For as long as he can remember Colin has being following the up’s and downs of Southport Football Club.

This season, 2023 -24 he’s trying to get to as many away games as he can on the train.

On the 7th of October he went to the most southerly team we play in the league this season, Bishop’s Stortford fc. Not such a northern team to be playing in the National League North, but that is the way it is because of the amount of teams in the south of the country.

Travelled with Avanti West Coast leaving Wigan North Western earlier than planned on the 08.31 train to Euston. He should have been on the 09.14 but that was cancelled due to bad weather in Scotland. Pendilino 390042 took hm via the West Midlands to Euston.

Across to Tottenham Hale on the tube and then Greater Anglia 720 512 as the 12.42 to Bishop’s Stortford.

720 512 at Bishop Stortford 7.10.2023
720 512 stands at Bishop Stortford station after arriving from Stratford as the 12.30 hrs service running under head code 2S26. This is a service operated by Greater Anglia. Don’t really know what the arrow is for? Photo image Cw 8459 Copyright Colin Wareing Photo Cw 8459 Colin Wareing

A quick look at the end of the River Stort then a 20 min walk to the ground, on a industrial estate.

Boats at the End of the Stort Navigation.
Narrow boats moored near the limit of navigation on the River Stort in Bishop Stortford on 7.10.2023. The river flows southwards and joins the river Lee which then flows on into London and then on into the Thames. The bridge in the back ground is the limit of the navigable river, while to the right hidden in the bushes is a replica crane.
Image Cw 8460 copyright Colin Wareing of Colin and Carole’s Creations

It was warm and sunny.

Plane takes off from Stansted over the game at Bishop Stortford
As Bishop Stortford are playing Southport on Saturday the 7.10.2023 a plane takes off from the nearby Stanstead airport. Due to the number of clubs in the south of England Bishop Stortford this season, 2023 -24 are playing in the National League North. This means a lot of long trips up and down the country for Bishop Stortford and a long trip for other more northern teams. This was the first ever visit for Southport FC to play Bishop Stortford FC with Southport coming out on top, winning the game 2 -3.
Image Cw 8461 copyright Colin Wareing of Colin and Carole’s Creations
Cw 8465 Harry Flowers rises for a header at Bishop’s Stortford
Cw 8466 David Morgan takes a free kick at Bishop’s Stortford
Waiting for the train home at Euston 7.10.2023.
Evening on the concourse at Euston station in London. On the way home from Bishop Stortford watching the departure board at Euston while waiting for the 19.28 service from Euston to Preston that is due to leave in 40 minutes time. Lot’s of folks keeping a eye on the boards to head north after a visit to the capital.
Photo image Cw 8467 Copyright Colin Wareing

Another win on the road, or is it rails in this case? winning 2-3.

Back the way he came arriving in Wigan at 21.30ish, off 390 016 that had formed the 19.28 from Euston. Lots of Northwest teams had been playing down there today, so full of Blackburn, Wigan, Northend and Blackpool Supporters.

SFC defending at Alfreton 12.8.2023.
The 2nd game of the 2023 – 24 football season in the National league north for Southport F.C. was away at Alfreton in Derbyshire. Here Southport in the yellow strip are defending their goal, but during the game they failed to defend well enough and lost the game 3 -1.
Image Cw 8400 copyright Colin Wareing of Colin and Carole’s Creations Image Cw 8400 Colin Wareing of Colin and Carole’s Creations

Season ticket for 2023 -24 bought.

Col has committed, (or should he be committed? ) to another season of fun at Haig Ave watching Southport F C.

This means that The Wool Boat will be open more often in the week and not so much on Saturdays but with the added bonus (possibly) of Sunday stitches coming from such far flung places as Scunthorpe, Bishops Stortford, South Shields to name but a few.   

Over the last season on 2021- 22 Col decided he would try to do “The Full Card” and go to every competitive game the 1st team played.

He did it! At times it was hard work, but at last he can say he did it.

The programme editor for the club, Rob Urwin, asked if Col would write up his story of the season and so he did.

The first page of my article published over two programmes early in the 2022 – 23 season. This one is in the Southport V Darlington one on 16th August 2022

and below is the second part that was in the Southport V AFC Telford United on 27th August 2022.

The text is a bit small on the scans so here is the full text,

The full card, following Southport F C season 2021 – 22

Cornsay Colliery, Selby, Wessington, Seaburn, Worlds End…all places on the map visited or stayed in last season.

Why on earth did I decide last season was to be the one to have my first go at trying to do the full card, watching all competitive games in the season following Southport F C? With work and family commitments in the years between that last game in the league at Watford and Gloucester at home on the 14th of August 2021 I’d never really had chance to even think about it.

But now despite Covid still being about we’d all missed the live football for the last 2 years, and with a planned trip through the Panama canal, not on our boat, being cancelled the money was there to have some weekend’s away.

The first away game was a to Cornsay Colliery…where? well a few miles outside of Spennymoor up  in the North East. A old pit village, a row of terraced cottages down either side of the road with the Royal Oak being the last cottage in the row. Spennymoor looked fitter than us and despite going into the lead we lost 3-2. It rained, nearly all day, maybe a sign of things to come?

