‘We need to compete’ – Liam Watson drops Southport transfer hint ahead of Leamington season finale

Southport manager Liam Watson during their clash with AFC Telford United.

Southport manager Liam Watson has admitted that there will be changes over the summer as they look to add competition in the squad.

Their slump down the National League North table leaves them with an outside chance of relegation should results go against them. But Port travel to already relegated Leamington on Saturday looking to end their winless run.

They added silveware to their trophy cabinet this week after retaining the Lancashire Challenge Cup against Atherton Colleries. Southport required penalties to see off their Northern Premier League opponents.

They sit three points above the bottom four after challenging for the playoffs a matter of months ago, Watson admits that they should “never” be in this position.

He told Off The Park: “I know a lot of the players are struggling confidence-wise, I get it, we had a final and we’re not really worrying going into the last game of the season which should never be the case, we should never be in this position.

“There will be quite a large turnover in playing staff but that’s not really a surprise to anyone, we’ve got a small squad, a lot of them are out of contract anyway but we need to compete now.

“We don’t need to sell now, so we want to compete at the top end of the table, we’ve been troubled with injuries, Nyal Bell’s never kicked a ball for us so we have been troubled but you’d like to think winning a trophy will lift the place on the back of the announcement and there’s other bits going on in the background commercially that we think will put a lift in the background.

“We’ve been trying to deal with off the pitch issues all week so we don’t come across this again. The end of the season can’t come quick enough.

“We need more competition in the squad, that’s a fact, too many people knew they were playing,” the Yellows manager revealed as they look to move away from having a smaller squad. “We need more goals at the top of the pitch, significant strengthening at the top end of the pitch, if that’s the case, that’s up to us A) finding them and B) bringing them in.

“There are many factors but you must be careful it doesn’t sound like excuses,” said Watson as he continued to discuss his thoughts behind the second half of the season. “We have had a terrible run of injuries at the back end – there’s nothing we can do – we’ve had crazy decisions go against us, we haven’t played anywhere near as well as we should have – that is something we can do [control].

“I think the team has lacked leaders but the players have been compromised, the squad should’ve been strengthened, it wasn’t, we didn’t have any money to strengthen it. We shouldn’t have agreed to do seven away games on the spin but that was me, I agreed to do it for the right reasons but then it puts pressure on and we haven’t won those games so there’s even more pressure on us.

“A lot of the stuff off the pitch, working off the pitch, to land a deal like this is not just ‘oh by the way, do you want to sponsor us’. This has taken a lot of time and effort, it’s a seriously big commitment to Southport, it’s not like someone sponsoring a board.”

At the beginning of the week, it was confirmed that The Big Help project would sponsor Southport providing a £100,000 investment into the club.

As a result, it will see Haig Avenue become the Big Help Stadium after it has been nameless following former sponsor, Pure, pulling out.

Detailing the agreement, Watson added that it will help infrastructure of the club and will add to the wage budget.

He said: “It brings a long-term partnership which is massively important, the investment into the infrastructure – our academy has trebled over the last 12 months – so that’s important.

“The Big Help charity has taken over our charity, the Southport Foundation, it’ll look at all aspects of the community; Women’s football and we’ve also got the academy. It’s a lot of parts of the football club that people won’t see but needs supporting if we’re going to progress as a club, there will be a bit going into the wage group – a little bit – then we haven’t had a stadium sponsor since Pure pulled out.

“It’s a bit of everything to be honest. I think people have been misunderstood, we said there was someone interested in purchasing a high percentage of Ian’s shares which is still going on in the background, he was at the game on Saturday.”

[Featured image: Julia Urwin – Southport FC]

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