Saturday: A Southport Weekender

Hereford supporters have been waiting a long-time for a genuine seaside trip this season, and it’s finally arrived. Southport in April. What will the weather be like we wonder? Are buckets and spades compulsory?

Mind you, there are plenty of reasons to make the trip as Simon Wright details here. You could even visit the British Lawnmower Museum!

Southport

After our long 18/19 slog, a relaxing end-of-season weekender is thoroughly deserved.  Unlike say Alfreton, Southport is a thoroughly fascinating place to visit with the sea, model railway, enormous pier and Lord Street shopping.  Not overlooking the British Lawnmower Museum. How could we?  For the benefit of our supporters with leanings towards the Dingles FC (an annoyingly large number) and who therefore need regular help, be aware that online accommodation sites default to Southport on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Haig Avenue is a familiar name to senior Hereford supporters. United visited in the Fourth Division, the Third Division, the Conference and the FA Cup.  Southport were the last club to lose their Football League status on a vote way back in 1978.  Unfortunately for them, they’ve never got close to regaining that status.  Recent years have seen endless turmoil with regularly changing managers, players, directors and owners.  Rumours had it that revolving doors were installed in the board room.   Ten directors resigned since 2017 and only last week the full time CEO Natalie Atkinson resigned after 14 months in charge. The latest owners publicly guaranteed manager Liam Watson he will have two years in charge, no matter what happens. In turn, ‘Port also secure their players on contracts for two years or even three for key people.  Both the owners are Partners in legal firms so those contracts will be water tight.

The secure status of players and managers has had moderate success.  Other than a dodgy period at the start of the season, Port have kept well clear of relegation danger. Unlike last season. But equally, the Sandgrounders’ highest league placing was 11th.  Football is often about momentum and timing. When Southport came to Edgar Street, they’d just started on their purple patch of no defeats in 9 away games. Our side were struggling so Southport said “ta very much” and strolled to their joint biggest away win all season

Southport have used 40 players this season, including 10 without a contract and currently 5 loanees. Only 4 players have made 30 or more League appearances. This is a squad still in transition. Their senior man Andy Parry has made 71 appearances in total, one of the very few retained from last season. Top scorer is Dion Charles with 11 and 4 more in the Cup. Predicted top scorer Jason Gilchrist only has 4 goals compared to 20+ last season and is rumoured to want out. Their home record is very mid-table – won 5, drawn 8 and lost 6.  Given our 2019 away record, I’d fancy our chances here.  But I’m not going to dress it up, this is an end of season game between mid-table sides.

 

Some details about Haig Avenue:

Ground capacity of the now re-named Merseyrail Community Stadium is an impressive 6,000 including 1,800 seats in the expensively refurbished main stand.  Having been constructed in 1968, the upgrade was long overdue.  (The previous stand sadly burnt down with all the club records inside). The club owners stress they funded the £ multi-million improvements themselves.  Southport FC always segregate so we will have the open Blowick terrace with room for over 1,000.  The Sandgrounders have plans to cover this end but far too late for us. Hopefully being mid-April, the weather will be kind. If it isn’t, we do also get 300 seats in the shiny new stand.  Terrace admission is £13.50 for adults, seniors over 65 £10, for Juniors aged 12-18 it’s a fiver and children under 12 are free.  Stand admission cost a pound or two more.  This is top -end pricing, only York City charge more in this Division.  It’s cashless entry here. The club prefer you to pre-order tickets via their website onto your smartphone. They say the process takes less than two minutes.  You can buy tickets on the day, by queuing in the club shop.

The club bar, the 1881 Lounge, is open five days of the week, hoping to cash in on their BT and Sky coverage on big screens.  Look out for their own real ale “Grandstand Gold”, prepared by a local microbrewer.  “1881” acknowledges the year that Southport rugby club realises they really wanted to play the Beautiful Game instead.  That outfit folded five years later and isn’t connected to the current club, but hey ho.   The town centre is a mile away so the best refreshment alternative is the nearby (and capacious) Thatch and Thistle on Norwood Road. Two real ales on offer (Old Speckled Hen and London Pride) though are possibly secondary to serving meals.  The Joe Holts pub, the Richmond, in Scarisbrook New Road (handy for the car park) is another option.  Not surprisingly, the full range of Holts beer is on sale. There’s an extensive food menu for the peckish.  And yes, there is a Wetherspoons in the town centre.

No club car park so the choice are local streets (some have restrictions) or use KGV College‘s car park five minutes away in Scarisbrick New Road (£2).

The otherwise excellent website has no information for disabled supporters.  I asked James, the Southport Club Secretary what the Port can offer. He replied “We can block off some parking spaces directly outside the ground if required.  Our 1881 bar has disabled access and toilet. We also have a disabled shelter inside the stadium situated beside the disabled toilet.”   For anyone who needs blue badge parking or special assistance, send an email to secretary@southportfc.net

Getting There
By Road:
   278 miles return

By Train:  Best route is to Liverpool Lime Street, walk the five minutes to Liverpool Central and catch a Southport train from there (40 minute).   Roughly 3 hours travel each way from the Shire or London.

By Reg:  A full size coach on offer. £25 per seat for adults. £15 for kids. Early start at 7.00am to make the most of the venue.  Visit Hereford Awaydays Facebook to book.

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