Jamie from All At Sea Fanzine discusses the Shrimpers
I’ve supported Southend since the early 1990s, and have run AAS fanzine for the past 18 years. I started watching us when we were in the Championship, so unsurprisingly I’ve seen more bad times than good…
HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS FOR 22-23
Last season, like for yourselves, was a real season of two halves. Under Brown we were hopeless and probably heading for a real slog against the drop. Fans were protesting on the pitch and the financial troubles were continuing. Maher came in, stopped the bleeding after a tricky start and we probably overachieved from January until March. In reality, this season is likely to be somewhere between the two. We are much improved but are still a work in progress and there will still be tweaks required. Top 10 would represent progress and that’s all you can ask in such a tough division and under the kind of circumstances that we as a club have had to operate in over the past few years.
THE START TO THIS SEASON
So far, the points on the board haven’t really reflected the quality of the performances. Boreham Wood scored early and were such expert shithouses that the ball spent a total of 36 minutes in play (despite over 100 minutes of clock time in the match). At Eastleigh we were beaten by two of the kind of goals you expect to concede about 3 times in a season, combined with some real Vanarama reffing. On another day, we could have won both. A draw at Solihull was a positive and deserved result and our finishing let us down against Halifax. We were utterly dominant in both wins against Oldham and Maidenhead and we could have had far more than three goals to show for those two games. The feeling is we’ve negotiated a tough start fairly well and are improving.
The majority look an improvement on what we had last year. Dan Mooney looks sheer quality and will be involved in much of what we do going forward. Cav Miley has done what many said couldn’t be done, and stepped effortlessly into the shoes of Harrison Neal as the defensive midfielder. Up top we have a few injuries but Chris Wreh has linked up well with Callum Powell, while Louis Lomas looks a Rolls Royce of a defender. Injury has stopped us seeing much of Gus Scott-Morriss but he marked his debut with a goal, while Jake Hyde has only managed 9 minutes before getting injured.
Tough to say at this early stage but we know Nathan Ralph is too good for this level and were it not for his all-too-regular injuries, he would be playing in the EFL, possibly in League 1. The same could be said for goalkeeper Steve Arnold, but unfortunately both could be missing on Saturday. We still have our three main strikers to come back, but of the players we actually have available, Dan Mooney, Cav Miley and Callum Powell have started the season extremely strongly.
Kevin Maher is a club legend, one of our highest ever appearance makers, and was a stylish footballer in his decade with us as a player. As a manager, he likes his teams to pass the ball and attack teams through the lines. He has an attacking mentality and players all across the pitch are comfortable on the ball. The goals have not been flowing so far, but you wouldn’t put your house on that being the case for long, particularly when Hyde, Murphy and Cardwell return.
We’re in what seems to be permanent injury purgatory with at least 6 or 7 missing for every game for about the last 4 years. That’s partly down to recruitment, the lack of a physio department, and bad luck. Assuming the players currently out do not return over the next few days, I’ll say: The young Collin Andeng Ndi in goal with Scott-Morriss and Tom Clifford as wing backs and Ollie Kensdale, Shaun Hobson and Louis Lomas as a back three. In the middle will be Cav Miley and Wes Fonguck, while Dan Mooney will roam around menacingly behind the lively Callum Powell and either Aaron Cosgrave or Chris Wreh.
Don’t bother even trying around the ground. It’s not the best part of the city in any case. Old Leigh is your best bet if arriving early and the weather is good. The seafront is much improved these days but if the sun is out unfortunately it tends to attract the wrong sort of people (cockneys). For ale aficionados, there’s a decent micropub 15 mins walk from the ground (West Road Tap) and Mile and a Third on Hamlet Court Road (20min walk) is also very good if you get off the train at Westcliff.
It may be a slight exaggeration to say Stan Collymore has saved the club, but he has been incredibly influential in getting the owner to put a proper structure in place off the pitch. He’s used his profile to help the club in areas like commercial, marketing and attracting players, and generally speaking he has taken us from what was a very dark place into something approaching a club we can be proud of again. He may sometimes go a bit OTT on social media and he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s a real football man and he knows his stuff.
Given Torquay’s recent form and our improvement over the last few games I’d be disappointed with anything other than a win, but things never seem to be simple with Southend. Still, there’s plenty of positive signs so I’ll go for 2-0 to us.