The Way We Were…

Brian Jeeves

You’ve been quiet, Jeevesie…

Well, let’s be honest, apart from speculation, there isn’t too much I can add to what has already been said. Nevertheless, something is stirring at Southend United and without jumping to conclusions, the vibes appear to be quite positive.

The club has been drinking at the Last Chance Saloon for some time and although I must confess to knowing very little about the Kimura-led group nor Simon Jackson or Kris Tremaine, it has been suggested that takeover negotiations are at an advanced stage and a new era for the Blues is just around the corner.

With all due respect to Simon and Kris, I’ll bide my time in passing judgement until I’ve seen the club placed on a sound foundation with a transparent pathway ahead. After all, during my near-fifty years as a supporter, I have witnessed far more lows than highs as well as Rubin’s, Johnson, Jobson and now Martin out campaigns. I realise the club is currently on life support, but I’m sure they will understand that many of us have seen it all before.

Having said that, there is little doubt that Southend United has enormous potential. Unlocking it is one thing, sustaining it another. Of course, with what we have collectively endured over the years, an out-of-the-frying pan and into-the-fire scenario will continue to trouble us. History has provided plenty of evidence. 

Nevertheless, recently saw a Twitter post from a fan suggesting he didn’t want the club to become another ‘Hollywood Wrexham’ – Why not? I ask. Don’t we deserve a bit of that for all our years of patience in the face of some horrific adversity? 

I’d imagine a fair percentage of the fanbase harbour dreams of grandeur. A return to the Championship. Sizable attendance at a gleaning new stadium. On top of that, it must be said that the local community as a whole has benefitted from Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s takeover of the Welsh club. Have you had a good look around Southend lately? City or otherwise, it isn’t just the football club that could do with a radical makeover.

On the playing side, don’t forget, it took Wrexham two seasons under Reynolds and McElhenney to get out of the National League and that came at some considerable expense. There are no guarantees in football.

I’ve mentioned before, I simply can’t get excited about a potential new stadium at Fossetts. I’ve never seen the point of it and with Mr Martin’s fingerprints all over it, I for one certainly won’t ever be able to view it as home. I’d be happy just to have my Southend United back. Ideally at a revamped Roots Hall. No doubt, everyone has their opinion. But after a quarter of a century, have you asked yourself, what is your Southend United?

Now I’m aware that I need to tread carefully here. The lyrics of Baz Luhrmann’s 1997 hit Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen), explained; Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

And so it proves. My Southend United is from the mid-70 and 80s. Nothing spectacular, despite my hazy childhood memories. Promoted once or twice and comfortable in the knowledge that relegation would follow a season or two later. It was frustrating, but at least we all knew where we stood.

The era provided us with the 1980/81 Fourth Division championship-winning team. Cawston, Stead, Yates, Hadley, Moody, Cusack, Gray, Pountney, Spence, Mercer and Otulakowski. 

Heartbreakingly relegated on the final day of the 1979/80 season at Hull City, Promoted at the first attempt following an epic battle for the title with Lincoln City. The team included midfield maestro, Ron Pountney. To this day, my all-time favourite Blues player. I was eleven years old, and waltzing on top of the world. We had just clinched the first trophy in our history. It was our moment, but let’s be honest, we all knew it couldn’t last and nothing has ever since.

Yellow Sports Brian Jeeves pictured with former Southend United midfielder Ron Pountney

Some people fondly recall promotion to the Second Division. Fantastic campaigns culminating with those memorable afternoons at Bury and Swansea. But as much as I’ve enjoyed short stints in the second tier, I remain realistic. 

Now I’m perfectly aware that nothing yet is set in stone. so let’s talk hypothetically. Firstly, there is plenty to do for anyone taking the reigns at our football club. The damage runs deep and not only on the footballing side of the operation. 

Southend United need to rebuild years of trust eroded by empty promises and financial conundrums. Players and staff are all too often left waiting for their salaries. We lost our one-hundred-year Football League status. The football club’s pride, standing in the community, both local and the wider footballing fraternity, has been ruthlessly stripped bare. Supporters were strung along and in some cases driven away, unable to stomach what was becoming of their beloved club, grossly mismanaged, right before their eyes. Our beloved Roots Hall Stadium was alarmingly left to rot. I’m only scratching the surface. It seemed that the closer I got to the club, the further it pushed me away. I doubt I’m the only person who feels that way. It has to stop. 

No doubt our potential new owners know that and realise there will be a significant timescale connected to the rebuild. Harsh as is seems, the fanbase will need to be patient for a little longer before they start to see anything like Their Southend, whatever, Their Southend might be.

But for now, reality. Although our potential saviours are believed to be in possession of the fit and proper ownership papers from the FA and no doubt their own due diligence is well underway, we currently remain on the edge of the abyss. 

In time, the next few weeks might be recalled as the most important in the club’s history. A turning point. Light at the end of the tunnel. 

Whatever the future holds, as a fellow Southend United supporter, I hope you get something close to your Blues back, because the alternative remains dark, deadly and completely unthinkable.

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk