For What It’s Worth…

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

Without wishing to paper over the alarmingly huge cracks that continue to consume Southend United Football Club, I think it is only fair to offer top-billing to Kevin Maher, his staff and the team who continue to provide us with an ounce of dignity, while our hope is ruthlessly stripped away in what can only be described as a selfish act of football vandalism.

Despite facing injuries, suspensions, and a year-long transfer embargo collectively leaving Maher with a wafer-thin squad, the group continue to perform miracles on the pitch.

Tuesday evening’s 2-0 victory over a dogged Maidenhead United side was hard-earned and thoroughly deserved. Blues dominated from start to finish but had to wait until midway through the second half to break the deadlock. Jack Wood was sent sprawling, allowing Jack Bridge the opportunity to convert from the penalty spot.

Westley Fonguck clinched it in added time with an absolute masterpiece. He had no right to score when picking up the ball close to the touchline, but a double-nutmeg to leave Maidenhead’s Will de Havilland and Kane Ferdinand embarrassed, was followed with an exquisite finish from an acute angle. Surely, a contender for Goal of the Season. At least, it would be if we could confidently predict the club will still be here, come the end of the campaign.

Goalkeeping coach, David Martin, donned the gloves in Collin Andeng Ndi’s absence. The former West Ham, MK Don’s and Leeds stopper hadn’t played a competitive game for four years: “I didn’t have loads to do, it was one of those games, but I really enjoyed being a part of it,” he said. 

“I don’t know how the lads keep putting in these performances. They’re not going to win every week but they always give it a good go.

“It’s been a privilege to be a part of that for the last six weeks. It was only on Saturday that I really thought I was going to play, you’ve just got to be ready.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve played so to get on the right side of a clean sheet and three points for the team, I’m just so happy for everyone.”

Maher was proud of what his side had achieved, but understandably, appeared drained in his post-match press conference: “After the setbacks we keep getting thrown our way, for the players to respond the way they did was outstanding. We only found out late about the appeals so we’re putting people into positions without a real training session. We had to do a bit before the game with shape and stuff like that.”

Maher added: “I hope the club gets to fulfil its potential because we’re not far off being a very, very good side and I believe we would be pushing right at the top of the division if it wasn’t for what goes on behind the scenes.

“Not many teams this year have been better than us. Everyone knows what they’re doing and that’s a credit to Daz and Benno and the work they do on the training pitch.”

The result moved Southend off the bottom of the table, leapfrogging Saturday’s visitors AFC Fylde. Incidentally, we would have held a place amongst the play-off contenders had we been ten points better off. Just saying, Ron!

In the stands, supporters raucously continue calling for Chairman Ron Martin to depart, while in the twenty-fifth minute, toy rats were hurled onto the pitch, briefly halting proceedings, signifying their displeasure over his quarter of a century at the helm of the club.

It also emerged that ahead of the game, npower Business Solutions a part of the E.ON Group was taking legal action against the club for unpaid energy debts. It never rains, and all that!

As you can see, this article has started diminishing into darkness. Justin Rees stated on behalf of himself and the consortium that talks over the sale of the club are ongoing but confirmed that Mr Martin has rebuffed two bids in recent days.

From a positive perspective, at least Mr. Rees has confirmed that there is an interested party, keen to help the club back on its feet. I was delighted to see that the group intend to retain Roots Hall as our home ground. But while Mr Martin stubbornly clings on to control, our days remain numbered and indeed are now seemingly in single figures. 

The Shrimpers Trust immediately issued a statement of their own (see below), voicing their frustrations towards Mr Martin’s continued radio silence. However, they did also make valid points, questioning the identity of the consortium and Mr Rees’ wider proposals for the football club. 

Time is not on our side. With Mr Rees suggesting that a deal is unlikely to be completed before our next High Court date on October 4, where does that leave us? With little or no solid information, that particular answer doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d like to say I’m confident of a positive outcome, but while there remains a stalemate over the sale, I’m afraid I can’t.

In the meantime, the collective supporter groups have organised a protest march ahead of the AFC Fylde match, meeting at Pier Hill before heading to Roots Hall, drawing further much-needed attention to the seriousness of the clubs’ plight (details can be found below).

At a time like this, I guess only Southend United could advertise to their supporters the launch of a new website and a stylish pink third strip. Without criticising the clubs’ media and commercial staff, who have quite literally pulled up trees during our hour of need, a large percentage of fans have again questioned the clubs’ priorities. 

Now whether they know something we don’t is open to debate. In their defence, the staff, like the management and team, can’t remain idle. In regards to the new shirt. With just three matches before D-Day, I just hope we get the opportunity to see our favourites wearing it!

The first of those three fixtures is against AFC Fylde. Having won the National League North title last season, I must admit that I’m surprised that they have struggled during the early weeks of the season.

The Coasters have lost each of their last four National League outings. Their only victory this season was against Kidderminster Harriers, who they beat by the odd goal in three at their impressive Mill Farm Sports Village ground back on August 15.

I believe this is a game Southend should win. However, whether the overriding workload and emotional strain prove too much for us remains to be seen.

At the end of the day, unless Mr. Martin does the right thing and sells Southend United Football Club quickly, this all remains insignificant as he threatens to leave all of us; management, players, staff and supporters, as free agents.  

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 2-0 AFC Fylde

Brian Jeeves