To the Shrimpers Trust

Paul,


I trust that this finds you well?


Sadly fortunes at SUFC seem to be going from bad to worse….and there is clearly a growing level of discontent amongst supporters aimed at both manager and, as ever, the owner!


As you will have read on Twitter I have been communicating with Councillor Dan Nelson in trying to get a view from another perspective of how the future of SUFC will play out if (and when) we move across to Fossetts and the impact on the club, Southend Council and taxpayers.


It is clear from the subsequent ‘firestorm’ that there is a huge amount of misinformation about the proposed funding model, who will own what, any financial legacies etc etc both from the fans and indeed Councillors perspectives. The only common point accepted by all is that there is only going to be one ‘winner’ Ron Martin.


The whole Fossetts Farm/Roots Hall development continues to drag on and from my perspective has blinded R Martin from giving the club the correct level of focus in recent years (he would of course disagree). This has lead to the present position of the club on and off the pitch.   


With this growing level of discontent, the lack of information emanating from the new CEO or Owner isn’t it time now for a fans representative to sit down with both club and council and truly understand what the proposed funding model means and how it would impact on club, Council, tax payer and R Martin?


Of course SBC and R Martin can quite legitimately hide behind commercial confidentiality, as would be expected, but it is entirely possible to gain commitment to various reassurances that give stakeholders a greater clarity on life post- Fossetts (indeed if it should go ahead).


I am unsure what all of these reassurances/commitments are but am confident that the Trust and its members do and have the best interests of the fans and club at heart.


My angst is that things are going to get worse before they get better and one fear is that we witness the demise of SUFC before our very eyes at the hands of an inept Council and astute building developer. Do we truly need a new sparkly stadium and huge debt at this time?


I am also of the opinion that any forum that brings the main stakeholders to the table should be a formal occasion that is recorded, minuted and chaired independently.
I hope that this is received in the manner that it has been written, solely with the best interests of the club and fans at heart.


Time is now not on our side. 


I look forward to hearing from you shortly.


Regards – Peter

Issue 78 – Stan and deliver

I THINK Stan Collymore is insane. Not insane in a Hannibal Lecter way, more the way that firefighters are right on the borderline of brave/stupid when running into a burning building to save the life of a stanger. It takes a certain kind of person to look at the roaring bin fire that is Southend United Football Club at the moment and thinks “yeah, I’ll have a bit of that”.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am grateful beyond words that he has strong-armed his way into the football club. Major structural changes have taken place at the club to bring a modern approach to the club away from the playing staff with responsibility removed from the manager in an attempt to create some sort of continuity at the club where not everything runs through two individuals.Stan himself has now joined the club in the newly created position of Senior Football Strategist though one has to feel that if he had asked the fans for their endorsement as he applied for the roll of ‘Head of Counting Clothes Pegs in the Changing Rooms’ he would still have received a clean sweep. Such has been the clear need for a change in the way the club operates that Stan’s warmth, dedication to transparency and genuine affinity for the club make him a true champion for the fans. The man with a chequered personal past has never forgotten us, and those of us that ever saw him play have never been able to forget him.

Stan believes that he can be a unifying force at the football club once again, and based upon his actions so far, it’s hard to disagree with him. In Tom Lawrence and Kevin Maher I absolutely believe that we have strong, capable people with passion that will work hard to improve the situation at the club. I would never say that support and loyalty is a prerequisite for a great candidate getting a job (you only need to look at Pep Guardiola’s career as a coach to see that the cream always rises to the top) but with the club in its current status, people like Lawrence, Maher & Mark Bentley, and now Collymore too, are those that will go the extra mile to find ways of helping the team succeed on the pitch. And that is exactly what we need.

Since Brown has been sacked, the protests aimed at Uncle Ron have become less raucous and, though the sentiment remains, there is now genuine optimism given the council’s decision to finally allow planning permission to develop both Fossett’s Farm and Roots Hall. Maher, Currie and Bentley’s appointments to take charge of the first team as well as the retention of Ricky Duncan in a more familiar role in the club’s youth setup have provided a source of genuine optimism that results on the pitch can mirror those recently seen in the council’s chambers. Sluggish decision making of poor quality has been profound at the club in recent years but since Collymore’s involvement from the end of last season, there may finally be signs that the club is beginning to turn around.

Improving a football club is very chicken and egg. Often a fortunate assembly of players & coaches will generate the results needed to push clubs further up the table (see: Luton or Coventry). This on pitch success enables the revenue generated from prize money of TV rights to be invested in other areas of the organisation as well as reinvested in the playing staff. This doesn’t seem to be Southend’s likely path at this point in time and so a positive, modernising restructure of the football club’s operations are the order of the day. Brentford and Blackpool are two such clubs that are reaping the benefit of better decision making off the field. Their progress has been slow and steady but both teams are now stable, sustainable clubs that have a solid foundation on which to build their success.

