The social media anger and recriminations following the Barnsley capitulation had barely subsided when news came through on Monday, 4 March that Sid Broomfield had passed away over the weekend, and put everything into sad perspective.
Sid Broomfield was a true Southend United hero. Armed with just picks and shovels, he and a few willing volunteers crafted the banks of terracing that would become Roots Hall. This was just a small part of the “little job” that chairman Alderman Smith had asked Sid to do back in 1953, with supporters having raised £74,000 to build a home for their club. The land on which Roots Hall was built was a quarry, tens of feet lower than the previous pitch that had stood on the site when the club was founded, uneven and strewn with waste. It took two years before the first game could be played, against Norwich City in 1955, with groundsman Sid leading the way with only the help of volunteers and supporters and even the player, who were paid to help with the construction during the summer months. The mighty South Bank, seventy two steps high and finished in 1962, became its crowning glory.
64 years on from that first match, Ron Martin continues to harbour grand plans for a move to Fossetts Farm, and Roots Hall looks tired and neglected as the club constantly battles to stay afloat. But there can be no ground in English football that is such a monument to its supporters. And not many where the atmosphere can be so special when things are going well.
Sid retired in 1990, a couple of years after most of the old South Bank had been sold off for flats, but was a regular visitor to Roots Hall well into his nineties. He acknowledged in an interview with the Independent in 2000 that the club had to move to sustain its future, but admitted it was sad and that football was “less friendly and all about money”.
Perhaps it is telling that Sid should pass, at the age of 94, the weekend that Southend suffered a club record tenth home defeat of the season. Over the years, Roots Hall has been a notoriously difficult place to come for opposition teams, a status that surely would have made Sid proud.
Hopefully, if the club does ever move to a new stadium, which it surely has to do to survive, there will be a lasting monument to Sid Broomfield. He after all, gave Southend United fans their place of worship.
Jamie Forsyth – @Jaimundo_ESX