Campbell believes the cup has come at the right time for his Blues

Dover Athletic v Southend United – Crabble Stadium – Emirates FA Cup first round – Sunday Noon

Dover Athletic v Southend United – Preview:

Sol Campbell suggested that a change of domestic scenery could be a good thing for his beleaguered Southend United side.

The Blues slipped to their fourteenth Sky Bet League One defeat of what is already an ‘annus horribilis’ of a campaign at Portsmouth during the weeks and despite heading to National League Dover Athletic for a Sunday noon showdown with a television audience expecting an Emirates FA cup upset, the former Spurs and Arsenal defender insisted that everyone is doing their utmost to keep spirits high.

“We have to – the FA Cup is a warm distraction for us,” Campbell explained

“It is something different – another couple of days training – another game for us to implement our style of football and how we want to approach games.

“It has probably come at the right time for us, game-wise. We can really put our foot down and play some football, but it’s the FA Cup and hopefully, the magic of the FA Cup can bring something out of us as well.”

Campbell inherited a side short on quality and clearly lacking fitness. Nevertheless, he insisted that as their weekly match preparations continue to expand, both physical and mental strengths will improve too.

“I think as you get fitter, your mental level gets better – that’s natural,” he continued.

“You get fitter on the field, you can stay in the game better. You can work out sums, you can work out problems. In the beginning, say you’ve got ten crosses – problems – you might be breaking down at five. But now, you get eight problems or ten problems, you can handle them all.

“As you get fitter, your mind gets sharper. The more pressure you are put under, training-wise, that is preparing you for when you are up against it – your body and your mind can take it.

“We are trying to replicate training so the guys get up to that standard. They are used to being under pressure, they are used to playing with intensity, football-wise.

“When they are up against it or the intensity raises a couple of bars, we are ready. That takes time. We have been here for two weeks – that’s almost like a pre-season – that’s a philosophy. They’ve got to live and breathe it – they’ve got to understand that this is what Southend football club is going to be like now. So get on with it and get on the train, get fit and let’s go.”

Southend have been guilty of some glaring lapses all over the park this season, something Campbell was keen to change over the coming weeks.

“Moments – and that’s what it comes down to,” he said.

“There are moments when you can change it and do something about it. Then it’s gone – it’s against you and you are worried, you are wishing for luck. I want to go the other way – I want the guys to work hard and rely on luck every now and again, not the other way around.

“If we can weed out the little mistakes that are popping up, and have popped up – not just with me – it was before me – If we can get to the stage that we can minimise those mistakes that go against you and momentum is taken away, then we can stay in the game and from that we can grow confidence as well.

“The last game against Portsmouth, we were thirty seconds away from going in 0-0. OK, if we lose at the end of the game, that’s fine, we just needed to go in 0-0 – that’s a stepping stone for me. Wow, we’ve gone 45-minutes plus, without conceding a goal. We concede it, obviously, that goes against you, but there is progression. And you’ve got to look, it is three big teams (Ipswich, Sunderland, Portsmouth).

“We’ve not played three mid-range teams. That’s three teams that have got Premier League history, budget as well to go with it. They’ve got that and that counts for something when you’ve got that pedigree when you’ve got that budget, you’ve got that – not arrogance – but you’ve seen it, you’ve done it and you’ve got players that can hurt you or keep it going. They’ve gone through the trials and tribulations and so are battle-hardy.

“I’m starting from scratch here. Mould a team, get a team to work to understand different kinds of scenarios, want to play football, work hard, put tackles in – what to start loving football again. I’ve got to do all that.”

The Blues chief has lifted the cup as captain of Portsmouth in 2008 as well as twice winning the competition in 2002 and 2005 with Arsenal. The 45-year-old confessed his love for the competition and hoped the BLues could make it into the second round by hook or crook

“Off your shoulder, backheel, just get the ball in the net, just get in the hat and crack mon for the next one,” he enthused.

“Yes, I love it, I love the FA Cup, I love everything about it. It is a beautiful cup to be involved in. The romance of it is fantastic. OK, the giant killings always happen – I think it is the oldest cup in the world. I’m privileged to have won it a few times – the whole journey is amazing for all fans – it’s amazing.

“It always brings the UK – also Wales – together. You’ve got England coming together with a little bit of Wales. As long as you are affiliated with the FA, you can go all the way or there is a possibility of doing that and that’s great.”

Unusually, Southend head into a fixture as favourites on Sunday. However, Campbell insisted preparations would remain the same as for a league fixture.

“No, the same. You’ve got to get a good attitude. You’ve got to play as if they are equal to us. That’s what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to earn the right to play. The second you think you are better than someone before you kick a ball, that is when problems are going to start. You can’t do that.

“After the game, if you win three or four-nil, that’s fine. But never at the start the game thinking that. We are better than you, but we are going to work as hard as you – that is the start for me.”

Dover Athletic v Southend United – Head to head:

The two clubs have never met in a competitive fixture. However, Southend United faced Dover Athletic’s predecessors, Dover, in the FA Cup back in 1975. Dover closed down in 1983 due to huge debts. Dover Athletic was founded shortly after the dissolution.

Southend United won: 1
Drawn: 0
Dover won: 0

Dover v Southend United – Previous meetings:

December 13, 1975 – FA Cup Second Round
Southend United 4-1 Dover

Jeevesie’s prediction: Dover Athletic 1-1 Southend United


Brian Jeeves