Football: Futcher relaxed about his future direction

Southport's manager has just taken on a new role in midfield. Can he conjure the downfall of Leyton Orient?

YOU ARE a 42-year-old non-League manager with an FA Cup tie looming. What better time to be trying out a new playing position? That is the situation of Paul Futcher, player-manager of Southport, of the Football Conference, potential giant-killers when they host Leyton Orient at Haig Avenue on Saturday.

A mere 26 years after starting his long League career as a central defender with his home-town club, Chester, Futcher is trying midfield for size. Presumably, if that does not work out, he can be expected to have a run up front with the youth team.

"I played part of a season there for Oldham, but it's not a position I ever really saw myself playing," he says. "It's not something I could see myself doing for a long period of time, but for the last three or four games I haven't had a lot of other options."

Futcher occupied more familiar territory when he brought himself on as a substitute in Southport's startling victory over Mansfield in the last round; indeed, there can hardly be a more experienced defender still playing at a good level in Britain. As a young up-and-comer at Luton, he looked a certainty for full England caps, rather than the Under-21 and Football League honours for which he ultimately had to settle.

With his twin, Ron, very much as the makeweight, he was a big-money signing when Tony Book was in charge at Manchester City, 20 years and about as many managers ago. The returning Malcolm Allison never fancied him as much and he left after two seasons, taking in Oldham, Derby, Barnsley, Halifax and Grimsby on the rest of his League travels.

"As a young player, I really used to play it off the cuff. I used to stroke it about and, in those days, you could always play it back to the goal-keeper, but I still made the odd mistake.

"I was a good player, but I'd always give you a chance. When I was at Luton as a 17-year-old, though, I was a bit like that lad at Villa, Gareth Barry."

Notable prodigy as he was, Futcher reckons he played some of his best - and certainly most mature - football at Grimsby when he was already deep into his mid-30s. He even had a spell in charge there on a caretaker basis but was not wanted when a permanent appointment was made.

"I'd played League football until 39 and I just went to Droylesden to keep fit. But from there I got a phone call to be player-manager at Gresley and had a fair bit of success there for 18 months."

He is now midway through his second season with Southport, having guided them to the final of the FA Trophy in his first. Adventures in Cup competitions are all very well, of course, but the priority for a club that lost its League status must be the quest to reclaim it.

"Halifax have proved that it can be done and Macclesfield are in the Second Division, competing with the likes of Manchester City. Who would have thought that three years ago?"

Southport are in mid-table in the Conference, having played less games than most of the clubs above them, but Futcher does not believe that the FA Cup is a distraction.

"But we've had a bit of luck in our Cup run that hasn't always been there in our league matches. We've been creating chances but not converting them, whereas at Mansfield we stuck a couple of good goals away."

Drawing Southport cannot be counted as good luck for Orient, beaten by Conference opposition in the Cup for the past two seasons and rather unconvincing winners over another Conference side, Kingstonian, in the second round.

Futcher is so relaxed about it all that he has not even watched the opposition and there is a good deal of League experience - starting with the goalkeeper, Billy Stewart - in the Southport side to help them take it all in their stride at Haig Avenue this Saturday.

Futcher's personal best in the competition amounts to a couple of tastes of the quarter-finals. He was not planning to rush into a decision on what role he will play in this tie, but it is hard to imagine him resisting the temptation. He does, after all, live in the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth, 70 miles from Southport, about 75 from the sea and famous as the setting for Last of the Summer Wine.

It could be the last swallow for Futcher.

"I'm not going to go on flogging a dead horse, although I'm still fit," he says.

It will not, however the result goes, be the end of the Futcher family involvement in the FA Cup. His sister's son is Liverpool's Danny Murphy; another nephew, Stephen Futcher, is at Wrexham, while Paul's own son, Ben, is a second year YTS trainee at Oldham.

As for Ron, he lives around the corner in Holmfirth and is a youth development officer at Bradford City. By Futcher standards, he's a bit of a half-hearted football man, though. He retired before he was 40.

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links