Fylde on August Bank Holiday, wining again, but…we may win one soon.

In to September and Brackley…major disappointment, for two reasons.  A couple of seasons ago we had come here and really enjoyed our stay at the Crown Hotel. Nice and handy, nice food, nice room, on the main street and a 10 min walk to the ground. The Crown had suffered over Covid, we won’t be going back! And we lost, again.

21st Sept and we won! In the F A Cup, Marcus Carver’s stunning overhead kick beat Chorley, back off to Spennymoor we go..but not before the first Covid call off, should have been away at Chorley again.

Into October and off to Escomb, near Bishop Auckland, they had no room in Cornsay Colliery for this trip to Spennymoor which resulted in them making the trip to Haig Ave on the following Tuesday, bring on Alty! After a 3-2 win.

But before that there was the small problem of York Races on the 9th of October so we found reasonable priced accommodation down the road in Selby.  Hmm, lost 3-1 so staying rooted to the bottom of the table. The only consolation was the pundit’s on Radio York as I drove away from the new ground expressing the view that we wouldn’t be down there long. They were proved right, but it was still going to take a while.

In the mean time Alty knocked us out of the Cup and then the Kettering curse struck again. The last time we went there we got relegated! But this time we didn’t kick a ball. As part of the weekend away plans we set off on Friday morning, 22nd of October, and there we were checking into the Worlds End pub in Ecton 5 miles from Kettering and checked the net, Covid in the Kettering team! Bugger! Too late to cancel and go home, so what do we do around Kettering on a blank Saturday? Find a brewery, find a jewellers, find the ground for the rearranged game, which seeing as us and Kettering where both out of the F A Cup with a blank Saturday on the 6th November that’s when it’ll be. Oh no it won’t! It’ll be three days before Christmas, a Tuesday night!  

Slightly made up for the disappointing  weekend by at last wining a league game, at the 8th attempt, beating Darlington 3-0 on the Tuesday night! Followed up by a 3-2 win over Chester, again at home on the Saturday.

Next away game was to Leamington Spa. 1-1 and our first weekend away in our new to us pick –up. The afternoons are starting to get colder now. Winters blowing in, which it did a week later when the trophy game against Darlington at Haig Ave was postponed due to structural damage.

Leamington V SFC 20.11.2021. Out in the country on a autumn afternoon as the sun goes down with Leamington V Southport

The first Tuesday night in December saw us over the hills again, to a stay in a Manor House hotel for the game at Guiseley. We won 0-2 but it was one of the most memorable games, maybe not for the right reasons, as some of their supporters took to singing “Jimmy Saville is one of our own”, what on earth was that all about?  

Guiseley to Blyth, without coming home in between. Must admit there isn’t a lot do in Blyth in December, we amused ourselves by watching the shipping coming and going on the river Blyth as it flowed to sea, as the hotel for this one was a nice modern one on the harbour side.  

Blyth V SFC 10.12.2021

Won at Croft park 1-2 coming from behind and we are sitting nicely in the play off’s, what a turn round!

Foggy Farsley in the F.A trophy a day trip,

Farsley V SFC 18.12.21

and then off to Kettering again…the less said the better, good job we had booked a Premier Inn this time,  and we had “only” got as far as Market Harborough before the curse struck again. Cancelled the hotel with a few minutes to spare, and back up the M6 again!

A bit of relief from travelling over Christmas, just East Manchester for the perennial Boxing Day trip to the Nash.

So we tried to start the New Year with a home game, but it rained! So the home fixture against Curzon was off! A bit last minute call off….The first game of the year then becoming a cold evening out at Charnock Richard in the competition that would eventually put some silverware in the trophy cabinet.

Solihull came to town on 15th January and our run to Wembley in the F A trophy came to end, losing 0-3. So we’re concentrating on the league. Starting with a trip to Gloucester, who are back playing in the City, in a ground made from containers and a plastic pitch. A chance to have a wander along the towpath of the wide and deep Gloucester and Sharpness canal before a Connor Woods volley secured our 13th league win on the bounce and we’re securing our place in the play offs.

Gloucester V SFC 22.1.2022 Gloucester City have had to build a new ground after the original one got destroyed by floods. This one has been constructed largely from metal shipping containers.

The Saturday after made it 14 games on the bounce, beating Guiseley. But with no mention of Jimmy Saville this time.

1st of February and we partly buried the Kettering curse, well at last the game got played, within the smell of the next door Weetabix factory the winning run came to an end, we lost 2-1. Stayed in the Premier inn in Market Harbourgh, just in case we had to cancel again!  

Kettering V SFC 1.2.2022 At the third time of asking due to postponements because of Covid Kettering got to play Southport on the 1st of February 2022.

It didn’t get any better over at Chester on the Saturday after, are we going to hang in there in the play offs after getting hammered 5-0!

A bit of hope on a cold Tuesday night in Telford, with a cracking header from Doug Thame amongst the 3 we scored. The great advantage was the hotel was next to the ground, so a walk after tea and back in the room before the floodlights faded. But we can’t say we could really recommend the hotel, we think they were still suffering a Covid hangover for staff. 

