Liam Watson (footballer)
|Full name||Liam Watson|
|Date of birth||21 October 1970|
|Place of birth||Liverpool, England|
|1992–1994||Preston North End||9||(3)|
|2000–2003||Runcorn FC Halton||?||(?)|
|2000–2003||Runcorn FC Halton|
|2013–2014||AFC Telford United|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only. † Appearances (Goals).|
Liam Watson (born 21 October 1970) is an English former professional footballer and manager.
Having plied his trade at Maghull and Burscough, Watson finally made his mark at Warrington Town where John Beck signed him for Preston North End for a fee of £60,000. This smashed Warrington Town's transfer fee received record which had only been set a few weeks earlier when Neil Whalley also moved to Deepdale for just £25,000. He scored in his debut after replacing the injured Micky Norbury in a 5–2 win over Rotherham United on 27 March 1993 and then netted again in his next two appearances against Port Vale and Huddersfield Town. They would turn out to be the only three goals he would score for Preston but went on to make six more appearances before a serious injury cut short his professional footballing career.
Due to his injury Watson retired from professional football and returned to non-league. The first side to sign him on his return was Marine before moving on to Witton Albion and then eventually Runcorn. Watson was soon signed from Runcorn by John Coleman for a short stint at ambitious Accrington Stanley before returning to the newly renamed Runcorn F.C. Halton in a managerial capacity replacing Mark Carter.
Runcorn FC Halton
In September 2000, Watson, at the relatively young age of 29, became Runcorn's new manager in the Northern Premier League. With little budget Watson was forced to scour the reserves of local non-league teams with a bulk of his signings coming from Southport, who he would later go on to manage, performing minor miracles he managed to turn perennial relegation battlers into a solid mid table team. After three relatively successful years at Runcorn, in September 2003 Watson replaced Mike Walsh as manager of Southport and became the youngest manager in their history at the age of 33.
One of Watson's first moves at Southport was to oversee a large turn around of players. Out went players such as Peter Wright, Mark Byrne and Andy Whittaker and among the influx of players was Neil Robinson, who went on to score 15 goals in 15 games on loan from Macclesfield Town, Steve Daly, Chris Price and Kevin Leadbetter all followed Watson from Runcorn while young starlet Carl Baker was signed from Prescot Cables. This saw a remarkable turn around of fortunes, with Southport languishing in mid-table and struggling to qualify for the newly formed Conference North when he took over, Watson oversaw a climb up the table with some impressive performances along the way to finish the season in a respectable 6th place and qualifying for Conference North football the following season.
At the start of the 2003–04 season Watson began undertaking another squad re-build which saw Neil Robinson return to the club permanently along with Earl Davis who had previously been on loan from Burnley. He signed Terry Fearns from nearby Vauxhall Motors who would later go on to score 41 goals in all competitions that season. That season Southport became the inaugural champions of the Conference North, pipping Droylsden to the title on the last day with a 5–2 victory away at Harrogate Town while they slipped up away at Worksop Town.
The 2004–05 season was always going to be a struggle being one of the only part-time teams in the league however against all odds Watson kept Southport up, securing them their status as a Conference National team with Steve Pickford scoring a vital goal in a 1–1 draw away from home at Grays Athletic.
During the pre-season of 2004–05 chairman Charlie Clapham announced Southport would be going full-time as they looked to move forward in the league, that was a move that would see Watson leave his post as Southport manager, due to him unable to go full-time as he already held down a full-time job at Ashworth Hospital. He did however make one full-time signing and that was of Gary Brabin, who himself left soon after Watson. He was not without a job long however and dropped down a league to local rivals Burscough who had been taken over by ambitious local businessman Chris Lloyd.
In June 2006, Watson was announced as the new manager of Burscough, replacing former Southport player Derek Goulding.
With a lot of the players not accepting full-time terms under Southport's new manager Paul Cook the majority of the players followed Watson to Burscough signing on part-time.
