There are four days to go until Southport’s legends from 2005 return as Trust in Yellow hosts a reunion for the Conference North title-winning team.
That season is still remembered by supporters as one of the best ever seen, but how do the players look back on it?
Here, Chris Price, the captain of the championship squad, gives his take on that unforgettable season with a question and answer piece.
Chris, who was one of the first signings made by manager Liam Watson following his appointment in October 2003, saw first-hand the rebuilding job which resulted in Southport becoming champions.
You were a player when we won the league in 2005 and part of the coaching staff when we did it again in 2010, how did the two seasons compare?
When you are a player and you win the league you are so elated to have played a massive part in the success. As captain, you feel immensely proud of yourself and the whole team. You have experienced the total involvement of being on the front line. All of your hard work in training has paid off!
When you’re on the management side of things, the journey to success is completely different. You just hope that your coaching and support has inspired the players and you want to win the league for them and the management. You want the players to do their best and try to shield them from any criticism. Ultimately, when things go right or wrong, the management team are held responsible so you want to win for different reasons than when you are a player. I feel privileged to have experienced both sides of the game.
You were one of the first signings made by Liam Watson when he became manager. What was it like being part of the team that was built to win the league?
It was interesting as many players had to be moved on and others were brought in, so it was a combination of being excited and anxious when I first joined Southport. It was such a big club and had a massive fan base for Non- League level. It was a challenge that I relished. I didn’t know many of the players who were there and I knew I had to prove myself to them.
Liam had a strong strategic plan and wanted me to become his captain and get players on side to have the belief that our team could be successful. It worked!
What moments stand out for you from the 2005 season when we won the league?
Beating Droylsden away 3-1, when Steve Daly scored late on, was a highlight. So too was winning 5-0 at leaders Kettering Town when Sid Pickford scored a rather special volley I seem to remember!
Southport were neck-and-neck with Droylsden for most of the season. What do you remember about the end-of-season run-in and winning the league on the final day at Harrogate?
There was a confident but nervous buzz about the players as each game and result developed. I remember Haydn Preece greeted me as I stepped onto the coach to travel to Harrogate that morning and said: “Chris, are the players ready for this?” I assured him that between Liam and I, we had spoken to every player the night before and I stated: “Today we will become champions. I have every faith in this team.”
Who do you remember as being the other key players and characters in that team?
Terry Fearns was a sensational goal scorer and Farrell Kilbane was solid at the back. In midfield, Sid Pickford and Dominic Morley were both Mr Consistent. The whole team was full of character and spirit.
You’ve played for Liam a couple of times and worked with him a lot. What was he like as a manager and how did he get the best out of the team?
Liam was a fantastic manager and is still a true friend. He could relate to the players firstly as a coach and second as a father figure. He had a firm but fair approach. He was well respected and got the best out of everyone. He knew the strengths of the players and had high expectations of the team, as well as being nicknamed Statto!, Donny Osmond and Ed Miliband hee!
Chris will return to the Merseyrail Community Stadium, along with his former team-mates, for the Class of ’05 reunion on Sunday - and Trust in Yellow wants you to be there.
The reunion, hosted by the Trust, starts on Sunday with a match between the squad from 2005 and a team of supporters, kick-off 2pm. Entry to the game is £2 at the turnstile and supporters are asked to turn out in their numbers to welcome back the heroes of ten years ago. The reunion continues after the match in the Grandstand Bar, although this second part of the event has sold out.
As part of the build-up to Sunday’s reunion, we’ll have a piece from another member of the 2005 championship-winning squad and crowd favourtie, Kevin Lynch, at the end of the week.
Looking back on that season ten years on, there are also features with other players - Farrell Kilbane, Earl Davis, Terry Fearns, Jimmy Williams, Neil Robinson, plus manager Liam Watson - in a special 32-page souvenir programme produced for the reunion which looks back at the title-winning campaign. The programme is on sale on Sunday for £3