Southport in real need of stability
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.
Southport Football Club are seeking a replacement for Alan Lewer after he departed as manager last week.