Watson's first season in charge at Victoria Park happened to be their most successful in history. With the majority of the squad having promotion winning experiences at Southport they proved to be no pushovers, dropping down a league and winning the Northern Premier League on the final day of the 2006/07 season with a 2–1 victory over AFC Telford United, in front of 5710 fans at the New Bucks Head. In the same season, Burscough also won the Peter Swailes Memorial Shield and for the first time in 40 years the Lancashire Junior Cup.
For the 2007–08 season, Burscough found themselves for the first time playing Conference North football, just one league below the Conference, equalling the highest ever level they have played at. After starting the season badly, with an injury ravished squad, they finished the season in a credible eighth place just outside of the play-off positions.
Return to Southport
On 30 June 2008, it was announced at 1pm in an official press conference held by the Southport board of directors that Watson would be returning to Southport filling the vacancy left when Gary Brabin departed to Cambridge United. Watson was to be assisted by John Doolan, who was initially Brabin's assistant, with former Southport player Chris Price also following from Burscough.
Watson's first signing for Southport was striker Ciaran Kilheeney from Burscough followed shortly by a nine others; Adam Flynn, Shaun Gray, Tony McMillan, Alan Moogan and Craig Noone along with former Southport players James Connolly, Earl Davis, Matty McGinn, and Steve Daly.
In his first season back at Southport, Watson oversaw a strong title challenge but fell short and ultimately lost to Gateshead in the play-off semi finals. This was also capped with some impressive performances in the Liverpool Senior Cup reaching the semi-finals, while reaching the quarter-finals in the FA Trophy, Setanta Shield and the Lancashire Junior Cup.
In the 2009–10 season, Watson guided Southport back to the Conference Premier as champions with a win on the last day of the season away at Eastwood Town. This was his third title in 5 years with two different clubs, and his second Conference North title. Watson is the only manager to have won this title twice, as are Southport. Watson also oversaw Southport progress to the final of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy where they beat Clitheroe at the Reebok Stadium, making it the third occasion in 5 years he has won the trophy and making him the most successful manager in the trophies recent history.
Watson suffered his first relegation as a manager in the 2010/11 season, as Southport finished 21st in the Conference Premier. Southport however were saved from the drop following the demise of Rushden and Diamonds, and continued to compete at the top level of non-league football. Watson took full advantage of the second chance, Southport finishing the season a very respectable 7th place in 2011/12. The club remained around the play-off places the entire season, Watson managing the team to a record breaking 8 consecutive away wins, culminating in a 1–0 win against Stockport County at Edgeley Park on 26 November 2011 and top the season off by winning the Non League Manager of the Year award.
On 17 April 2013 it was announced that Watson would be leaving Southport once again, but on more amiable terms, stating at the time: "I feel it right that both the club and myself move on from here".
AFC Telford United
Only weeks after announcing he would leave Southport at the end of the season, he immediately became favourite to become new manager of relegated side AFC Telford United. On the Friday 3 May 2013 it was announced that Liam would become the club's fifth boss of 2013, with Dominic Morley as his assistant manager.
However, after a poor run to the 2014/15 season the board of AFC Telford announced on 14/12/2014 that Watson and assistan Dom Morley have been relieved from their duties. Watson and Morley won the Conference North title first time round in the 2013/14 season; the first title for 62 years; also reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the first time in AFC Telford's history. Despite these fantastic achievements, the club remain bottom of the Conference Premier in December, winning only 3 out of their 24 games. Player-coach Andy Todd and Goalkeeper coach Andy Pryce have took temporary charge.
On 20 March 2015, Watson signed a contract until April 2017 at Stalybridge Celtic.
Outside of football, Watson previously worked at Ashworth Hospital alongside two of his former assistants, Chris Price and the man who replaced him at Burscough, Joey Dunn.
- Non League Manager of the Year: 2011–12 season 
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- "Liam Watson leaves Southport to become Bucks boss". BBC Sport. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "Liam Watson Appointed Bucks Boss". AFC Telford United. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "Watson Back at Southport". thenonleaguepaper.com. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
- "Southport manager Liam Watson to leave at end of season". BBC Sport. 17 April 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
|Runcorn F.C. Halton manager