Blue summer…

Southend United v Boreham Wood – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday (3pm) – Preview

Before we chew the fat over another season which will undoubtedly serve up sizable portions of hope, expectation, agony, ecstasy, disbelief, but ultimately and hopefully, something to celebrate, may I thank everyone connected with Southend United Football Club who passed on their condolences following the tragic passing of my fellow Yellow Sport reporter, Rowland Lyons.

Life has taught me that there are far more important things than football and this provides more than enough evidence. We have lost a wonderful character and decent man. Once again, thank you.

Nevertheless, and in my mind, far too early, competitive football returns on Saturday when Boreham Wood visit Roots Hall Stadium.

There has been a fair amount of toing and froing throughout the summer. At the time of scribing this article, Kevin Maher has recruited eight new players with the emphasis clearly on quality as opposed to quantity as he attempts to continue the rebuild, steady the ship further and ultimately push for the play-offs.

I say play-offs simply because I’m realistic. I think we have recruited well and I have complete faith in the manager and his staff. However, I still think we are some way short of a title challenge, but there is a reasonable amount to be positive about.

I’ve managed to catch Southend in action three times during pre-season. Sure, there are one or two grey areas. I see swapping Sam Dalby for Jake Hyde as an upgrade, although I hold concerns over the players’ fitness. A  goal record of one every 3.4 games isn’t a bad return from the Maidenhead-born frontman, although, at a glance, his career to date has been somewhat hit and miss. Hopefully, the Blues can coax more of the former during his season-long loan from much-fancied Wrexham.

No surprise for my pick of the new signings. Dan Mooney impressed a lot of people when playing against Southend for Altrincham last season. The winger topped the Alty goalscoring charts with thirteen in 38 National League appearances, including one against his new employers after arriving as a second-half substitute during the Blues’ 2-1 win at Moss Lane back in November last year.

Mooney was the standout player afield during the recent warm-up encounter with Colchester and has already endeared himself to the supporters with a goal in the same match.

I think it is fair to say that Southend dominated the game from around the 35th minute. The home side were forced back for large spells. I certainly think our neighbours from North Essex have more to concern them than we do. But before that, the derby draw highlighted a problem area for Maher. Colchester cut through our backline at will during the early stages. John Akinfe and Noah Chilvers were denied by Steve Arnold before Freddie Sears gave the U’s a first-half lead. Akinde bullied Blues throughout the evening. Indeed, when the U’s went direct we seemed a little timid. Slightly concerning when you consider the ruthless, up and at ’em’ approach favoured by several teams at the is level.

But if I can see it and you can see it, I’ve no doubt Maher has as well. Sluggish reactions defensively allowed Colchester a late equaliser and were highlighted during defeats to Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace’s youngsters. Pre-season matches are for ironing out such issues. We will have a clearer picture on Saturday against a Boreham Wood side that has recruited nine new players, including Zak Brunt, who was a popular figure at Southend during a ten-game loan spell from his parent club, Sheffield United during the last campaign.

At this point, I think we need to touch on matters off the field. Work has begun on the training facility adjacent to the proposed stadium. Speaking as a supporter, I remain cautious as to whether any set timetable will be met. Nevertheless, diggers are on site so credit must be handed where it is due.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Southend United without a proverbial ‘hold my beer’ moment. The sponsorship and naming rites of the West Stand have certainly raised a somewhat sinister snigger amongst the wider footballing fraternity.

For her heinous crimes, I will not be mentioning the person in question. She doesn’t deserve any more publicity for what tantamounts to vile insanity.

I must admit, when word first broke, my initial reaction was once again, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, my football club’. I know the club should have been far more diligent in this case, but then again, the appointment of previous managers in recent seasons suggests that isn’t a strong point. Besides this, I’ve little doubt it was the younger generation working on the clubs’ behalf who was oblivious to the situation that subsequently unfolded.

Chairman, Ron Martin took to TalkSport. Again, in fairness, he dealt with the situation reasonably well. Nevertheless, and again speaking as a Blues fan. I’d hope he is equally embarrassed about the endless stories of late payments, HMRC conflict and woeful recruitment of managers, and subsequently players as a result of their ill-advised appointments.

A brief scan of social media suggests that there is a consortium willing to take the club off Mr Martin’s hands. With a large percentage of the support still keen for change, surely an ‘all cards on the table’ transparent approach is required here.

Sure, Ron might not want to sell, I get that. But the supporters need insight into any potential group. Who are they? What do they do? Are they financially viable? Do they have Southend United Football Club at heart? In the meantime, this remains something of a nothing story, although I’d imagine it isn’t the last we’ve heard.

Back to the football. The National League is made up of two or three teams that can count themselves as genuine title contenders and two or three that would freely admit they are punching a little above their weight. Everyone else considers themselves as play-off material. I see both Southend and Boreham Wood in that particular category. On what could be a cagey afternoon I see little between and predict a stalemate.

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 1-1 Boreham Wood

Brian Jeeves

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