appearances: encompassing international honours at under-21 level, transfer fees totalling ‘450,000, promotion and playing with and against some of English football’s most revered names, though never before had he strutted his stuff at the Home of Football.
It was Futcher’s first season at Haig Avenue, arriving in the summer of 1997 as replacement for the Rotherham United-bound Ronnie Moore. Futcher, with Manchester City, Luton Town and Barnsley listed among the clubs he had played for, was appointed Southport boss on the back of masterminding Gresley Rovers’ Southern League championship the previous season. The Derbyshire club were denied promotion to the Conference on ground grading, with their place taken, somewhat ironically, by Cheltenham, who had finished runners-up, 11 points adrift of the champions.
In managerial terms, Futcher was still a relative newcomer, but his leadership proved invaluable. In his playing capacity he marshalled a durable defence, though the absence of a prolific forward-line was a major factor in the Southport’s poor league position, as highlighted in the final itself.
At 41 years and 235 days old, Futcher made history, taking the mantle of the oldest player to appear in a Wembley Cup final, even surpassing Clive Walker, Cheltenham’s FA Trophy veteran. On the pitch he exuded experience, directing operations from the back, his shrewdness translated into the way the team functioned.
‘To me personally, it is very special as it is a milestone in my career which I thought had passed me by,’ said Futcher, as appreciative as anyone of the importance of the occasion. ‘Many famous players have finished their careers without having had the opportunity to experience the occasion of walking out onto the hallowed turf.
‘Supporters of the club will be able to relate to this when I say you cannot express in words the feeling of the initial realisation that Wembley was no longer just a dream but reality. I am not a highly emotional person on the field but I have to admit that I did feel somewhat emotional for a short period of time!
‘A secret that I am sure the Chairman will not mind me sharing is that early in the season he had a dream about reaching the FA Trophy final – something he reiterated after every round. I am sure everyone realises that without his efforts and work over the years Southport FC would not be in the position it is today. At the beginning of the season I had no such dream. In football you learn to take the rough with the smooth – Sunday 17 May 1998 is a day for everyone in Southport to be proud of and enjoy with memories for all of one of the better times in football.’
Futcher’s wit and wisdom was an integral part of the Trophy run. He commanded respect, not least from Clapham. ‘Working closely with Paul I felt his professional approach to the preparation of a game and his superb leadership on the field was suited in his first season in the Conference to providing us with a team that would perform well in cup competitions,’ the Chairman said. ‘I would like to go on record as saying that working with Paul has been a pleasure and watching him play in the shirt of Southport Football Club has been equally pleasurable. I am sure that we have all been amazed at the level of performance that Paul has put in week after week, he epitomises the expression of leading by example.’
And on his big day Futcher again used his experience to maximum effect; one of several outstanding performers in a gold and black shirt. As the organiser in chief of a well-drilled rearguard that seldom gave Cheltenham a sniff, he led with authority as the central pillar between Phil Horner and the tenacious Tim Ryan, the Player of the Season, who also recorded an excellent display.
No-one encapsulated the Southport spirit more than Butler, the consummate captain and midfield dynamo, deservedly named the Sky Sports man of the match. ‘He’s been excellent,’ said former Ipswich Town striker Alan Brazil, the co-commentator. ‘A huge heart, he’s got through so much work and doesn’t deserve to be on the losing side.’ A defeated Trophy finalist as the skipper of Northwich Victoria two seasons earlier, Butler was the driving force; competing for every challenge, efficient in his distribution and tirelessly patrolling the midfield. The 31-year old, whose seven-year old son Callum was the Port mascot on the day, never missed an opportunity to stamp his mark on the game and could not disguise his emotions as he tearfully led his defeated team-mates up the famous 39 steps.
‘We had the chances,’ he reflected. ‘We did everything. The lads gave everything and the supporters were brilliant but it just wasn’t our day. You come to Wembley, you give it everything and getting beat is not easy. But you’ve got to take something away from the occasion. We’re working lads and we don’t often get time to play on here, but give me a couple of hours and I’ll look back on it with relish.’
