The Bucks are home against Southport F.C. on Saturday, July 8th. The friendly is a fantastic one for Bootle. Southport were a Conference National team last season and find themselves in Conference North for the 2017-2018 season. A difference of seven tiers on the pyramid separates the two clubs.
Bootle Football Club
Entering the 2017-2018 season Bootle will be looking to improve on their 2nd place finish. The club made a variety of moves during the off season. Retaining the team’s leading goal scorer Ryan Cox and the 2016-2017 Player of the Year Mikey Ordish were great starts. However, the key acquisition of the season was the signing of Barnoldswick Town goalkeeper Jordan Gidley. Gidley proved to be an absolute nemesis for Bootle last season as Barnoldswick beat the Bucks over two legs in cup competition.
— Bootle Bucks (@BootleFCBucks) June 17, 2017
Off the pitch Bootle announced a new managerial partnership between incumbent manager Joe Doran and newcomer Phil Stafford. No explicit division of duties has been released by the club, so the partnership should prove to be an interesting talking point as the season progresses. Bootle captain Liam Loughlin offered his thoughts regarding the partnership in an interview with the official fan club of Bootle Football Club.
— Bootle Bucks (@BootleFCBucks) June 15, 2017
Silverware is the target for Bootle in the 2017-2018 season, and an attainable one at that. The club will look for a solid start versus Southport. Bootle will also officially announce all off season acquisitions and a new sponsor during the match festivities.
Southport Football Club
While Bootle enjoyed unprecedented success last year Southport saw themselves relegated to Conference North. The club’s roster underwent some shrinkage, as to be expected with relegation. However, a bevy of signings has restocked the ranks.
The twelve new players represent a well balanced combination of youth and experience. The signings are primarily based in the striking and defensive department. The two most notable signings are that of former Tranmere midfielder Steve Jennings and the loan of Burnley striker Bradley Jackson. Jennings represents a wealth of experience while Jackson is a young upstart looking to make his mark on the game.
Read about our latest signing, Brad Jackson, on loan from Burnley, on our website https://t.co/ILWCsgsesW
— Southport FC (@southport_fc) July 5, 2017
The amount and quality of signings demonstrate a clear desire to achieve promotion back to Conference National immediately. Southport has a reputation of being an ambitious club but has been unable to put together consistent form over multiple seasons. In the seven years since 2010 Southport has employed approximately ten different managers. A revolving management door is difficult for any club to endure, but particularly for part-time clubs. Each managerial change means a change in tactics and philosophy. Part-time clubs have less time on the training ground to institute those changes.
Current Southport gaffer Andy Preece is the club’s 11th manager since April of 2010. Preece played at the highest level for Crystal Palace and has enjoyed success as a manager. Most notably his term at Northwich Victoria included an FA Cup victory against then-Premier League Charlton Athletic. The Southport manager has the tall task of achieving promotion this season, and the even taller one of impressing the Southport board. While Saturday’s match may not be Preece’s first impression to the board, it could be a lasting one.
There is always a tendency to dismiss preseason friendlies as unimportant they do serve a purpose. Saturday’s match has the potential to temper or uplift the expectations of either club’s fan base. However, Southport is the club under pressure. A loss to a team seven steps below, even in a friendly, could set a sour tone in a club that struggles for stability.
Bootle fans are hoping that the club can replicate some of the magic that saw the Bucks defeat Conference National side Tranmere last season. Riding high after last season, the Bucks believe anything is possible.