South­port in real need of sta­bil­ity

Midweek Visiter - - Sport - BY ALAN JONES

THE man­age­rial merry-gor­ound is in full swing – and nowhere does it spin faster than at South­port.

The depar­ture of Alan Lewer last Tues­day left the Sand­grounders at a fa­mil­iar cross­roads, search­ing for their 11th man­ager in four years and won­der­ing which way to turn next.

Af­ter four months at the Merseyrail Com­mu­nity Sta­dium, Lewer paid the price for a run five straight de­feats – a se­quence that had seen South­port con­cede 19 goals and score only a soli­tary penalty in re­turn – as their early-sea­son mo­men­tum evap­o­rated at an alarm­ing rate.

A man­age­rial depar­ture al­ways prompts de­bate, but what is be­yond ques­tion is that Lewer took on an un­en­vi­able job.

Hav­ing ar­rived in May at a club that had just ex­pe­ri­enced an em­bar­rass­ing rel­e­ga­tion, Lewer in­her­ited only one player, mean­ing he had to over­see a rapid re­build­ing ex­er­cise.

Lewer’s record at his pre­vi­ous clubs meant he was never likely to be af­forded much pa­tience once re­sults turned, yet the Sand­grounders’ prob­lems pre-date him and many of his pre­de­ces­sors.

Af­ter five suc­ces­sive sea­sons of fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion, los­ing is firmly en­grained in the South­port psy­che, mean­ing that chang­ing the men­tal­ity, as much as the per­son­nel, is per­haps the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing the new man­ager.

Key to that will be im­prov­ing the Sand­grounders’ re­sults at home.

For all the com­ings and go­ings since they were last pro­moted from the sec­ond level of non-League foot­ball in 2010, South­port have won only 34 per cent of matches in front of their own crowd.

Lewer may have left South­port one point adrift of the play-off po­si­tions in the Va­narama Na­tional League but there was lit­tle sug­ges­tion that a dra­matic down­turn in form was about to im­prove.

The squad he as­sem­bled had ini­tially served him well, win­ning four of their first five games to reach third place, but they hit the buf­fers with a 6-0 loss at Stock­port County at the start of last month, and the wheels promptly fell off.

A se­ries of in­juries have taken their toll, but there was a clear lack of bal­ance to Lewer’s squad, with a num­ber of older play­ers in­creas­ingly re­stricted in their time on the pitch and strug­gling with the work­load, while their younger replacements have of­ten been found want­ing.

Chas­ing games was never a strength of Lewer’s side, and once the de­fen­sive foun­da­tions be­gan to crack, the team’s per­for­mances duly caved in.

Re­cent sign­ings have added strength and depth to the South­port squad, as well as bring­ing greater mo­bil­ity in im­por­tant ar­eas, but sig­nif­i­cant work is still needed to make the Sand­grounders a more rounded team and a com­pet­i­tive force.

Ma­jor im­prove­ments are also re­quired to get South­port find­ing the back of the net again, with only six teams in the di­vi­sion man­ag­ing fewer goals so far this sea­son.

Yet above all, sup­port­ers will want to see a team with a sense of iden­tity again.

As a con­veyor-belt of man­agers have passed through, South­port have used 172 dif­fer­ent play­ers in lit­tle over five sea­sons and a pe­riod of sta­bil­ity is essen­tial in re­pair­ing the bro­ken bond be­tween the ter­races and the team.

The ar­rival of Phil Hodgkin­son as a di­rec­tor in re­cent weeks has changed the dy­namic at a club that op­er­ated un­der for­mer chair­man Char­lie Clapham for 33 years un­til the sum­mer. Hogkin­son has promised sig­nif­i­cant change and in­vest­ment, and while the play­ers signed since his ar­rival have been un­able to ar­rest the slide, his pres­ence in the board­room means that South­port’s next moves will be awaited with in­ter­est.

Turn to page 59 to read the views of South­port’s caretaker man­ager Steven Schu­macher.

Si­mon Mar­shall

South­port Foot­ball Club are seek­ing a re­place­ment for Alan Lewer af­ter he de­parted as man­ager last week.

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