Not since Billy Bingham’s tenure as manager in the mid 60s have Southport FC ventured overseas for a pre season fixture.
Well, that all changes this summer as the Sandgrounders head over to visit the Ravens of FC Isle of Man on Friday 21st July.
Needless to say, we have never faced the side from across the water, although they are now plying their trade in the North West Counties Premier League with a former Sandgrounder steering their ship.
That man is Paul Jones, who made 30 appearances for Southport in 1997/98 in defence. With Phil Bolland, Paul Futcher and Phil Horner all fighting for a place in the side he did well to rack up as many appearances for the club as he did.
He’s an Isle of Man native and was given the job on a permanent basis a couple of months ago.
For travelling supporters there are a couple of obvious options to travel to the game. The first is by direct flight from Liverpool John Lennon airport which, with easyJet is currently showing at around £50 return. There are usually a couple of flights a day, but you will need to factor in that an evening kick off dictates an overnight stay.
The Isle of Man ferry from either Liverpool or Heysham works out similar as a foot passenger, but there is also the option to take a car which does work out a little more expensive.
Courtesy of Ian Strodder, an Isle of Man supporter who reached out to us as soon as the friendly was announced, we know that getting from the Airport to Douglas, is either bus or taxi.
Taxis should be plentiful outside the airport building. For the convenience of being picked up there and dropped off outside your hotel, you might be charged in the region of £25/£30.
The Bus on the other hand works out a little cheaper if you’re on your own at approx £3/£4. However, the convenience of door to door travel doesn’t come with it and the bus will drop you off at Douglas Bus Station, from where you might then have to walk, get a taxi, or another bus, to get to your hotel most of which are along the Prom.
Hotels are plentiful and you should find a room easily for less than £100.
After the game – Douglas is comparable to a small town in England, and the population is approx 30k. The Isle Of Man as a whole island is approx 85k, not dissimilar to Southport. There are plenty of bars and restaurants mainly along the Quayside and Victoria Street.
In terms of currency, the Island does have its own, however English currency is widely used as well. There are plenty of Cash machines dispensing English notes, importantly just outside the ferry terminal and airport. You can change Manx notes at English banks, the ONLY coins not to take back with you are £1 coins, all the rest are ok.
The Game itself kicks off at 6:30pm at “The Bowl” which is approximately a 20/25 min walk from Douglas town centre. Buses and taxis are available if you don’t fancy a stroll.
There’s only one pub near the ground, ‘The Pinewood’ which is always welcoming to away fans. Importantly the Bowl isn’t licensed and supporters are asked not to take alcohol into the ground.
There are many food outlets near the ground – McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC, Domino’s, a couple of Spar Garages that do usual garage stuff (sandwiches etc, not just petrol!). Inside the ground are a couple of local vendors who do good stuff, but if you want a meal the wise money is on the little known Aqua Cafe in the NSC nearby which serves hot meals until 5.30pm.
FCIOM, like Southport, encourage supporters to buy tickets in advance – FCIOM usually update their website with links to tickets for away fans, in the week before the game. However, if you forget, you can pay by card at the gate.
Finally, there’s an entrance at either end of the ground, both with wheelchair access. Toilets are at the Power Station End. You can wander around the ground as there is no segregation.
Up the Port!