Southport's storming 4-1 win over Leamington at the weekend saw them climb to 3rd in the National League North, and with 16 league games gone, the outlook is bright for those in yellow and black. Manager Liam Watson has proved himself a dab hand at winning promotion from this division over the years, with the amount of his players going on to the Football League another testament to the one-time master marksman's credentials.
Those factors, together with coming back to a place he felt in tune with last season, made midfielder Marcus Wood's recent return to the club an altogether straightforward choice. Having been with Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers, the Sale native is now bidding to carve out a route in the game, and at 21, he has time on his side. He offered up his current thoughts on life with the Sandgrounders, his own prospects, and more...
What has Liam said to you since you came back? Any specific pointers or has he challenged you to hit certain targets etc.?
Since I’ve come back he’s just said to get playing games and hopefully we can stay up the table and progress on from there. He’s basically said ‘come in and play, you know how to do it. You were here last year, nothing changes.’
With your time previously at Man City, I know it’s the club you support, but how did you feel being there? Was it like it’s a brilliant club, but for probably 99% of the young lads you're perhaps thinking 'is there really a route to getting an opportunity here'?
Obviously it’s a big club, so I was happy to be there, and I’ve supported them since I was a child, so it was like a dream come true really just to even be part of the club. To be fair, it was just 'do as best as you can and develop your skills as best as you can to get a career,' whether that’s at Manchester City or at another club, like Southport.
Were there any coaches there who helped you a lot? Was (Premier League winner with Blackburn Rovers) Jason Wilcox someone you worked with?
Yeah, I worked with Jason, he’s a good coach. I knew him for quite a long time and I was quite close with Jason. He always helped me as best as he could and he’s a very good coach.
What about players you were there with who were good friends?
Yeah I’ve got a couple of good friends that are still playing and doing well up and down the leagues. Tosin (Adarabioyo), he’s a very good friend of mine. Cameron Humphreys, he’s over in Belgium (at Zulte Waregem). Sadou Diallo, he’s on loan at Accrington (from Wolves). That’s just some of them.
Going on to Bolton, with what was going on at the club, how would that impact on you as young players? What kind of experience was it, in that regard?
It was hard to enjoy it, because obviously the team wasn’t doing that well in the league and everyone knows about the situation at Bolton, the financial situation. It wasn’t much of a joyful place towards the end, but it was still a good experience being around the first team.
Coming into the Southport changing room last season, that could be a bit daunting, doing that for the first time at a senior team, having come from academy football. What was the first day like, and did anyone welcome you, or rip into you a little bit?!
No, it was alright. We had a training game actually, I scored in the training game, so that helped a lot with my integration with the lads. All the lads were nice and welcoming, so that’s one reason why I’ve come back now. They’ve welcomed me in and made me feel part of the squad, so it was good to go back.
Who are the main characters? Any who stand out as the loudest ones, or ones who just brighten the place up?
There's a couple, but not really that loud. Everyone just gets along with each other, everyone integrates, so there’s not really the outstanding candidate. Everyone gets along really well, so it’s a good team spirit. Morgs (David Morgan) definitely brightens the place up, definitely. Dan Hanford’s quite a funny one as well.
In terms of the manager, Liam featured on the site in detail earlier in the year, but for you as players, what is the approach he tends to take? Is he in amongst it a lot, or more in the background?
He’s been with Southport a while, and a couple of times, so he’ll be involved with the lads quite a lot, with the chatting and the banter. He likes to get to know his players, so he’s quite in the forefront. He’s good to work under and it’s a good environment to be in.
What kind of approach have you found works well with you from a manager? Do you like a lot of feedback, someone on at you a little bit, or generally better left to it?
Like ‘you know how I play and you know what I can do,’ so if it’s going well it’s fine to leave me to it, but if there’s stuff to work on then I’d want to know what there is, and to get the help I needed to make me a better player.
You had a bit of time at Bradford (Park Avenue) earlier this season. Again, with the stuff going on at the club, was it as you expected? How do you reflect?
It was kind of what I expected, because I knew that they weren’t doing very well and they’d lost the first few games. I knew when I went in there that it’d be a tough job, but I wanted to get playing games as quick as possible, so that was the decision. (Previous interim manager) Marcus (Law) and (interim assistant) Lee Fowler helped me through it and I’ve come to Southport a lot fitter than I would have been if I didn’t go there, so I’m a lot better off for it. It was challenging but it was a good stint that I had.
How do you feel at this point about your football? Are you thinking a lot about trying to get to this level, that level etc. or just focused on enjoying the present and seeing where it leads?
Well I’m still quite young at the moment. I do obviously wanna get back into the League and play as high as I can; that is my aim, so hopefully Southport can help me do that. What happens with it in the meantime, we’ll just see what happens.
One artist/song you’d sneak on to the team playlist? Or do you usually run that anyway?!
Well most of the time they do wait for me to put my music on! Future is probably my favourite artist at the moment. There’s quite a lot, to be fair, so any of his songs will do.
Away from work/training/playing, are there any other interests you have?
I like watching films and going to the cinema. Also playing golf, so I try to get them in as much as possible, but with football and working, it’s quite tough.
Finally, bringing it back to Southport, why would you tell people to come down and support the lads this season? What have you enjoyed most about it all?
It’s a great set of lads and we wanna win games, we wanna play good football, and we’re doing well at the moment. I’d say just come down and have a good day, and experience it, and you never know, you might wanna come back.
Interview by @chris_brookes