The trip continued, stopping for a couple of nights in Quorn in Leicestershire, before off onto the Flatlands of Lincolnshire to Boston, arriving on the Friday. Another nice hotel / pub over looking another tidal river, the Witham in this case, as we stayed in the Quayside hotel. A good wander round the town and a by luck the chance to watch the steel train being shunted across the river on what looked like a quite old bridge.

We had a wander along the river on Saturday morning spotting narrow boats from the Leeds and Liverpool canal. The hotel was on the right side of town so I was able to walk out to the new “Jakeman’s” stadium. A nice new ground, a bit less “hard” looking than the one in York. A 1-1 draw, disappointing as we were winning until the 89th minute!   Though we had been under pressure for most of the second half, so it seemed to be coming. A long trip back from Boston on the Sunday. Glad we didn’t decide on a day trip.

22nd Feb and Blyth where at Haig Ave on a damp evening, but they enjoyed the trip by stuffing us 1-3. The hope from around Christmas of staying in the play offs seems to be fading..

But a 0-1 win at a mild Hereford on the following Saturday lifted spirits a bit. Stayed in a wayside Inn at Staunton on Wye. Interesting as the Welsh over the nearby border where still under stricter Covid restrictions than us. The locals where friendly, may be because they had come over the border for their beer in a pub? It helped with the banter as England where playing Wales in a rugby game that was on the telly.

A short trip to lose at Chorley in early March, one of the two games I failed to get a programme from, they had gone digital…not the same.

Towards the end of March and away we go again. To Darlington. We had seen a hotel near the Blackwell Meadow ground when we had come back that way from a game in the North East earlier in the season, thinking that’d do. And so it did. A former manor house converted into a hotel, across the road from the ground. Couldn’t be better. As it was a Tuesday night game we went on the Monday, had a wander around Darlington in the day. It’s not a bad town. Now if you where to stay in the Blackwell Manor and wasn’t aware that the ground was just across the road you may wonder what was going on as you settled down for your tea. Lots of dark shadowy figures moving through the hotel grounds, all on a mission? The grounds are on a walking route from town to the ground! This is one we’d go back to while we can as I believe that Darlington are looking at a new ground of their own.

Oh aye Marcus was there watching, could have done with him still on the pitch. Lost 1-0.

Stayed away and travelled south to stay in a little village of Wessington, a few miles to the west of Alfreton. It was warm and mild by now in March, so sat outside near the pub we stayed in having our tea from one of the best chippies we’ve been.  It was warm for the game, and it was all going so well by half time, leading 0-2. Ended as a 2-2 draw, slipping down the playoffs with 10 games to go.  

The 2nd of April and the Kettering curse came to Haig Ave and they go away with all three points.

It didn’t get any better the Saturday afterwards either. This was the only away game I went to on the train; I didn’t want to be wearing a face mask for a long trip on a train. With restrictions lifting this was a good trip out; just a pity we got hammered 6-0!

A 1-1 draw with Leamington on the following Tuesday back at the Ave and the play offs are slipping away.

1 point from 6 over Easter, but at least it wasn’t foggy in Farsley this time.

With 3 games to go there was still hope, 3 points off the play off’s…but we next went to Gateshead, just glad it didn’t turn into their promotion party, even though we got beat 3-1. Had a nice weekend in Seaburn though just to the north of Sunderland. Definitely a hidden gem of a seaside resort.  Bumped into a couple of Urwin’s out for a stroll as well.

Gateshead V SFC 30.4.2022 A long long way to watch the game at the international stadium, Gateshead.

Driving in from Burscough for the last home game of the season, the 1-1 draw with Telford I’m thinking, come on truck don’t let me down today, and let’s hope there is no silly driving by anyone around the Kew roundabout, after all these miles and trips, don’t want to fail at the last hurdle.

 The last trip of the season was to Bradford Park Ave, by then a dead rubber, but it was just a case of getting it done.

Julia Urwin doing what she does best, this time at the end of the last game of the 2021 -22 season at Bradford Park Avenue.

We finished 11th, 6 points off the play offs, which considering where we were around Christmas was disappointing.

When we started the season long journey it sounded good a weekend away every couple of weeks after the Covid restrictions, but by the end it became work. I can now understand to a degree why Liam repeats in his programme notes on a regular basis about how hard work the travelling gets.

So what of the coming season? Will the squad have matured enough to have a real crack at promotion, despite having to travel to some further flung games? I’ll not be going to every game this time round, definitely not to Kettering! I do hope to get to Scarborough, Banbury and Peterborough Sports, having never been to any of these three before, and we love the North East so maybe Blyth again and Darlington as the hotel is so handy. Hopefully more trips on the train, we shall see.

I would like another crack at the full card again, maybe in the National League, that would be good, it’s a while since we’ve been to Dagenham.

Colin Wareing, aka Capt Col of The Wool Boat.

The final league table and results 2021 -22 season with results.

Gateshead went up to the National league as champions and York City won the play off’s to go up as well. Guisley where relegated to the Northern Premier League

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