Monsters Under the Bed…

Notts County v Southend United – Vanarama National League – Meadow Lane – Tuesday (7:45pm) – Preview

It felt like a dream…

On a bright but chilly Saturday afternoon, a crowd numbering almost seven thousand made their way to Roots Hall Stadium to provide in-form Southend United with their unwavering support.

I was amongst them. So much of this real footballing experience seemed so right. So perfect. Expectant faces taking their places in our ramshackle of a home. Yes, it’s a bit of a hole these days, but it’s our hole and for me, nothing can or will replace it.

The match, against relegation-threatened Gateshead, was far from a classic. An early goal from a fresh-faced 17-year-old debutant. A dismissal for the visitors that was worth three red cards, let alone one. Awkwardly inadequate match officials and a frustrating inability to kill the contest led to a nervy final five minutes for the home side. Oh, and as for the pre-match hotdog and cuppa. Bloody awful! But collectively, those commodities made the day unparalleled. 

Henry Sandat’s early goal earned Southend their fourth Vanarama National League victory on the bounce, firmly embedding the Blues among the play-off contenders. It should have been the perfect ending to the perfect day. But it wasn’t.

Far from it, in fact. The last thing I want to do is come across as ungrateful for the fantastic job that Kevin Maher, his staff and the players are doing, but football results, for the time being, remain lower down on the list of Southend United’s priorities.

Fans again protested ahead of the game, as well as outside Mr Martin’s home. Again, the Chairman wasn’t present at the match. Nevertheless, vocal encouragement for this removal has notably stepped up with raucous calls for his resignation ringing out from all three of the Roots Hall stands housing Blues supporters. Indeed, even the great thirty-eight, who had made the 596.2-mile round trip from the North-East offered their best wishes to their Blues counterparts. 

Gateshead themselves, have been through the mill in recent years, having twice disappeared under different guises during the 1970s and then the current set-up finding themselves suspended from the National League in May 2019 due to financial irregularities, leading to demotion to the National League North a month later.

Unfortunately, Mr Martin is grabbing the spotlight from his hard-working manager, staff and players. I’m sure he’d argue that the media don’t have to focus on him. Sadly, we do because of the predicament the club find itself in due to gross mismanagement on his watch.

I managed a few words with Kevin Maher ahead of the Dave Smith tribute night, where collectively we reminisced about better times. I thanked him personally, as a supporter, for all his hard work and reiterated that we are right behind him and his miracle men. As I’ve mentioned before, Smith’s 1980/81 Fourth Division champions remain my favourite Blues team of all time, but for sheer effort, determination and togetherness, the current squad match them every step of the way.

When referee, Ruebyn Ricardo, blew his whistle to signal the end of last Saturday’s encounter, I took a look around me. A sizable number of Blues fans were doing likewise, remaining in their seats, taking it all in, no doubt worried this might be the last time we congregated together at the old girl.

As I said, Roots Hall has seen better days but it didn’t have to be like this. I firmly believe that the ground has been deliberately neglected to highly the hierarchy’s thirst for a new all-singing and dancing facility. But over twenty-four years, Roots Hall could have been completely regenerated and included the facilities required to generate revenue on non-matchdays. Well, a financially viable owner with the club genuinely at heart could. 

And as for that long-awaited, excuse-riddled new stadium, well guess what. The plans have again changed and are currently held up due to a lack of information supplied by the club to the council. You couldn’t make this stuff up! 

Anyway, let’s try to focus on football for a moment because the Blues now face a huge task when they head to league leaders, Notts County on Tuesday evening.

Notts have been terrific this season. Luke Williams’ men have tasted defeat only once in thirty-three games, winning twenty-four of them. 

The Magpies hold a five-point advantage over Wrexham at the summit. Meanwhile, striker Macaulay Langstaff became the first player in England’s top five leagues to score 30 goals this season with a hat-trick last time out against Yeovil Town.

Indeed, the East Midlanders have scored eighty-four times during those thirty-three outings. The statistics are pretty impressive. However, it should be noted that one of their eight draws came at Roots Hall back in November when goals from Ollie Kensdale and Callum Powell cancelled our strikes from Langstaff and Cedwyn Scott.

I must admit, despite our recent form I think this one might be a bridge too far for the boys, although I’m happy to be proved wrong, as this group have on several occasions this season.

But most of all, I want hard proof that Southend United will be around for years to come in its current guise. Under secure ownership, debt-free and an integral part of the local community. Actions speak louder than words, but with both in short supply where the club is concerned right now, I-you-we will continue to cast a concerned glance towards Roots Hall because that dream mentioned at the top of this piece feels more like a nightmare right now.

Jeevesie’s prediction: Notts County 1-0 Southend United


Brian Jeeves