Defeat in the Vase aside - there’s plenty to be optimistic about for Jordan Southgate and Wroxham
- Credit: Tony Thrussell
You could have forgiven Jordan Southgate for wallowing in the wake of a 4-0 defeat, but Wroxham’s boss couldn’t help but express his pride at the journey his side have embarked upon in the FA Vase.
When Southgate arrived at the club, the Yachtsmen required stabilising and rejuvenating following a period of turbulence at Trafford Park.
The then 25-year-old was promoted to senior boss after Jamie Godbold departed for Lowestoft Town in the summer of 2018. Along with Norwich City legend Adam Drury, Southgate set about forging a new path at Wroxham.
Fast forward 18 months and Southgate's men are battling for promotion and have reached the quarter final of the FA Vase, becoming the first Norfolk team to reach that stage of the competition since the Yachtsmen reached the final in 2010.
On the day, they didn't possess the quality to convert territory into tangible chances, beaten by a better side, Wroxham are left feeling proud of the run that saw them reach this stage in the first place.
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Southgate cites that he arrived to low crowds with dogs making up the numbers in the stands. Now, Trafford Park is as vibrant as ever, with the Kenny Cooke stand decorated with a cacophony of noise and blue and white flags.
Wroxham feels like a club with an exciting future, one that combines experienced professionals with young operators at the start of their footballing adventure.
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Southgate and Drury stood with their arm crossed on the touchline, attempting to inject some impetuous into a performance which was leaving much to be desired.
This fixture may have been a step too far. That competitive edge witnessed against Stowmarket Town wasn't visible as Bitton made light work of the Yachtsmen.
In reality, this defeat doesn't earmark the end of an adventure, but the start of a promising new era for Southgate and his team.
Reduced to ten men, the task became about attempting to salvage the tie, but the probing football in the opening period set the foundations for a successful approach in seasons to come.
Grant Holt is utilised as a outlet who links the play successfully. Simon Lappin is a supportive figure who still possesses the necessary fitness to contribute effectively.
Both have the intangibles that can be so pivotal to the development of young talent. Tough love is something deployed at Norwich City and the same formula is applied on the Broads.
Yet, for all the promise that was threatening to emerge, Wroxham were comprehensively beaten by AFC Bitton, who ruthlessly shrugged off the hosts in front of a bumper crowd.
Liam Bishop netted all four goals as the Bristol based side progressed through to the semi finals of the FA Vase, but a reflective Southgate is keen to recall the bigger picture.
"The goal at the start was to stabilise and start building the club up again. We wanted to put it back on the map," Southgate said.
"We've completed the first piece of the jigsaw, which was to stabilise and bring in some younger players.
"Now it's about the future and hopefully we'll finish this season with promotion, which would be great but if not, then we'll meet in the summer and discuss the aim."
Southgate and Drury work at the Community Sports Foundation during the week, but the duo are looking to help progress the Yachtsmen up the footballing ladder.
Reaching the quarter final of a established competition is the latest tick on Southgate's list of achievements and he is a man in a hurry.
"We love what we do. When I first took over, there were 75 people and a couple of dogs here. Now, we're getting two to three hundred every week.
"We're starting to take the club forward. A few years back, there was a couple of relegations and we were struggling to get a team together.
"Everyone is gutted. That isn't just the players but it's the volunteers who were here at 8am this morning, clearing the water off the pitch and doing all the work," Southgate explained.
"We feel like we've let people down but, when we take a step back, we've made them proud by reaching the quarter finals in the first place."
Putting the pieces in place for a promotion triumph is the next task for Southgate and his side, but with Holt, Lappin and Drury leading from the front, the only direction of travel for the Yachtsmen is up.