A strong contender for man of the match was the experienced Dave Thompson, predominately a winger, who was somewhat surprisingly selected on the day as the partner for striker Brian Ross. Thompson grafted endlessly, a persistent pest to the Cheltenham defence, and his endeavour was epitomised as he fashioned arguably Southport’s best chance of the opening period. Chasing what appeared to be a lost cause, he charged down Banks’ clearance on the left flank, stealing the ball off the Cheltenham defender before supplying a measured pull-back to the onrushing Butler. The Southport captain looked poised to score, only for the recovering Bob Bloomer to intercept as he was about to pull the trigger.
On the stroke of half-time, it would have been a timely moment to have opened the scoring, but Southport were ultimately made to pay for their missed chances. Indeed, they engineered a number of clear-cut openings during the first period. Butler whipped a cross-shot over the bar in the 13th minute after springing from midfield to meet Thompson’s intelligent pass, but it was indicative of the fact that the Sandgrounders’ fine approach work was continually undermined by their final ball. Kevin Formby was foiled by goalkeeper Steve Banks, before Andy Farley shot over after combining with Dave Gamble.
Although largely restricted, Cheltenham created flashes of danger, with Eaton’s claim for a penalty dismissed by referee Gary Willard after Ged Kiltey had grabbed his shirt as the striker bore down on goal, before goalkeeper Billy Stewart came to the rescue with a courageous save on 38 minutes, racing off his line to smother at the feet of Dale Watkins on a rare occasion when the Port defence had been breached. The chance was preceded by a passage of incisive play, in which Bloomer threaded a delightful pass to Eaton, whose touch released Watkins, only for Stewart to prevail with a characteristic act of bravery.
As ever, the 33-yard old custodian was assertive in all he did, underlining his status as arguably the best goalkeeper in Non-League football at the time having been presented prior to kick-off with a cap to mark his recent appearance for the England National Game team in the 2-1 win against Holland. The presentation was made by Gordon Banks and Roger Hunt, two of the guests of honour, and Stewart had already become something of a cult figure in his two full seasons at Haig Avenue, proceeding to become an all-time crowd favourite.
‘The closest I can compare it to would be the birth of my kids, yes that good!’ said Stewart said of his Wembley appearance. ‘I know how much this all means to the people of Southport – you can feel a buzz throughout the town from the youngest to the oldest person. It has been special for me personally since leaving the Football League. I have enjoyed playing for England and to receive my international cap before the Wembley final is something I couldn’t have ever dreamed of.’
Big matches are often determined by narrow margins, and the spurning of a glorious chance in the 64th minute by Ross, who had scored in every round prior to the semi-final, will be remembered as the moment which could have changed history. Having been released by Farley down the inside-right channel, Ross shrugged off Freeman, the last defender. With only Book to beat and the angle narrowing, the striker attempted to round the Cheltenham goalkeeper but saw the chance disappear as he dwelt too long, allowing Book to clasp the ball at his feet. As a rare occasion when Ross had got goal-side of the Town defence, it was a priceless opportunity lost by a moment’s hesitation.
Southport had begun the second period by again setting the pace, with Book racing out of his goal to thwart Thompson, while Horner placed a header over. As the game started to become stretched, Book produced an excellent double-save; fisting clear Thompson’s hanging cross as Ross loitered before foiling the follow-up from Formby. The left wing-back then squandered an excellent chance after being released by Kielty’s deft pass, but a heavy touch gave defender Banks the chance to intercept.
Four minutes later disaster struck. Cheltenham had started to impose more influence and showed glimpses of what they were capable of when Keith Knight found Watkins, who produced an air-shot when well-positioned, but there was to be no let-off for the Sandgrounders in the 80th minute. Cotterill, the Cheltenham manager, helped bring about the change with a double substitution – an inspired switch, it reaped immediate reward. Off came Kinght and Walker, sacrificed for Russell Milton and Jimmy Smith. Within two minutes, the latter won a free-kick on the right flank after being tripped by Formby, who had failed to complete a clearance. Milton whipped in the delivery, Jamie Victory beat Ryan to flick it on and Eaton, having peeled away at the far post, headed into an unguarded part of the net. Heartbreak.
‘We didn’t defend the set-piece and they scored, and that gave us a mountain to climb,’ said Futcher. For Eaton, already a firm crowd favourite at Whaddon Road, it was a moment that guaranteed his place in Cheltenham folklore. A 22nd goal of the season as vindication for cancelling his stag night which had been scheduled for the previous evening.
Even after falling behind, Southport missed a golden chance as Gamble curled free-kick to Horner, who failed to make proper contact with a free header. In the end, they were left to rue what might have been, Cheltenham becoming the 18th different name inscribed on the FA Trophy. ‘For the first 30 minutes we did ever so well,’ Futcher reflected. ‘We were on top and created a few half chances without really testing their keeper. The second-half was similar to the first really, with the better chances going our way, but it’s the old clich’ about taking those chances. You cannot be too critical of the players, it was hot and very demanding and on the whole we played very well. The supporters were fantastic and the players responded to that with their performance.’
An appearance at Wembley was far from the minds of Southport supporters when the Trophy trail began in January 1998 – 127 days before the final. Although the Sandgrounders were afforded four matches against lower league opposition en route to the Twin Towers, their first round tie against Winsford United was the only time they were drawn at home. The journey started in front of 996 spectators and a comfortable 3-0 victory against a robust Winsford.
The Sandgrounders’ impressive goal tally on the road to Wembley began in eye-catching fashion, Butler steering home a sublime 20-yard volley after Thompson had combined with Kielty to give the Sandgrounders a foothold after 15 minutes against their Northern Premier League opponents. Although goalkeeper Stewart was drawn into a number of saves, any doubts were erased five minutes into the second-half as Ross converted a Kielty centre from close range. Kielty’s contribution drew special praise from Futcher – and the midfield player was again the conjurer for the Sandgrounders’ third, crossing perfectly for substitute Gamble to apply the finishing touch to a crisp move.
Futcher branded the win ’emphatic’, but even more resounding was the second round annihilation of Yeading. The in-form Andy Whittaker bagged four as the Sandgrounders smashed six without reply at The Warren against their beleaguered opponents who ended the season with relegation from the Isthmian League Premier Division.
A key ingredient in the victory was the ingenuity of Gamble, whose near-post cross was met by Whittaker’s header to begin the rout in the 26th minute, before his deep cross was again nodded in by Whittaker 12 minutes into the second period. Whittaker completed his hat-trick by coolly rounding keeper Dean Honey after sharp build-up play and a driving run, and the striker then turned provider as Ross scored the fourth on 82 minutes. Whittaker, whose exploits earned him the award of Player of the Round and ‘200 in Umbro vouchers, hit the target again within 60 seconds, before Kiltey added number six after Ross had been foiled by Honey.
After the long-haul journey to The Warren, the third round win at Altrincham, of Northern Premier League, was a much more local affair. Having made a high-tempo start, Futcher’s side scored twice before half-time to seal progression beyond this stage of the competition for the first time ever. Ross gave Southport the lead on 23 minutes with a towering header to convert a free-kick from Butler, who was again the creator as Whittaker flicked his cross on at the near post, allowing Phil Bolland to drill home an eight-yard shot against the club from whom he joined the Sandgrounders.
While Southport’s foray into the fourth round was a club first, Grantham Town, their next opponents, were also experiencing their best-ever run in the FA Trophy. The Lincolnshire team ended the season as Southern League Midland Division champions, and it proved to be an arduous tie for the Port, who were taken to a replay after conceding their first Trophy goal amid contentious circumstances.
