Suspicious Minds…

Brian Jeeves

Southend United v Eastleigh – Vanarma National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday (3pm) – Preview

Oh, where do we start?

Inclement weather conditions oversaw the postponement of Southend United’s Vanarama National League fixtures at Oldham Athletic and Maidenhead United as well as the farcical Essex Senior Cup clash with Braintree Town, leaving Blues supporters with no action to chew the fat over and perhaps preparing us for life after March 1. 

Football-wise, Colchester and Orient both lost last weekend. I’ve no doubt that will delight some Blues fans. However, I’ll remind you that followers of our nearest and dearest can confidently look forward to supporting their respective clubs next season. I for one, and I know I’m far from alone, can’t be sure that that privilege will extend to those of us of a Southend United persuasion. Hopefully, that grim prospect can be averted, but I remain unconvinced. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I understand some Southend fans were still provided with a football fix by making a hasty detour during the aborted trip to Boundary Park. The Blues contingent headed to the Lamb Ground where they were treated to ten goals as hosts, Tamworth thrashed Hednesford Town by nine goals to one in a one-sided Southern League Premier Division Central encounter.

A group of Southend United supporters salvaged the situation following the late postponement at Oldham Athletic by visiting Tamworth FC

In the meantime, our beloved football club have ensured that the supporter’s collective blood pressure remains at a dangerous level following a series of baffling decisions and subsequent statements. 

But first, a huge positive with the news that Darlington defender Paddy Almond is showing encouraging signs of improvement following the bleed on the brain that he suffered while playing for the Quakers at Roots Hall a fortnight ago.

I’m sure you will join me in extending our best wishes to Paddy. I understand the GoFundMe page which was set up as a token of support and also to help with out-of-pocket expenses for Paddy and his family is now well on its way to £14,000. 

However, returning to reality. Let’s start with the on-off-on-conceded County Cup clash with the Iron.

Firstly, I fully understand that the competition isn’t overly high on the club’s agenda and that a string of home fixtures are likely to take their toll on a pitch which has been allowed to deteriorate alarmingly along with the rest of the stadium over the past few years. 

Surely a club of our stature should be prepared for such an outcome. We are not the first to endure a fixture pile-up or for that matter a clutch of home games. But despite being stripped of almost everything, including our one-hundred-year EFL status dignity and pride, the last time I looked Southend United were still a professional football club. 

In my opinion, the once immaculate playing surface has been in decline since the long-serving Ken Hare was shown the door six years ago. Who can forget that farcical friendly with Brighton when the grass was left so long that the ball wouldn’t roll through it? Tinpot comes to mind, but then again you can tag that label to so many areas of the club right now. When will the pain and embarrassment end?

Supporters have had their say, with reasonable arguments in both directions. For one, I’m disappointed with the decision which no doubt has drawn further unwanted attention to the club throughout the county.

Anyway, only Southend United could eclipse that particular humiliation with another of greater proportions. Following the forty-two-day stay of execution by Judge Mark Mullen following another court appearance related to the umpteenth HM Revenue & Customs winding-up application, The Shrimpers Trust urgently called for a statement from Chairman, Ron Martin confirming when bridging finance is to be expected, and how the club will be able to function until work begins on the new stadium at Fossetts Farm. What they received was by far the most worrying response, providing little or no reassurance that our club has any sort of future.

The Chairman’s reply, posted on the club website, read as follows;

I know that fans are anxious about the Club’s finances, and some are worried about the Club’s very survival. I understand those concerns and remain committed to delivering the bridging finance which will fill the ‘funding gap’, caused by successive relegations and loss of income during the pandemic.

The money owed to HMRC is a legacy debt accrued during the period of the pandemic. Those bridging funds will, in part, be applied against the HMRC debt with a view to withdrawing the petition.

This has been a difficult period, but as we continue to work hard to move through it, I would like to recognise the fact our staff and supporters have been first-class and have contributed to the success on the pitch. We are fighting for a play-off position and we are through to the last 16 of the FA Trophy. The management and players are doing a fantastic job.

Whilst I am not currently able to outline precise timings, I am conscious of the fans’ concerns and will look to provide a further update as soon as is practical.

With your continued support I believe we can have a great second half of the season.

Mr Martin needed only a glance on social media at the supporter’s raging reactions to realise that they are not accepting his explanation. Indeed, what exactly does it tell us apart from suggesting that nothing is in place?

I understand that supporters intend to protest against Mr Martin’s ownership ahead of the Vanarama National League match with Eastleigh at Roots Hall Stadium on Saturday.

The fans are meeting at the Dickens public house before marching through the town to Roots Hall and demonstrating outside the East Stand before taking their seats fifteen minutes after the kick-off.

No doubt, everyone has an opinion. What good will it do? Will Ron Martin even be at the match? But whatever way you look at it, you can’t blame people for reacting angrily and showing their displeasure when collectively, Southend United has become something of a circus and a laughing stock amongst the footballing fraternity.

I know that fans are anxious about the Club’s finances, and some are worried about the Club’s very survival. Mr Martin, I very much doubt you will ever understand how much Southend United means to the supporters. Should this worrying scenario end in disaster, it will be them left to pick up the pieces with only memories to reflect upon. The proverbial politicians’ promises and excuses are no longer acceptable.

In the meantime, Kevin Maher and his staff have been preparing the team for a return to action against Eastleigh at the weekend who are managed by former Blues player, Lee Bradbury.

Blues dropped out of the play-off places following Dagenham & Redbridge’s draw at Bromley, coupled with our inactivity. Maher recognised his side face a slog: “It’ll be a tough game, as it was earlier in the season,” he explained. 

“I thought we played ever so well for a large part of the game and we got done by two free-kicks. That’s well past us now and we’re looking forward.

“I know Lee very well and their away form probably hasn’t been as good as he would’ve liked but they’ll provide a really tough test for us.”

Enjoying a rare day off, I’ll be watching the game as a supporter. I remain amazed by the job Maher, the staff and the players are doing and believe the unit, Dunkirk Spirit if you like, will see us pick up the three points. Let’s hope they are not among our last! 

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 2-0 Eastleigh


Brian Jeeves