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.