The next big question for Southend surrounds Ron Martin. While his fiscal grip remains tighter than Gary Deegan’s shorts, Uncle Ron’s influence on the running of the football club has been eroded by something like 50%. Previously Ron and his famously bulging rolodex would have been the sole arbiter when deciding the next manager; for this most recent, pivotal, appointment, Collymore’s actions over the past 6 months meant that 50% of the panel that decided on Maher and his team were made up of Stan’s appointees to the club. Ron is likely to be 70 by the time the building work across the two sites is complete and his legacy across the town is secured. Perhaps Stan’s greatest contribution in all of this will be a smooth transition of power at what might even be the beginning of the end of the Martin era.

Collymore’s love of the Shrimpers cannot be in doubt; he cites his time at Roots Hall as his happiest in football. Southend fans can be grateful that love makes us do very strange things.

Issue 77 – Everything just stopped

As my then nine-year-old son John and I left Roots Hall on March 7th 2020, all seemed normal. A 3-1 home win against Bristol Rovers wasn’t going to save Southend from relegation, but we’d seen a young Shrimpers team play with enough verve to put a spring in our step. Egbri…Gard…Elvis…we could be on to something here.

Tickets for the following week’s game at Rotherham were collected from the club shop and thoughts turned to John’s match against Bushey & Oxhey the following morning. Then, a few days later, everything changed. Everyone realised Covid-19 was going to pause things for a while (remember that first announcement, when football was only going to be stopped for three weeks?) but we had no idea our next game would be over 14 months away. The whole world was thrown into a fog by the pandemic, and we weren’t alone. Football became something just to be watched on the television, but we knew we’d be back soon enough. If not to Roots Hall, then to a local non-league ground. In the meantime, enjoy Bundesliga and Premier League games as best we could.

But in late August, our world stopped. John awoke on a Tuesday morning feeling a bit ill and by that same afternoon he was in agonising pain. Just a few days later his Mum and I were sitting in a room at Great Ormond Street Hospital with a doctor telling us our son had Burkitt lymphoma. A long road lay ahead for John and GOSH became his home for the next couple of months, with us parents taking turns to sleep on a camp bed alongside him.

Yet football remained a presence in our lives. We decided not to watch Southend games on iFollow, but still followed the results closely every Saturday. It seems ridiculous now, seeing as John was suffering badly from the side effects of his chemotherapy, but when Exeter scored that injury time equaliser on October 10th, both of us reacted in anger and disbelief. Yes, there was a much bigger battle on our hands, but in that moment, Alex Fisher’s goal was a huge deal.

One of John’s many doctors – Torjus – was from Denmark. England played the Danes twice during our time in GOSH, so football gave us something to talk about. They got the better of those autumn battles, much to Torjus’ delight, although that trilogy ended well for us at Wembley in June.

Knowing John loves his football, many friends bought John football shirts, which he wore while in hospital. Again, they provided a talking point, whether it was to comment on how smart his new Milan and Marseille tops looked, or to ask why there was a prawn on the badge of that dark blue one he was wearing. Get well soon cards on display in the room from SUFC and The Shrimpers Trust made his allegiances clear, but that still didn’t stop one nurse giving him a Chelsea bottle and pencil case. That’s the problem with hospitasl – people are so lovely, even when they do something terrible like that, you can’t be angry with them.

Football even became an escape for me. I didn’t tell everyone about John’s illness – including some friends from the pages of this fanzine – as having football to talk about (even in the grimmest of SUFC seasons) was, even briefly, a distraction from the pain of real life. Autumn became winter and eventually John was able to return home. By this stage, his junior football team were playing again, but he was still too poorly to cheer on his team-mates. An hour standing outside in December is not advisable for someone still recovering from a major illness! By March, his recovery was almost complete, and John went through the (incredibly embarrassing for him, incredibly emotional for us parents) hospital tradition of ringing the bell to signal the end of his treatment. It takes a lot to knock May 23rd 2015 off the top of my ‘greatest days ever’ list but…

Junior football was still on hiatus at this point, but on April 11th, he was able to return to action for Hemel Hempstead Town Under 10s Blues. The game ended in a 3-1 home defeat to Tring, but if ever a result didn’t matter, this was the one. Well – it didn’t matter to us and his coaches, just thrilled to see him back out there on the grass. John was fuming, however. He has never been one to take defeat well, despite all the practice he has had following Southend United. Happily, he was able to play in six more games before the season came to an end.

There was still one more football-related step to make in his recovery though – getting to a game.

The opportunity for this didn’t come until late May, when Leverstock Green FC, about a mile from our home, hosted the final of the South Midlands League’s ‘Spring Cup’. Colney Heath v London Lions may not sound like a must-see fixture, but after 14 months away from the terraces, it ticked every box. Burger, chips, tea with three sugars, floodlights, three goals, two red cards and a spot of argy-bargy at full-time as the Lions sought to protect their slender lead with some excellent time-wasting. As we left Pancake Lane, that same spring in our step we’d had the previous March was back, and John’s last words before falling asleep were “I love football, Dad”.

Legendary Italian manager Arrigo Sacchi said that football is “the most important of the unimportant things in life” and that is something I have found myself agreeing with a lot over the last year. Football doesn’t really matter when your son is lying next to you on a morphine drip. But the great game provided us with comfort, support and perhaps most importantly, something to look forward to during the very toughest of times.

James Welham

Issue 76 – End of my teather

I have never written for AAS before, never considered it. But after losing 6-1 to our inbred bitter rivals and reading some of the absolute rubbish on that god-forsaken Facebook Group I felt the need to get my feelings out in some way or another…

I’ve been following Southend home and away for 22/28 years of my life and this past two years it’s safe to say have been comfortably the worst. The loss at Dover was a total humiliation and left me sick to my stomach, Harrogate opening day wasn’t much better! Fans are calling for Mark Molesley’s head, I’d love to know who they want in charge, who in their right mind would take the job, and what exactly he has really done wrong. Comparing him to Kevin Bond is an absolute disgrace. Bond was beyond useless, had no ideas of his own and I have seen first-hand evidence of him asking journalists who he should sign. The guy was clueless and inherited a much better team than the Conference South (generous?) outfit we have now and a budget to recruit.

Let’s start with our squad – our senior pros are either playing through the pain/injured and old/been part of the downward trajectory of the last couple of seasons and devoid of confidence. The youth (bar one or two) will probably never play in the Football League again after this season as they’re so far out of their depth it’s untrue. More fitting for the likes of Harlow Town. Our strike force has gone from Hopper, Cox, Humprhys, Kelman to Acquah, Sterling, Goodship and Rush in the space of a year. That’s the downgrade of several levels,not just one division.

Turning this sinking ship around requires more than a miracle.

I think back to that last minute at Roots Hall when Exeter equalised. If fans were there we’d have won I’m sure of it. If we had a striker who gave half a shit, we’d have won I’m sure of it. If you get the chance to watch that Exeter equaliser back, look at the lack of effort Acquah makes to put their man under pressure before he picks out the forward pass that ultimately leads to the goal. Harsh perhaps but those small moments can make all the difference. That ‘win’ could have made for a very different buzz around the training ground and a very different outcome for all Southend fans’ moods and mindsets right now.

I want to go back to Mark Molesley. People question his passion and commitment – look at the celebration from the bench after that Crawley equaliser, listen to all accounts from players that say he’s at the office till 10pm every night trying to summon a miracle to change the club’s fortunes.

There’s also a number of fans crying for us to play to our strengths…what are our strengths? I’d argue it’s our ball-playing centre mids (both MM signings) Taylor and Olayinka therefore we have to play possession football. “Go direct, get it forward” I hear some of you shout. Why? Acquah is incapable of doing anything with his feet or his head. Play it into his chest he controls the ball then loses it on his second touch. Our wingers aren’t likely to win anything in the air. Egbri misses the ball if it bounces beyond shin height. So that tactical genius shout from our fanbase is ridiculous.

Next let’s look at his recruitment, whilst under an embargo there are numerous rulings that not many are taking into account. Signings have to fit certain criteria if they are to be registered e.g. under a certain age, 75% or less wages than the registered player they are replacing etc. Kyle Taylor, James Olayinka, Ashley Nathaniel George, Shaun Hobson, Simeon Akinola, Alan McCormack – I’d argue 3 are our best players, Akinola needs to be the second coming of Freddy Eastwood, most fans were delighted with Macca returning and Hobson granted looks a calamity. That’s not too sad. With all this being said, there is also a real limited number of options for which we can sign in the areas we need. Target men that are realistic options consist of Calvin Andrew and er… not much else. Underwhelming but probably exactly what we need now. We have had other targets, but if offered a place at any of the other 91 clubs or us – not including overseas – they’re choosing the other understandably.

Fans are crying for Sam Hart, again why!? What’s he realistically going to change. He was horrendous defensively before. No one else wanted Sam Hart. He came to us desperate for a club. In my opinion and several others I know we have a better left back in Tom Clifford. Either way again, we can’t sign him nor register Akinola as we’re under an embargo.

Not one man could turn this sinking ship around, which takes me to my final point on why Mark Molesley deserves more time, it also excruciatingly means I see no end to this misery anytime soon. Ron Martin! The chairman that speaks a good game, spins a yarn and time after time gets away with it. He will not walk away from this club until the Fossetts Farm project is complete. He has invested far too much to not see it through. In doing so his management of the club has fallen by the wayside. Tax bills racking up, failing to pay players, signing off on new players despite being told by the medical team not too, not sticking to promises made with several managers when it comes to recruitment, acting way too slowly as if the club is not a priority.

This multitude of negligent acts has left Mark Molesley with the worst squad in my lifetime, and furthermore it has left a club teetering on the edge of existence. If the Stadium isn’t approved soon, it could be too late for the club I love, a club with 114 years of history. I don’t know what I’d do without Southend, even though I’m sick to death of the constant disappointment every Tuesday and Saturday.

Calum Randall