Marcus Carver has detailed his difficult decision to leave Southport as he secured a move to League Two, but believes his former side will succeed.
Carver secured a move to Hartlepool United on Monday for an undisclosed fee returning to the Football League following a successful two season’s at the Sandgrounders.
The talisman found the back of the net 12 times in 17 National League North appearances warranting strong interest from around the Football League.
His departure sees a return to the professional game, six years after he swapped Accrington Stanley for Chorley.
Carver was no stranger to football on Merseyside signing for Marine AFC on a temporary basis during his time at Stanley.
But for the 28-year-old, the opportunity to return to the Football League as he moves towards his 30s was the motive behind the move despite it being a tough decision.
“It was a very tough decision, from obviously not just being at Southport but being a part-time footballer and a full-time parent, working a couple of days a week to now commute, moving up here for three, four nights a week, it was always going to be a tough decision,” he told Off The Park.
“But I got on so well with everyone at Southport, not just players and the management but the volunteers and the fans they all welcomed me very well. It was a place that felt like home, it was a happy place and really enjoyed my time there.”
Southport’s early-season form was worrying as they sat at the foot of the table, but to caveat that Liam Watson’s side made some of the toughest away trips during that time and still played well despite sometimes not earning three points.
The striker leaves as Port enter the second half of the season in a play-off battle, but it was in the FA Cup he feels was the moment that sparked the resurgence.
“Probably the turning point of this season [the standout moment] when we were 2-0 down away to Chorley and we got the equaliser late on to draw in the FA Cup,” he added. “That’s when I knew the team would just flip, we turned it around and obviously it’s come good, we were playing brilliant football, the run we’ve been on has been remarkable and hopefully they can keep it up.
“But that was my favourite moment, I know people will turn back and say the overhead kick goal against Chorley, it was the turning point where the lads, the camaraderie, we all dug in that game and that for me was my biggest moment.”
“It was difficult, I came out of a club I was at for quite a while and that club felt like home,” Carver continued discussing his original move. “I was liked well within the club. Liam [Watson] came in said a lot about the club and that’s the reason why I signed, he was ambitious about me in his team and it has come to the front this season. It’s been a lot better without the COVID incidents but when we had fans in it was a lot more homely and a better place to be.
“I came in and Liam had said he wanted to give it a good go and push on. We’ve got a good group of lads so my ambitions [coming into the club] were to get Southport towards the top end of the table, get them promoted regardless of play-offs or winning the league.
“I give myself a two-year plan to do that, signing a two-year contract, I’ve fallen just short of that but I feel like I’ve left them in good stead at the moment, I feel that my ambitions were always to get Southport into the Conference [National League].
“He’s always, as anyone in the team who he’s signed, he’s always got a belief in you and pushes you on to do things. The main thing for me throughout my career, I wasn’t scoring as much goals whereas for me, this season I’ve come to the forefront and got the goals.
“Liam’s always told me since I come to the team ‘you will score more goals if you sack off more of the leg work that you have been doing, the wasted running, and stay between the sticks’ and that’s what I’ve done this season. Been in the right place at the right time for a lot of the stuff and managed to get a few more goals.”
Carver’s goalscoring exploits saw attraction from the likes of Carlisle and Barrow but for the marksman he reiterated that his sole focus was Port’s season.
This season has saw a remarkable rise at the Yellows, as well as their league position the support from the stands has been brought under the spotlight – for the right reasons.
“When I knew there was interest, obviously with having an agent, from elsewhere, I always said to Liam – before this week happened – was my heads on Telford, before the game was called off, I just want to focus on that. Until I know there’s something concrete my heads on Telford.
“He said ‘obviously I’ve got people up there who know me and asked me about you’ and after I’ve signed today [Monday] all they’ve said is Liam has given you a good reputation so I can only thank Liam for everything he’s done and all the good words he said about me.
“They’ve [the fans] been unbelievable. Last year probably wasn’t a good year, Liam played me more to the left of the front three and I wasn’t getting in between the sticks. But this year, he’s got me to get out of a selfish streak and I feel like I’ve done that.
“But with the fans being there it’s been even better, they’ve been nonstop, made me feel welcome, spoke to me on social media, in public – whenever I see them before the game, in the bar – like I say they’ve just been fantastic just supporting me and the club.
After seeing their recent fixtures postponed, Port haven’t been able to add to their league tally but still remain in the final play-off spot and well in the hunt to be in the mix.
This weekend sees arguably the biggest game of their season so far as they welcome National League side Solihull Moors visit Haig Avenue in the FA Trophy.
But for the departed goalscorer, he has every faith in his teammates to continue the job and possibly go further.
“Realistically for that team, that teams good enough to go on to get in the play-offs, they’re not that far off the top of the league. I can’t see why that team can’t go on and get at least a play-off spot. Regarding the FA Trophy, it’s a tough tie against a full-time team in Solihull [Moors].
“The team that Liam’s got is a young, hungry team. It’s not just the way they play, it’s the team-spirit, camaraderie behind the scenes the lads are just fantastic and I feel like it’s one of the best changing rooms I’ve ever been in, regardless of playing and personalities.”
In potentially his final message to the club, Carver insisted that no blame should be aimed at the Southport boss after murmurs of disappointment following his sale.
“Thank you for all the kind messages since I have moved along. I know there’s been a few people who’ve been a bit grumbled by it but at the end of the day, Liam’s always been the person to help people along in their careers and I’ll always thank him for that.
“Obviously, I don’t want people falling out with Liam, giving him grief about it because as a manger and a person he’s been second to none, he’s been absolutely fantastic for me. To the fans and players, I wish them all the best and hopefully I see you’s all again soon.”