Blues head coach to receive Freedom of the City

Southend United’s inspirational head coach, who steered the club through a sea of troubles, will receive the Freedom of the City during a glitzy ceremony in March, it has been confirmed.

At the special ceremony, Blues boss Kevin Maher will receive a ceremonial scroll conferring him with the honour for his “outstanding public service” to the club and to the city.

Mr Maher, who has been head coach since October 2021, was nominated by Southend West MP Anna Firth who has repeatedly praised his resilience and determination as the club battled against transfer embargoes, point deductions and repeated HMRC court hearings.

Ms Firth has urged fans to show their support and pack out the public gallery at the Civic Centre during the ceremony.

Speaking at the meeting, Paul Collins, Lib Dem councillor for Eastwood Park, said: “He joined Southend in January 1998 and his first home game was against Millwall, a nil-nil draw. I was there. I remember it, painfully cold, miserable and we got relegated that year but it didn’t put him off.

“He stayed for many years – 383 appearance, 22 goals. As a professional 517 appearances throughout his career.

“He led us to two finals. He was player of the year twice and now he’s managing a club in very difficult times.”

Martin Terry, Independent councillor for Thorpe Ward, and Blues fan, was quick to throw his support behind Mr Maher.

He said: “I wholeheartedly support this. Not just on that basis but the importance of the club to the town and the service he’s given to the town.

“He’s stumped all the critics because everyone thought we were gone with the turkeys basically but we’re really doing well, given the very small squad he’s got. It’s a fantastic achievement and his commitment is 100 per cent.”

Mr Maher has seen the squad through tough financial times and through nail-biting negotiations over its sale.

Tony Cox, leader of the council, said: “It’s not just the heroics that has been performed in recent times, let’s not forget the ten years he’s served the club as a player.

“It’s a little known fact but he was a Tottenham Hotspur player first of all and I have seen Kevin, albeit in a reserve team game, wearing a Spurs shirt. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient for Freedom of the City.”

Lydia Hyde, Labour councillor for St Laurence Ward, added: “What an inspiration. What an example this man sets for our younger generation.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter