Dagenham & Redbridge v Southend United – Vanarama National League – The Chigwell Construction Stadium – Saturday (3pm) – Preview
Never a dull moment where Southend United are concerned…
Scary – Confusing – Depressing – Anxious – Angry – Hopeful… But never dull!
You’ll have to forgive me, I was working at West Ham and missed the Zoom and subsequent fallout. Stan has a role – Stan told us about the role – Stan doesn’t have a role – Stan might have a role? – Take your pick – I’m going for confusing and anxious!
Anyway, Turning the clock back to early 2006. Southend Hospital – Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Jeeves, you’re going to have a baby boy…
I still remember the conversation quite vividly. Eyebrows raised, no doubt as well as the wifes’ blood pressure. But I’d made up my mind and somewhat bravely put my foot down. Our second-born child was going to be called Stanley. Well, come on, every Southend-daft expectant father of a certain age made a subtle christening enquire to their hormonally fueled partner… didn’t they?
Stanley Victor Collymore isn’t my all-time favourite Southend United footballer. That honour falls to Ron Pountney. But as far as the best is concerned, nobody comes close. At times, it was quite surreal watching him play for my humble little team. In just thirty appearances, Collymore scored fifteen times to steer the Blues clear of relegation, earning him a multi-million pound move to Nottingham Forest and subsequently even bigger things, notably at Liverpool.
Nevertheless, it was Southend that had won his heart, and in return a life-long admiration from a large percentage of the Roots Hall faithful, some (not just me) who chose to honour the Cannock-born frontman’s brief fling on the Essex Riviera when registering their newborn offspring.
This past few weeks, I have read any number of supporters thoughts on Stan’s input, ranging from interfering and attention-seeking to refreshing, transparent and rebellious. Although dispatches suggesting a Head of Football Operations role – for the time being – appear to be somewhat premature, whichever side you fall, what you cannot deny is that his return to the club – initially as a well-meaning do-gooder, has provided Southend with an injection of enthusiasm, hope and desire which, quite frankly, had packed its bags, leaving us collectively to wallow in our own filth at the proverbial footballing bedsit of life.
How does this all look from the outside? To be perfectly honest, I don’t much care. Speaking as a supporter, hope and expectation had run thin, changes needed to be made. I realise that the clubs’ position off the pitch remains perilous – almost everyone does – and I don’t expect the majority of fans to allow those cracks to be papered over just as they have in the past. They certainly haven’t gone away.
But for the first time in what seems like an eternity, a thought process appears to be in place, where the football side of the business is concerned. Sure, I’ll openly admit my favourite for the managerial role was Neil Smith. But it wasn’t me making the decision. Without a doubt, Southend United can’t afford to get this appointment wrong and I’ll concede, I don’t think they have. Stan – along with Gary Lockett, Tom Lawrence and Mr Martin – appear to have gone through the interviewing process with a fine toothcomb and although the recruitment of former players doesn’t come across as going in a new direction, I believe Kevin Maher, Mark Bentley and Darren Currie, collectively have the correct credentials to change the Blues ailing fortunes on the field.
Maher – who captained Southend during the most successful period of our 115-year history – is a Blues legend. But remember, subject to popular belief, legends are made and not born.
When he initially arrived at Roots Hall in January 1998 from Tottenham Hotspur, the rookie Maher found it difficult convincing the Southend support of his ability.
An intelligent footballer from a similarly coached collective back in N17, thrust into a Blues squad that ticked very few boxes. His thought process was on a different level. It took time, a fair amount of transition, shift and variation to those around him before we witnessed the complete package. Bearing in mind what he is walking into, I fear a similar scenario. Maher, Currie, clued up at this level, and Bentley, honest and ambitious, will need time to separate the wheat from the chaff and put their stamp on the squad. But the trio knows what they are walking into. Interesting times ahead. We wish them the best of luck.
Of course, in the meantime, someone had to bridge the gap between Phil Brown’s departure and Maher’s arrival. Jason Demetriou was handed the reigns along with a fragile group, no doubt feeling a little sorry for themselves.
Despite an early setback, Blues saw off Pitching In Isthmian League South Central side Chertsey Town by four goals to one. It was a match Southend were expected to win. Did Demetriou provide a different environment? Did Collymore’s pitchside cameo offer inspiration? Only the players can answer that. We will get a clearer picture of their mindset and ability when they take on Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.
This is a fresh start for the Blues squad. The slate wiped clean. Maher has done his utmost to relieve some of the pressure: “I just want to take the fear away from them,” he explained.
“I know they’ve had a tough time recently and results haven’t been great but I want them to go on the pitch and enjoy their football and get a smile on their face.
“If we can encourage them to express themselves in the right areas hopefully we can get some positive results.”
Dagenham has tailed off following an explosive start to the season, losing their last three league outings, slipping to sith place in the process. A morale-boosting FA Cup triumph at Wealdstone will have lifted spirits, particularly as the East Londoners played 88 minutes a man light following the dismissal of Paul McCallum, then won it late thanks to an Angelo Balanta brace.
Daggers chief, Daryl McMahon is expecting an energetic response from Southend. Nevertheless, I’d still fancy his side under the circumstances, with organisation and attacking qualities key – the home side having found the net twenty-four times during their opening eleven games as opposed to seven from Southend from a game less.
From a Southend perspective, the game is all about evidence of positive development. Blues supporters will travel in numbers, enthused after several years of pure purgatory. Having highlighted the Blues plight on a far grander scale, It is likely that Collymore will receive his fair share of recognition from the visiting fans.
As I mentioned, talk from the man himself over a role at the club remains precipitous. But while fans continue to associate him with the winds of change, one wonders if the Roots Hall hierarchy can afford not to have Collymore on board when what has gone before brought about anger, contempt and conflict on an ever-increasing scale.
Jeevesie’s prediction: Dagenham & Redbridge 2-0 Southend United