Playing Career: Everton; Wigan Athletic; Rotherham United; Preston North End; Bolton Wanderers; Port Vale; Stockport County; Barrow; Southport; Bangor City
A promising youngster having picked up international recognition as a schoolboy, Paul Lodge was nurtured through the youth set up at Everton by Colin Harvey and the late Ray Minshull. Signed as a professional in 1979 Lodge went on to make 20 starts and 4 sub appearances for Everton in the English top flight. With opportunities limited in a successful Everton side, he was signed by Wigan Athletic on a month’s loan for the start of the 1982/83 season. With the intention of gaining valuable first team experience at a lower level (Wigan had replaced Southport in the Football League in 1978 and had quickly risen to the Third Division), he made his Latics League debut on the opening day of the season against Lincoln City. Lodge made 5 appearances for Wigan before returning to Goodison Park whereupon his return he was immediately loaned to Rotherham United. At Rotherham he featured four times in a struggling side and helped the Millers pick up just one point during his stay. Lodge returned to Everton and was permanently transferred shortly afterwards to Preston North End.
Making his debut for the Deepdale club in March 1983 he played a part in 44 games before joining Third Division Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 1984. Following an early season sending off in a clash against former temporary employers Rotherham, Lodge couldn’t break back into the side and found himself languishing in the reserves for the remainder of the season, interrupted only briefly by the third loan of his career, making 3 appearances for Port Vale.
After a disastrous season he joined Stockport County, scoring twice in a 15 game spell before dropping out of the Football League to find regular football and joining Northern Premier League side Barrow.
Lodge joined Southport, then too of the Northern Premier League, for the first of two spells in March 1986, making his debut in a 0-0 draw with Marine alongside John Owens in the centre of midfield. Lodge played out the remaining 11 games of the season and became one of the first names on the team sheet, until he made his final appearance against Chorley in November 1987 just a handful of games short of his century.
Lodge played at Macclesfield Town, Witton Albion and Morecambe before rejoining Southport in their first season in the Conference. Making his second debut from the bench, replacing Darren Lyons in a 2-0 defeat away to Kettering Town at the end of November 1993 he was soon to be given a regular starting place. By January, Lodge had passed the 100 mark for the Sandgrounders and he remained an integral part of the midfield for a further three and a half years before departing to Lancaster City at the end of the season.
Manager Billy Ayre referred to Lodge as the best midfielder in the Conference during his solitary year in charge and he was the ideal candidate for the captaincy. A strong passer of the ball and excellent vocally, Lodge was a sturdy and dependable midfielder. Paint an X in the centre of the field and you could be assured that should the ball enter his territory he would be there to deal with it effectively.
Before eventually hanging up his boots at near neighbours Burscough, Lodge also managed to fit in time at Bangor City and Chorley. Following his retirement Lodge regularly turned out in the British Football Masters representing his first club Everton.
An experienced playing professional plying his trade at a number of north west clubs his coaching and managerial career has followed a similar pattern.
Lodge returned to Southport after their Wembley appearance, as assistant manager to Paul Futcher in 1998. Following Futcher’s sacking in 1999 he was appointed caretaker manager in the interim period before Mark Wright’s appointment. Lodge stayed on as Wright’s assistant at Haig Avenue before re-joining Futcher at Stalybridge Celtic in June 2001.
Futcher’s time at Bower Fold was short lived and at a board meeting on March 25th 2002, the contracts of both Futcher and Lodge were terminated following a string of seven successive defeats.
Lodge spent time away from the semi-professional game and had been working at St Helens College prior to his appointment as manager of St Helens Town in July 2003. Lodge’s links with the college had been a big boost to Town as they had been operating out of Knowsley Road without a youth or reserve team set-up. Rebuilding the squad alongside College colleague Alex Wright, he initially enjoyed some success, but the young side he had assembled found it hard to maintain the consistency required at the higher level. The club had been in a state of flux for some time and in January 2004 former Altrincham and St Helens Town goalkeeper Joe Paladino offered to invest a substantial amount of money into the club. Lodge agreed that the opportunity was too good for the club to pass up and stepped down with immediate effect to allow Paladino to bring in his own man. With St Helens publicly thanking Lodge for his contribution and with his academic background with St Helens College he was appointed to run the new PASE scheme at Accrington Stanley. First team manager John Coleman, impressed with Lodge’s talent spotting abilities soon promoted him to reserve team manager, and he took charge of the second string during Accrington’s successful Conference championship season of 2005/06.
The lure of management of his own club proved too strong for Lodge however and he was appointed manager of former club Chorley two games into the 2006/2007 season following the shock resignation of Shaun Teale. He set about putting a stamp on the team and with deep financial problems at the club he drafted in a number of youngsters in a bid to dramatically cut the wage bill. Six weeks later however and Lodge had offered his resignation in the wake of a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the recently promoted Harrogate Railway. Lodge had failed to lift the ailing fortunes of the club with only one win in 7 and only 4 goals scored
Opinion is divided, and he did attract some criticism from sections of the support however for his style. Often seen as a negative player he wasn’t the type to go on a mazy run and bang in a goal, highlighted by his return of just 8 goals from the position in 168 games. Indeed during the latter part of his second spell with Southport, one gentleman regularly offered tactical advice to the management by screaming “number 6, get him off” each time the fourth official held up the substitute board, such was his frustration at the lack of creativity he offered.
Player Profile reproduced with Permission from:
The Complete Non-League History of Southport Football Club 1978 – 2008, by Trust in Yellow (Legends Publishing, 2008). ISBN 978-1-906796-01-3If you can provide any further information please contact me