The Long and Winding Road…

Brian Jeeves

Southend United v Wealdstone – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Friday (3pm) – Barnet v Southend United – Vanarama National League – The Hive – Monday (3pm) – Preview

Saturday, April 9 – Somewhere on the A12…

Making my way home after covering Colchester United’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Stevenage. As if that performance wasn’t bad enough, I’m now listening to the radio commentary from Edgeley Park. Yep, it’s been a pretty bleak afternoon for the counties’ senior clubs but from what Nick Alliker is describing, Southend seems determined to outdo their nearest and dearest one way or another. Not acceptable, I’m afraid.

Hold on, Jeevesie. Just recently you mentioned trusting the process. What’s changed?

Well, nothing to be quite honest. The defeat I can take. The process remains exactly the same. The manner of the defeat, I can’t.

If there was one thing Colchester’s dismal dispaly had in common with the one Southend provided a couple of hundred miles further north it was the spattering of footballers who crossed the white line thinking they’d already done enough.

I expected Colchester to beat Stevenage and wasn’t surprised that the Blues came unstuck against a Stockport side that has been to the bottom of the bottle in recent times but has impressively regrouped, hauled themselves off the canvas and looked set for a return to the EFL. But in both cases, I’d point a finger at a collective of players who quite frankly couldn’t look themselves in the mirror and honestly say they had done everything for those paying to watch them.

Concentrating on Southend (because I can already sense one or two rapidly changing colour when I mention Colchester) there are one or two exceptions. Teenage goalkeeper, Collin Andeng Ndi was thrown in at the deep end for a league debut he’ll never forget.

Collin’s previous appearance with the top team was scripted in line with an old Roy of the Rovers story. His first touch of the ball was picking it out of the net, but he went on to save a spot-kick, helping his teammates recover and record an FA Trophy victory over Dorking Wanderers. Okay, it’s not quite Melchester Stadium, but it’ll do.

Unfortunately for Collin, competitive football has come at a premium. Under 23 matches simply do not cut the mustard where preparing a player for first-team action is concerned. The clubs’ needs ruled out any sort of loan, allowing the lad to get matches under his belt, leaving him underprepared for what was to follow. Not his or the management’s fault. I still think he has a future at Southend but he needs to play in proper football matches where he will be exposed to senior professionals.

I understand there have been discussions at Roots Hall over the return of a reserve team – or ‘B’ team as they are labelled these days. As far as I’m concerned, that can’t come quick enough. Both Wycombe and Brentford have benefitted hugely from such a step. Hopefully, something similar will be in place at Roots Hall come next season.

The season is drawing to a meek conclusion. Without a doubt, the Stockport walloping will have made up the manager’s mind on certain individuals. Meanwhile, sure as eggs is eggs, John Still will have prepared a list of potential recruits who fit the mindset and vision of Kevin Maher and his staff.

Looking through the squad list and excluding loanees, I still think as many as twelve players need to be moved on. Admittedly, with contracts in mind, that might not be so easy. But the club have to show a little ambition here.

The supporters have been terrific this season, particularly since Maher and co took charge. Sure, one or two have wavered of late, including those clueless enough to call for the manager to go. But overall, the goodwill has held firm largely because a corner has been turned. 

I remain less than optimistic that promotion can be achieved next season, but feel reasonably confident that Southend can challenge for a play-off place. That would be viewed by the vast majority of the fans as further progress. However, if the club are to dither over new signings, make a slow start to the campaign and generally provide a dour brand of football, then patients will run thin pretty quickly. Time can’t wait for Southend United Football Club any longer.

But in the meantime, we still have seven Vanarama National League matches this season. twenty-one points to play for. An opportunity for the current group of players, whether they are to remain at the club or not, to return the compliment for the support they have received, in some cases despite providing us with some turgid football.

Wealdstone and Barnet stand in front of us over the holiday period. The Stones without a win in five, B’s winless in three. chuck in Southend’s four successive defeats and you would appear to have a fairly unpalatable footballing cocktail. 

The Easter fixtures will be well-attended. Those wearing the shirt have an obligation to the supporters. As much as being a footballer is just a job, it is also a privilege. Whatever future lies ahead for this particular group, they owe the Roots Hall faithful considerably more than the one served up last week.

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 1-1 Wealdstone
Jeevesie’s prediction: Barnet 1-0 Southend United

Brian Jeeves