‘Yes, I’m a young manager but it just comes down to respect’ - Wroxham boss Jordan Southgate on how he has masterminded rise up table
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
There aren't too many non-league clubs at Wroxham's level who can boast to have three former Premier League players in their ranks.
It was eye-catching enough to lure Simon Lappin to Trafford Park in the summer when the midfielder decided to follow Ian Culverhouse out of The Walks exit door (Culverhouse has of course since returned to the Linnets).
Throw in Adam Drury on the sidelines barking out instructions from the technical area as assistant manager and you've got the makings of a sense of professionalism being firmly established at the Thurlow Nunn Premier League side.
But the non-league world really sat up and took notice when the club announced that Grant Holt would be leading their front line against Fakenham in the Norfolk Senior Cup last month.
Suddenly there was a feeling that Wroxham were getting back to the kind of progressive, forward-looking club that was fighting it out at step four level a couple of years ago.
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Overseeing this charge is 25-year-old manager Jordan Southgate.
The former Norwich City academy player stepped up from Wroxham's reserves team boss in the summer when Jamie Godbold answered the call from his spiritual home at Lowestoft Town.
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Some might have regarded his relative inexperience in senior football, in a management sense, as a negative but Southgate insists he would have no qualms about pulling any of his players into line, including his ex-Canary contingent.
'Yes, I'm a young manager but it just comes down to respect,' said Southgate, who was part of Norwich City's academy but had to hang up his boots at the age of 21 after two serious knee injuries. 'It works both ways – if a player has an idea or an opinion then I'm more than happy to listen but if I don't think they are doing their jobs properly then I've no problem telling them, whoever they are.
'I don't treat them (the ex-Norwich players) any differently and I know they wouldn't expect to be. I think that's really important for the rest of the squad to know that as well.'
Southgate admitted that Holt cannot commit to playing for Wroxham every weekend but he is happy to work around the 37-year-old's work schedule.
However, Southgate insists he hasn't guaranteed the City legend a start every time he makes himself available.
'He (Holt) wants to play as much as he can but you have to respect he has got other commitments with Norwich City, BT Sport and several other things.
'Some weeks he can't play and he will let me know in advance.
'He trains with us, has started three matches and been a substitute in one. He's got a great attitude and I know he wouldn't want a situation where he just turns up and expects to play. He would never do that.'
Southgate's maturity has impressed officials at Wroxham, not least chairman Lee Robson, who had little hesitation in turning to him when Godbold's departure left the club looking for a new boss.
'I spoke to the chairman in the summer and he just wanted to stabilise the club,' added Southgate, who is also a Senior Football Development manager with the Community Sports Foundation. 'The club had been going through a period of a lot of change and it's important to try and get away from that.
'He has brought me in to build the club. It's about stabilising the players and getting the fans back onside and get them coming back to the club.
'We are aiming for the top six or top seven – that would be real progress.'
Wroxham are well placed to surpass that target as they currently sit in second place, behind Histon, who have shown in the past what a small village side can achieve in when they rose up the non league pyramid all the way to the National League Premier, claiming the scalp of Leeds United in the FA Cup along the way.
But their tumble back down is also an example of how quickly it can all change and, for now, Southgate is happy to adopt the mantra of 'taking each game as it comes', with Ely City the visitors on Saturday afternoon.
'You can't be complacent against any team in this division,' he said. 'Not a weekend goes by when there's not a surprising result.
'We just have to prepare properly like we have been and hopefully we can continue the good run we've been on.'
Kirkley & Pakefield will be hoping to make up ground on the leaders when they host Long Melford.
The Royals are third in the table, three points behind Wroxham with a game in hand.
Gorleston have been in good scoring form of late – they've hit 20 in their last five league and cup games – but have a tough home fixture against fourth-placed Godmanchester Rovers.
Norwich United are one place below the Greens in ninth ahead of their trip to struggling Framlingham Town. A Planters win could see them leap up the table and could also do Great Yarmouth Town a favour. The Bloaters are two points adrift at the bottom and have a home game against 16th-placed Woodbridge. Thetford, fresh from a 5-0 home win over Whitton United, have a trip to FC Clacton.
In the First Division North, leaders Harleston are at fourth-placed Swaffham (2pm), while second-placed Mulbarton host Ipswich Wanderers.