Southend United v Crawley Town – Sky Bet League Two – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday 3pm – Preview
The great Jock Stein once said; “Football is for the fans. It can be the greatest game in the world but if there are no people to watch it, it becomes nothing. The fans are the lifeblood of the game.
Morecambe 1-1 Southend United
Match: 40 Won: 8 Drawn: 12 Lost: 20 Points: 36 Position: 23rd Nils: 22
In the great scheme of things, a share of the spoils against a team challenging for promotion isn’t a bad return. A decent, well-worked goal and although there was little that could be done to prevent Cole Stockton’s stunning equaliser for Morecambe, Southend held firm for a point from a fixture they traditionally lose.
But the result has made very little impact on Southend’s survival hopes. With six games remaining – two of which are against relegation rivals, Colchester and Barrow – Southend probably needs to win three to stand any chance of avoiding the drop. Heading into Saturday and to quote Mr Stein again; “We must play as if there are no more games, no more tomorrows.”
As I mentioned, it wasn’t a bad performance from Southend on Tuesday evening. However, the most important critique is not me, but the supporters. A scan through social media painted a dark, desperate picture. The Blues faithful love their club from the bottom of their hearts – I know that because I’m one of them. But the fans have already largely accepted the clubs’ fate. Enthusiasm towards Southend’s opening goal at Morecambe was somewhat lukewarm – reaction on the whistle, predictably disappointed, frustrated and angry. It’s an opinion they are fully entitled to. After all, as the initial quote explains; “The fans are the lifeblood of the game,” perhaps with season card renewals looming, the Roots hall hierarchy would do well to remember that!
Another Stein quote; “Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field.” In all honesty, the supporter’s disposition is very different this time. In almost five decades as a supporter, I don’t believe the mood has ever been as dark as it is right now.
“Football is for the fans. It can be the greatest game in the world but if there are no people to watch it, it becomes nothing.”
The global pandemic has enforced fans away from the beautiful game the world over. But as lockdown restrictions begin to ease and people enthusiastically look forward to next season, I’m seeing more and more Blues fans suggesting they are done and won’t be returning to Roots Hall any time soon under the current regime.
I know that’s not a new thing. We’ve seen it before during the Rubin’s era as well as that of Anton Johnson and Vic Jobson. Football fans often react on the spur of the moment and admittedly, emotions are running high amongst Blues followers right now. But the people I’m hearing from have traditionally backed the club regardless. They have been through tough dark times before but are simply too tired for another fight. Is this what Southend United really want? I’d like to think not, but while the proverbial ‘flaming zeppelin’ continues to hurtle down the leagues at a rate of knots, those at the helm shouldn’t be surprised that fans are fed up with their loyalty being questioned by what appears to be a ‘they’ll return regardless’ attitude.
I believe it will take a monumental swing to see the Blues retain their Football League status and an even more significant transformation from the club to win back the fans trust. Personally, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel surrounding either. The lifeblood of the game are out of sight just now. Are they out of mind from a Southend United perspective as well?
So what’s next? Crawley Town – a side without a win in six matches – Pride the only commodity at stake.
Pride – what does that mean to you?
Proud to have been one of the 31,033 fans who crammed into Roots Hall to see the Blues waltz with Liverpool, the Champions of Europe, in the snow.
Proud to have been at every unbeaten home match as Southend won the Fourth Division title with Spence, Mercer and Gray leading the line.
Proud days at Stockport, Peterborough, Bury, Swansea, Cardiff and Wembley celebrating promotion achieved by players who cared more about the badge on the front of the shirt as opposed to the name on the back of it.
Proud to have been a small part of those memorable cup encounters with Tottenham, Chelsea and of course, that passion-filled evening at the Hall against Manchester United.
Proud to have been amongst 2,500 travelling Southend fans who outsung their Doncaster hosts despite the fact we were trailing 5-1 in a heartbreaking play-off semi-final.
Proud to have been amongst the meagre 1,700-odd who attended Roots Hall on the final day of the 1984/85 season when a late Steve Phillips penalty saved the club the indignity of applying for reelection.
That’s just scratching the surface. Every single Southend United supporter has their own proud moments and memories, shared with footballers who’d sweat blood and run through brick walls for us. This current group of players will one day move on – become a tale in the clubs’ chequered history. How many of them will you remember ten years from now? Who amongst them will be able to look you in the face and say they are proud of what they achieved for this club? You’ve got six games boys and that goes for the management too – How do you want to be remembered?
Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 1-0 Crawley Town