In front of a crowd of 1,707 – the largest quarter-final attendance of the day – Ross put Southport ahead at the Kesteven Stadium on the hour with a firm 14-yard finish, only for Grantham to level with a penalty 12 minutes before time after Phil Horner was harshly deemed to have handled. The Sandgrounders’ woes were compounded as their defender was sent-off, and Mark Harbottle decisively converted the subsequent kick. ‘It was like being stabbed twice,’ Horner admitted.
Futcher reflected: ‘We did not kill them off and we paid the penalty.’ Fortunately, the Sandgrounders were given a second bite, and they suffered no hangover from the disappointment of the original tie, putting Grantham to the sword three days later in the re-match beneath the Haig Avenue floodlights.
‘The biggest night in Southport’s Non-League history,’ proclaimed the Southport Visiter, and the Sandgrounders lived up to the billing, registering a 3-1 win courtesy of a Ross hat-trick. Conference class ultimately prevailed over dogged opposition, with the Sandgrounders making a good start and taking the lead on 9 minutes. Ross dispatched a clinically-taken strike after a raking pass from Gamble had dissected the visiting defence, before the striker doubled the lead three minutes into the second-half with a fine volley having been played in by Thompson. Dave King halved Grantham’s deficit on 72 minutes with a strike across the dive of Stewart, but Southport fashioned an instant response, with Kielty releasing Ross, whose goal cemented an all-Conference two-legged semi-final showdown against Slough.
With four league positions separating the teams as they entered the first leg, the Sandgrounders faced higher-ranked opposition for the first time in their Trophy campaign. It was a tricky task, emphasised by the fact that Slough also held the advantage of having already notched two Conference wins against Futcher’s team earlier in the season. The Berkshire side proceeded to finish the league campaign in a very respectable eighth place but it proved to be their final season among Non-League football’s elite as their inability to satisfy ground-grading requirements prompted relegation.
Critically, Southport won the away leg at the Wexham Park Stadium, meaning a sell-out crowd packed into Haig Avenue eight days later knowing the dream of reaching Wembley was tantalisingly close.
Despite fielding a make-shift back-line in the first encounter due to injury and suspension, Futcher’s side successfully withstood early pressure from Slough, who continued to force the issue throughout the opening half. But the Sandgrounders exercised increasing influence as the match progressed, culminating in Steve Morris’ crucial 68th-minute strike. Having been released by Farley, a shot from Ross beat goalkeeper Paul Wilkerson but appeared to be trickling wide when Morris arrived at the far post to squeeze the ball between the legs of a defender and over the line. A sloppy but vital goal.
The Sandgrounders survived a strong Slough finish, preserving a vital lead to lay down a marker prior to the second leg. ‘The carnival atmosphere was electric,’ reported the Southport Visiter, a day after Earth Summit, donning yellow and black, had triumphed at the Grand National. Kick-off was delayed 15 minutes to ensure that around 300 latecomers did not miss a kick of a nerve-jangling contest.
In front of a 4,895 sell-out crowd, Southport started shakily. They were muted, seemingly struck by stage-fright, as Slough began with gusto, intent on negating their first leg deficit. At times, with passions running high, tensions boiled over, resulting in Matt Stowell’s reckless head-high challenge on Andy Farley. The Southport crowd were incensed, but only a yellow card followed.
Futcher acknowledged that the Sandgrounders owed a debt of gratitude to goalkeeper Stewart for a string of quality saves, but even their heroic shot-stopper was rendered helpless as Slough struck on the half-hour. Southport’s failure to fully clear allowed the ball to drop to Danny Bailey, whose first-time piledriver from 20-yards nestled in the bottom left-hand corner.
The aggregate score was level. Southport needed inspiration, the supporters duly responded. ‘The reception from the crowd was incredible,’ said Futcher. ‘They really got behind us and gave the players a tremendous lift. We had to have a serious talk at half-time because the players had not done themselves justice.’
Cue the fightback – and a 66th-minute equaliser. Futcher split the visiting defence with a sweeping 40-yard pass to Morris. Having dashed down the right, his pull-back was met by Ross, whose shot was tapped over the line from a matter of inches by Formby to restore the aggregate lead. Haig Avenue exploded. Offside? It mattered little to the jubilant home crowd, but Slough were vehement in their protests. Referee Brian Coddington spent several minutes dealing with the remonstrations, Slough manager Brian McDermott was banished from the touch-line, but nothing could temper the home crowd’s outpour of raw emotion, the unrestrained joy, which greeted the final whistle.
‘Emotional scenes of elation at the end of the match will live in the memories of all who attended this great occasion for Southport Football Club,’ reported the Southport Visiter. After 117 years of waiting, Futcher’s team had crossed the threshold of history, and in history their legacy will forever be remembered.

Written by Alan Jones

Our resident poet put pen to paper:-
OUR GLORIOUS RUN by Russ Broadbent
January the tenth and here we go,
It’s the FA Trophy with Winsford on show.
In years gone by they gave us a game,
But it’s different now they look so tame.
In front of a crowd of just under a thou,
The port won the game and we showed them how.
Three nil the score, we did it with ease,
It’s the second round now and the Chairman looks pleased.
Out of the hat on the following day,
We’re drawn against Yeading, playing away.
We all heard the draw and were down in the mouth,
It’s another long trip down to London down South.
Doing well in their league so a good team we thought,
But we were on form, their defences were caught.
Six nil the scoreline the Port a safe bet,
Andy Whitti the striker put four in the net.
The draw for the Third round was out of the hat,
Again it’s away and at Alti at that!
Now here is a team that’s a thorn in our side,
But the lads played tremendous with heart and with pride.
Sandgrounders galore filled the Altrincham ground,
And when Rossy scored what a wonderful sound.
Two nil the score when the Ref finally blew,
The quarters are next and Southport are through.
Now we all thought that we would be due,
A home tie next to help see us through.
But the draw it was made and another bad day,
This time it’s Grantham, once again drawn away!
The day of the game and we waited an hour,
Then up popped our Rossy we could smell the twin towers.
But the Ref had a brainstorm and gave Grantham a pen,
So it’s back to Haig Avenue to play them again.
By the time of the kick off on Tuesday night,
Our Semi opponents Slough Town were in sight.
And although they were willing to put up a fight,
The boys from the Grantham were beat out of sight.
The crowd they had gathered and singing with joy,
Shouting praises to Rossy the Ports’ golden boy.
He scored a hat trick not one goal but three,
One more win will do us then YES Wem-ber-lee.
The first leg of the semi away at Slough Town,
And the motorways were full as we all headed down.
The sunshine was hot we were all in good heart,
The port took the field and the lads played their part.
For over an hour we kept them at bay,
And then young Stevie Morris completed our day.
He scored the goal for our one nil lead,
And it’s back to Haig Ave to complete the Clubs need.
Nearly Five thousand had gathered this day,
They all came to Mecca to see the Port play.
The first half was sloppy we kept losing the will,
And Slough scored a goal which did make it one nil.
But after the break and a roasting from Paul,
A goal from Kev Formby to make it one all.
The supporters erupted and the noise was so loud,
We’re leading two one and we all feel so proud.
Now the Port are at Wembley the Final to play,
And one thing to remember is Enjoy the day.
Because whether we’re feeling ecstactic or blue,
To walk out at Wembley is our dream come true.
So in Yellow and Black we will fill the ground,
And our SUPER SUPPORTERS will make all the sound.
And when it is over and the lads have fatigue,
Just think of next season and let’s WIN THE LEAGUE.

Liverpool Echo, Monday 18 May 1998
Liverpool Echo, Saturday 23rd May 1998